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Capitol Hill veterans: Mueller investigation inconclusive, worthwhile

The absence of a proverbial smoking gun of criminality in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative report on contact between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian governmental operatives – and on any possible cover-up by Trump — does not mean the taxpayer-funded, multimillion-dollar investigation was not worth it, two Baltimore legal experts with senior Capitol Hill experience said Thursday.

Ronald Weich, dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, said the American people and historians are and will be well-served by Mueller’s report of communication, though not collusion, between Trump campaign staffers and Russians.

“It’s a very damning portrait of President Trump and his campaign,” said Weich, who served as an aide to Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. “It’s very important for the public to be aware of the full range of conduct. This is very important for democracy.”

The U.S. Justice Department publicly released Mueller’s report Thursday morning with a section addressing the campaign’s possible communications with Wikileaks redacted, with the explanation that the section’s release could interfere with a multinational criminal investigation of Julian Assange, the founder of the organization renowned for releasing confidential government documents and private emails.

During his presidential campaign, Trump, a Republican, voiced admiration for Wikileaks after it released internal Democratic Party emails.

Weich said the House Judiciary Committee should seek an unredacted version of the report with an eye toward its eventual release.

“The American people have a right to see the unvarnished, unredacted truth here,” Weich said, adding that the release of the full report would lead to “a public accounting of the full range of conduct.”

University of Baltimore law professor Charles Tiefer called Attorney General William Barr’s redactions an egregious disservice to the public.

“Barr can argue there’s no criminal collusion, but he can’t argue there’s no communication when he is blacking out the part about Wikileaks,” said Tiefer, who served as special deputy chief counsel to the House-Senate committee that investigated the Iran-Contra guns-for-hostages scandal in the 1980s.

“Barr is sneakily hiding the classified material from the one top-notch congressional body, namely the House Intelligence Committee,” said Tiefer, who has written extensively about the separation of powers and congressional procedure. “Hopefully, the public will twist Barr’s arm until he gives the classified material to the House Intelligence Committee.”

The special counsel’s report was produced at a cost to taxpayers of at least $25 million, according to the Justice Department.

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