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Investigators Say ‘Findings in Mueller Report are more Damaging for the President’

Barr issued a four-page summary March 24 of the Mueller report and its investigation into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election in Trump’s favor

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FILE - Attorney General William Barr leaves his house. VOA

Some investigators in the nearly two-year probe of U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign say the findings in a report submitted by special counsel Robert Mueller are more damaging for the president than what has been suggested by Attorney General William Barr, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported late Wednesday.

Barr issued a four-page summary March 24 of the Mueller report and its investigation into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Barr said Mueller’s team found no evidence that Trump or anyone associated with his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia.

The attorney general also said Mueller did not conclude that the president illegally interfered with the investigation, but added that he was also not exonerated. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.

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The attorney general also said Mueller did not conclude that the president illegally interfered with the investigation, but added that he was also not exonerated. VOA

But the Times and the Post say Mueller’s investigators have told associates that Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry. The Post says the members of Mueller’s team believe the evidence they gathered on obstruction was “alarming and significant.” The Times says in its report that the investigators are concerned that because Barr’s summary was “the first narrative” of the team’s findings, the public’s views will be fixed before the final report is released.

The attorney general has vowed to publicly issue the report by mid-April after he and his staff take out any sensitive information, such as grand jury testimonies. But the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday along party lines to authorize Chairman Jerry Nadler to issue subpoenas to obtain the full copy of Mueller’s final report and its supporting evidence.

 

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Trump has left it to Barr to decide whether to release the complete report. VOA

While Trump has left it to Barr to decide whether to release the complete report, the president is expected to assert what is known as executive privilege over some portions of records other congressional committees are seeking as part of their investigation of the administration. That has set the stage for a showdown between Democrats in Congress and the White House, raising the specter that the issue may ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The committee also authorized Nadler to subpoena documents and testimony from five of Trump’s former aides, including former political adviser Steve Bannon and former White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Despite Barr’s determination that he was not fully exonerated by Mueller’s report, Trump has boasted that he has been fully cleared of any wrongdoing in the probe. (VOA)

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Trump Moves to New Phase with Public Release of Mueller’s Report, Obstruction Charges Set for Release

Congress and the American people will for the first time see for themselves in detail what Mueller examined

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington, April 17, 2019. VOA

One of the dominant stories in the two-year presidency of Donald Trump moves into a new phase Thursday with the public release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of election collusion and obstruction of justice.

Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to comment about Mueller’s report at a morning news conference, with copies being sent a short time later to Congress and then posted online.

Congress and the American people will for the first time see for themselves in detail what Mueller examined as he and his team of federal investigators worked to determine whether Trump’s campaign or its associates worked with Russia in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election that brought Trump to power.

U.S. intelligence agencies in early 2017 assessed that Russia, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, carried out a campaign to undermine the vote and had a clear preference for Trump to win.

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FILE – William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be attorney general of the United States on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 15, 2019. VOA

Lightly redacted

People familiar with the 400-page Mueller report who spoke to the The Washington Post and The New York Times said the document released Thursday will be lightly redacted and go into great detail about the various allegations of Trump obstructing the federal investigation into Russia’s election-related activities.

Barr has released a short letter with his summary of Mueller’s findings, most notably that Trump’s campaign did not collude with Russia and that in Barr’s opinion the information from Mueller did not show enough to support charges the president obstructed justice.

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FILE – The letter from Attorney General William Barr to Congress on the conclusions reached by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe, March 24, 2019. VOA

The Mueller report would have been scrutinized in great detail even without Barr’s letter, but many will be looking to see how his conclusions appear when compared to the more complete underlying information that will be available to the public.

Congressional Democrats are expected to use subpoena powers to demand the full report. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Wednesday that assuming the report is heavily redacted, his committee would “most certainly” issue subpoenas “in very short order.”

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FILE – Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice. VOA

Barr will be joined at his news conference by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who for much of the Mueller investigation was the one overseeing the probe at the Department of Justice. No one from Mueller’s team will take part in the briefing.

Trump said Wednesday he was considering holding his own news conference Thursday. Speaking on The Larry O’Connor Show on the local radio station WMAL, Trump said, “You’ll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow. Attorney General Barr is going to be giving a news conference. Maybe I’ll do one after that; we’ll see.”

‘Spinning the report’​

Nadler and the heads of key House committees strongly objected to the way the report’s release is being handled, saying Barr’s media appearance is “unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it.”

They called for Barr to cancel his news conference. But Georgia Congressman Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, defended Barr, accusing Democrats of “trying to spin the report.”

In addition, The New York Times reported Barr consulted with White House lawyers in recent days about the report, which helped Trump’s legal team in its preparations to respond to the release.

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House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., speaks with a reporter as he departs a news conference after the House voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, April 4, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

Nadler, along with the heads of the House intelligence, oversight, financial services and foreign affairs committees, said in a letter, “There is no legitimate reason for the department to brief the White House prior to providing Congress a copy of the report.”

“These new actions by the attorney general reinforce our concern that he is acting to protect President Trump,” they wrote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the attorney general had “thrown out his credibility” with a “single-minded effort to protect” Trump.

“The American people deserve the truth, not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin,” she said on Twitter.

This is not the end

Whatever Congress and the public learn Thursday, the issues covered in the report are certain to endure in U.S. political discourse in the short term, with Barr scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, followed by an appearance at the House Judiciary Committee the next day.

Nadler has also said he will “probably find it useful” to call Mueller and his team to testify before his committee.

Looking to the longer term, it is highly unlikely the investigation will fade to irrelevance before the next presidential election in November 2020.

In one measure of public demand for the information, several publishers are offering people the ability to purchase printed copies of the report, and pre-orders alone on Amazon’s website ranked among the site’s top 100 in book sales before the report was even released.

What have long been public are the legal ramifications of Mueller’s probe.

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FILE – Robert Mueller, as FBI director, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2013. VOA

Trump associates in jail

Some of the closest figures in Trump’s orbit pleaded guilty or were convicted of a range of offenses, often for lying about their contacts with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign or just before he took office in January 2017.

Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with Russia’s then-ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, just before Trump assumed power, and is awaiting sentencing. A low-level foreign affairs adviser, George Papadopoulos, was jailed for 12 days after he pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his Russia contacts.

Trump 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort is in the early stages of a 7½-year prison term after being convicted and pleading guilty in two cases linked to financial corruption from his years of lobbying for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.

Rick Gates, a business associate of Manafort’s and his deputy on the Trump campaign, was a key witness against Manafort at his trial, after pleading guilty to conspiring with him in financial wrongdoing from their years as lobbyists for Ukraine. He is awaiting sentencing.

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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, returns to Capitol Hill for a fourth day of testimony as Democrats pursue a flurry of investigations into Trump’s White House, businesses and presidential campaign, in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Trump’s one-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to helping Trump make $280,000 in hush money payments to two women, an adult film actress and a Playboy model, to keep them quiet before the 2016 election about alleged decade-old sexual encounters they claimed to have had with Trump. Cohen, headed soon to prison for a three-year term, also admitted lying to Congress about the extent of Trump’s efforts during the 2016 campaign to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow, a time when candidate Trump was telling voters he had ended his Russian business ventures.

Long-time Trump adviser and friend Roger Stone is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to Congress about his contacts with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in conjunction with the release of emails hacked by Russian operatives from the computers of Democratic officials that were damaging to Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.

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In addition, Mueller also charged 13 Russian nationals with trying to influence the 2016 election by tricking Americans into following fake social media accounts with material favorable to Trump and against Clinton. Another dozen Russian military intelligence officers were charged with the theft of the emails from the Democratic officials. None of the Russians is ever likely to face a trial in the U.S. because the two countries do not have an extradition treaty. (VOA)