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Five tantalizing redactions in the Mueller report

Five tantalizing redactions in the Mueller report
Atty. Gen. William Barr, joined by Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, discusses the Mueller report at a news conference Thursday in Washington (Sipa USA / TNS)

More than one third of the 448 pages of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report include redactions of some kind.

On some pages it’s just a word or two, on others nearly all the text is redacted, setting up a tantalizing mix of what we know and what we don’t. Viewed side by side, the black-boxed pages look like a piece of abstract art or rows of old IBM punch cards.

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Information redacted by Justice Department officials falls into four categories:

  • Grand jury evidence, which is subject to secrecy rules

  • Classified material from U.S. intelligence agencies or allies

  • Information that could compromise ongoing investigations

  • Details that could infringe on privacy or damage the reputations of third parties

Some of the information may one day become public. Much of it probably wont. A select group of senators and representatives will get a chance to view a more complete version of the report, but not the grand jury information, Atty. Gen. William Barr said Thursday.

Most redactions are in the first half of the report, which focuses on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and what the Trump campaign may have known about it. Among the redactions in the second half of the report are details about 12 of 14 criminal cases that were referred to other jurisdictions because they were outside the scope of Mueller's investigation.

Here are some of the more notable samples:

In a section that looks at Trump’s potential motives for firing FBI Director James B. Comey — after a sentence saying Trump knew about efforts to build a new Trump Tower in Moscow — is a redaction about something that Trump was aware of when it became known that Russian intelligence officials were behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee.

(Special counsel report)

Then, on this highly redacted page that references WikiLeaks, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, there are these two intriguing redactions.

(Special Counsel Report)
(Special counsel report)

After an explanation that Trump declined to be interviewed by the special counsel’s office, the following sentence is blacked out, apparently related to information collected by the grand jury.

(Special counsel report)

Much of this passage dealing with WikiLeaks’ dump of Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton emails is redacted because of the potential harm to an ongoing investigation. (It doesn’t specify which one.) Among the redactions is the detail that Trump took a phone call and told then-deputy campaign manager Rick Gates that more damaging releases would be coming.

(Special Counsel Report)
(Special counsel report)

This page, titled Contacts with the Campaign about WikiLeaks, is also largely redacted, with several cliffhanger sentences. One is followed with the information that Trump was “generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found.”

(Special counsel report)
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