WASHINGTON (AP) - Across nearly 450 pages, blocks of black interrupt parts of Robert Mueller's careful, dry narrative recounting Russian election meddling and President Donald Trump's fear and ire. Most often, the Justice Department redactions mask a few words or paragraphs. In a few spots, they stretch for an entire page.
Attorney General William Barr said the report released Thursday was marred only by "limited redactions," but that's true only for the part of the report dealing with possible obstruction by Trump. An Associated Press analysis of the full document shows that nearly two-thirds of the section dealing with Russia's meddling — 139 pages out of 199 —had some form of redaction.
By comparison, only 24 out of 182 pages in the obstruction section were at least partially masked, the AP analysis shows.
The disparity reflects concerns over disclosing intelligence and ongoing law enforcement matters related to Russian interference in the election and, to a lesser degree, exposing grand jury testimony.
The AP analysis showed that nearly 40% of the report's entire 448 pages — including its two main sections, appendixes and even its table of contents — had redactions.
The blacked-out passages leave factual holes that force readers to guess Mueller's intent. Even before the report's release, the redactions were at the core of a political battle pitting the Trump administration against skeptical Democratic lawmakers, who have insisted on the release of the full report. They are expected to wage a court fight over it, testing the limits of presidential authority. Barr has promised to provide congressional leaders with a version of the report containing fewer redactions, but it's not clear if this will satisfy Democrats.
Barr said his department had to redact material related to grand jury proceedings, ongoing investigations, privacy issues and intelligence, but said the redactions were limited.
"Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the special counsel's investigation," Barr said in a news conference shortly before the redacted report was released.
Several blacked-out passages refer to efforts by the Trump campaign to keep apprised of WikiLeaks dumps of emails and other materials related to Hillary and her campaign. The passages refer to now-convicted former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and to other campaign aides and allies.
Those references are likely related to the Mueller team's investigation into the activities of long-time Trump ally Roger Stone, who faces charges stemming from conversations he had during the campaign about WikiLeaks
Some pages that are almost entirely blacked out appear to mask the Mueller team's narrative concerning efforts by a secretive Russian tech team known as the Internet Research Agency to interfere in the 2016 election on the side of the Trump campaign.
In referencing Yevgeniy Prigozhin, an oligarch who funded that group, Justice officials blacked out details about his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin is under indictment, but is not in U.S. custody.
"Harm to Ongoing Matter," the blacked out section noted.