Broadcast, Cable News Gang Up on Mueller Release

"Special Report" graphics blanketed screens Friday (March 22) as broadcast and cable news nets dropped regular programming to cover the submission of the "Russia probe" report from special counsel Robert Mueller to the Justice Department.

The next move in terms of making some or all of the findings public is up to a familiar figure in communications circles, Attorney General William Barr, who will reportedly review the report and summarize principle conclusions for Congress as early as this weekend.

Mueller was investigating whether Russians interfered with the 2016 election, colluded with the Trump Administration to do so, and whether the President attempted to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI director James Comey.

Barr is a familiar face, both at the DOJ, where he was attorney general under George H.W. Bush, and in communications circles, where he was a Verizon Communications executive and a member of the Time Warner board. Barr filed an affidavit in the AT&T-Time Warner legal case (Justice unsuccessfully challenged the deal and is still challenging it), taking issue with DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim's characterization of a meeting about the deal where Barr was also in attendance.

News nets will be on Barr watch this weekend, since the Attorney General said some conclusions could be shared with Congress as early as that, according to CNN.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said DOJ had informed him and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that the report had been submitted.

He said that signaled that there was no disagreement between Barr and Mueller over what should happen next, otherwise he would have to have been informed of that disagreement.

“I will work with Ranking Member Feinstein and our House Judiciary Committee colleagues to ensure as much transparency as possible, consistent with the law," he said.

One prominent Republican said the report should be made public, and ASAP.

“After nearly two years, the special counsel has concluded his investigation, and I look forward to reviewing Attorney General Barr’s report carefully, when it becomes available," said Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. "I fully expect the Justice Department to release the special counsel’s report to this committee and to the public without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

“Now that Robert Mueller has completed his investigation, it’s clear that Attorney General Barr must hand over all of his findings and documentation to Congress," said People for the American Way executive VP Marge Baker. "To the greatest extent possible, Americans deserve to see the results of an investigation into the attempts to subvert our democracy. Our elected representatives have a constitutional obligation to review every single aspect of the Mueller investigation and to make sure that the public knows exactly what role the president and his allies played in Russia’s campaign to meddle in our elections."

“The Mueller report should be released to the public. This decision is not about politics but about protecting our democracy. Now is the time to do the right thing," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). "The American people deserve the truth.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, signaled he was convinced, as is the President, that there was no collusion, and said making the conclusions public would help that process.

"Now that he’s wrapped up his investigation, Attorney General Barr must provide Congress and the American people with the findings to finally put an end to the speculation and innuendo that has loomed over this administration since its earliest days," he said.

"As Donald Trump said, 'Let it come out,'" said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "I call on the Trump administration to make Special Counsel Mueller's full report public as soon as possible. No one, including the president, is above the law.” 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.