Even as Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr continues to try to convince us all that we only need to see his cartoonish four page “summary” of the Robert Mueller report, a free for all has broken out with regard to the Mueller report’s precise page count. Is it seven hundred pages? Is it a thousand pages? Believe it or not, the precise number of pages is going to end up mattering greatly.
The back and forth began on Tuesday when Andrew Napolitano of Fox News kept referring to the Mueller report as being seven hundred pages long. This led to debate as to whether Napolitano knew something the rest of us didn’t, or if he was simply picking a number. In turn, the media ended up asking House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler if he knew how long the Mueller report was. He said that Barr did tell him the precise page length, but he wasn’t prepared to announce it yet. When a reporter asked Nadler if it was less than a thousand pages, Nadler said yes. So why does this matter?
In the broadest terms, the length of the Mueller report is important because it tells us how much dirt Mueller found. If his entire report for his two-year investigation is very short, let’s say twenty-five pages, it would suggest he didn’t find all that much. But if Mueller’s report is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, it would suggest that he found a whole lot of ugly details. But in the more narrow sense, does it matter if the report is 700 pages long vs 1000 pages long? Actually, yes.
There are conflicting claims coming from Team Trump as we speak, but one of them is that William Barr is preparing to release a lengthy redacted version of the Mueller report. If redactions are done with black bars, the document ends up being the exact same length. But if Barr simply inserts a generic tag like “[redacted]” in place of each section of the report he’s eliminated, we’d have no way of knowing just how much he’s cut out. He could use that tag in place of fifty redacted pages, for all we know.
So if we find out the page count of the full unreacted Mueller report, we’ll know how much of it Barr has removed from it. For instance, the report is 900 pages, and Barr gives us a 450 page report, it’ll mean he deleted half of it. The catch is that we can’t simply take Barr’s word for it about how long the report is, because he could be lying about that to begin with. We suspect this is why Nadler didn’t bother to announce the page count that Barr gave him on Tuesday; it’s better for House Democrats to independently verify the real page count.