At the very end of a decidedly contentious interview between CNN’s Chris Cuomo and White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday night, Conway said something regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that should raise every eyebrow you have (which should only be two).
Here’s the exchange — it’s long but important (bolding is mine):
CUOMO: — when that probe comes out, Kellyanne, I’ll give you guys as much time as you want to discuss its findings. I believe it’s critical to the American people. The offer will always stand.
CONWAY: Great. Let’s see if there’s a report to even discuss.
CUOMO: Well, that’s up to you guys —
CONWAY: And let’s see when these endless investigations actually end.
CUOMO: That’s up to you guys.
CONWAY: The American people want their elected officials to focus on issues and my boss is.
CUOMO: No, they want that report, Kellyanne.
CONWAY: And let’s see if the Democratically-controlled Congress starts to … No.
CUOMO: Yes —
CONWAY: Here’s what I see, the Democratically-controlled Congress. You have (House Intelligence Chairman) Adam Schiff saying, ‘we’re just going to continue to investigation.’ You have Tom Steyer pressuring (House Judiciary Chairman) Jerry Nadler —
CUOMO: No. The Mueller probe, forget about the politicians for a second. The Mueller probe (has) to put a report and we should all get it.
CONWAY: You have the anti-Semitic woman from Minnesota, you have the socialist —
CUOMO: Forget about the Democrats. Focus on the facts. That report should be made public and I hope you agree with that and I hope the President does as well. He should want it more than anybody.
CONWAY: That’s up to — that’s up to Director Mueller — that’s up to Mr. Mueller.
CUOMO: No, it’s not. No it’s not.
CONWAY: We have produced over 1 million —
CUOMO: He’s got a very specific mandate. He gives it to the A.G., and the A.G. is going to decide what to do with it and that’s your boy. So, hopefully, it will come out.
There’s a lot to unpack here. But, let’s start with this from Conway: “Let’s see if there’s a report to even discuss.”
The special counsel has spent almost two years investigating how the Russians sought to interfere in our presidential election. There have been 199 charges made in connection to the probe. Thirty nine people and entities have been charged. Seven people have pleaded guilty. Four have been sentenced to jail time. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, personal lawyer/fixer, longtime political svengali and national security adviser have all been implicated or pleaded guilty. It’s all right here.
Given that level of wrongdoing, the idea that Mueller’s findings might not ever see the light of day is ridiculous.
(Conway’s comments are even more intriguing given CNN’s reporting that Mueller could be wrapping up his probe as soon as next week.)
But even more concerning is what Conway went on to suggest. That the release of the Mueller report was somehow tied to how Democrats in Congress act — and whether they continue to pursue investigations into the Trump administration. So, if Democrats start acting more like Trump (and Conway) want them to act then maybe we can see the Mueller report?
Also, it’s worth noting here that Conway makes mention of the controversy over Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic tweet and, seemingly, that there is a democratic socialist — New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — in the Democratic House majority.
What the hell does that have to do with whether or not Mueller’s report should be publicly released? I’ll answer that one for you: It has nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing.
There’s one final cherry on top in Conway’s answers. And it’s this: “That’s up to — that’s up to Director Mueller — that’s up to Mr. Mueller.”
Conway is suggesting that Mueller has final say on whether his report gets released publicly. Not true! The report goes to Attorney General Bill Barr after it is completed — and Barr makes the call about what — and how much — gets released.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Barr was hard to pin down on whether he would OK the release of the full report.
“My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law,” Barr said in his opening statement at that hearing. “I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision.”
Trump, too, has been unwilling to say that he would like Barr to release the full Mueller report. “Totally up to the attorney general,” Trump said in an interview with CBS earlier this month. “That’s up to the attorney general. I don’t know. It depends. I have no idea what it’s going to say.”
I have to believe that Conway knows all of that. And that her comments to Cuomo are simply an attempt to spin the White House out of a corner. But her assertion that whether or not the report sees the light of day is dependent on how Democrats act to Trump between now and when Mueller is done is more than spin. It’s threatening — at a time and about a topic where such behavior is totally inappropriate.