Before the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his two-year investigation into Russian election interference, Attorney General William Barr said the document would include “limited redactions.”
“As I said several times, the report contains limited redactions relating to four categories of information,” Barr told reporters at a news conference on Thursday morning. “To ensure as much transparency as possible, these redactions have been clearly labelled and color-coded so that readers can tell which redactions correspond to which categories.”
But the full extent of the redactions wasn’t clear until the report was released to Congress and the public on the Department of Justice website on Thursday — and it left some readers surprised or frustrated.
Full pages of the report are blacked out in the 448-page document, and on plenty of pages just a smattering of sentences are visible. The Washington Post had reported on Wednesday that the document would be “lightly redacted.”
Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state wrote on Twitter that the redactions amounted to a “coverup.”
“This is unacceptable,” Jayapal said.
“Scrolling through this #MuellerReport and seeing pages like this,” one Twitter user wrote, sharing a page on which superscripts used for footnotes were some of the only readable material. “Redaction city, y’all.”
Others were frustrated about the fact that the PDF the department released wasn’t searchable.
For some, the blacked-out portions of the text made for a guessing game over what was hidden underneath.
Barr explained his and other Justice Department lawyers’ reasoning for the redactions before the document’s release.
“As you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by the need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing upon ongoing investigations and criminal cases, such as the IRA case and the Roger Stone case,” Barr said.
The report “found no collusion by any Americans,” including President Trump’s campaign, with Russian efforts to influence the presidential election, Barr said. Trump hailed the report as a vindication, as he has since Mueller completed his investigation, at an event later Thursday for wounded warriors.
“This should never happen to another president again, this hoax,” Trump said.
Barr said the “bottom line” was that Mueller’s team found no evidence of illegal collusion or conspiracy between Americans and the Russian efforts to interfere in the election.