Monday April 22, 2019
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The Key Elements To Look For in Mueller’s Report

In recent days, however, Mueller's investigators have reportedly expressed frustration to associates that Barr's summary failed to adequately describe "derogatory information" about Trump's actions included in the report.

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Mueller
The letter that Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress on the conclusions reached by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe is photographed on March 24, 2019. VOA

On March 22, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his 22-month-long investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by submitting a nearly 400-page confidential report of his findings to Attorney General William Barr. A week later, Barr wrote to members of Congress that he expects to release a redacted version of the full report by mid-April, if not sooner.

Here are three of the most important things to look out for when the report is released:

How much of the report will the public see?

The report runs about 400 pages, excluding tables and appendices, nearly twice as long as Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s 1998 report to Congress. But not every page is likely to be seen by the public, which could deepen a controversy already swirling around Barr’s refusal to release the full report.

While congressional Democrats want the complete report out, Barr has said redactions must be made to shield secret grand jury material and other sensitive information from public disclosure.

If the special counsel’s previous court filings are any indication, parts of the report are likely to be heavily redacted. In one recent filing by Mueller, almost every page was blacked out.

FILE - U.S. Attorney General William Barr leaves his house after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election in McLean, Virginia, March 25, 2019.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr leaves his house after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election in McLean, Virginia, March 25, 2019. VOA

Barr has pledged to provide maximum transparency. Whether he errs on the side of less or more redactions remains to be seen.

Blacking out large portions of the report could renew criticism that the Justice Department is hiding information from Congress and intensify Democrats’ demands for full disclosure. So far, Congress and the public have had to rely almost exclusively on Barr’s interpretation and summary. “Show us the Mueller report!” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California demanded.

On the other hand, if summaries of various sections of the report — which were reportedly designed by Mueller and his team for immediate release — are not heavily redacted, the attorney general could face questions for holding them back.

What will the report add to well-documented Russian election interference?

The first part of the Mueller report documents Russian computer hacking and social media disinformation efforts to influence the 2016 election. The majority of this part appears based on grand jury indictments handed down against Russian operatives in February and July 2018.

Per Barr, the special counsel’s finding was categorical: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Barr quoted from the Mueller report.

Trump seized on Barr’s letter to declare “total exoneration” for himself. But whether the full report totally vindicates him of involvement in the Russian meddling effort or leaves any clouds hanging over him remains to be seen.

While the special counsel has documented interactions between Trump campaign associates and Russia, he has not revealed whether Trump was aware of and endorsed any of the exchanges.

FILE - 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.
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

​Disgraced former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has claimed that Trump knew of both the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump advisers and Russian operatives, and interactions between Trump informal adviser Roger Stone and WikiLeaks, which published damaging hacked emails regarding Democrat Hillary Clinton and her campaign organization. Trump has denied the allegations.

Was Barr’s exoneration of Trump justified?

The second part of the report, which deals with whether Trump obstructed justice, has generated the most controversy and is likely to be closely studied, parsed and debated.

In his summary, Barr wrote that “the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question. It leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as ‘obstruction.'”

In recent days, however, Mueller’s investigators have reportedly expressed frustration to associates that Barr’s summary failed to adequately describe “derogatory information” about Trump’s actions included in the report.

If borne out, this apparent contradiction between what Mueller’s prosecutors claim is in the report and how Barr subsequently characterized it to Congress could renew criticism that Barr cherry-picked the report to justify exonerating the president of obstruction of justice.

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On the other hand, the report could shed light on how Mueller arrived at his decision not to draw any conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice.

In his letter, Barr wrote that his determination that there was no obstruction was based on a long-standing Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president. However, he left unmentioned whether the guidance had been part of the special prosecutor’s calculus. (VOA)

Next Story

Student Project into Space, NASA Comes Up With Chicago Planetarium

As the NASA-owned, Northrop Grumann-developed Antares rocket successfully blasted off from the coast of Virginia on April 17, it wasn’t just making a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

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“Our main goal was to see if the ozone layer is getting thinner and by how much, and if there is different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere getting thinner because of the pollution and greenhouse gases, Pixabay

 

College student Fatima Guerra, 19, will be the first to admit, she’s into some really nerdy stuff.

“Like, up there nerdy.”

“Way up there nerdy,” she says. “All the way up into space.”

Guerra is an astronomer in training, involved since a high school internship with a small project at the Adler Planetarium, with big goals.

“Our main goal was to see if the ozone layer is getting thinner and by how much, and if there is different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere getting thinner because of the pollution and greenhouse gases,” she told VOA from the laboratory at the Adler where she often works.

FILE - Apollo 13 crew members Commander Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., right, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise pose for a photo during a 40th Anniversary reunion of the moon mission at the Adler Planetarium, April 12, 2010, in Chicago.
Apollo 13 crew members Commander Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., right, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise pose for a photo during a 40th Anniversary reunion of the moon mission at the Adler Planetarium, April 12, 2010, in Chicago. VOA

Coding ThinSat

Data that sheds light on those circumstances is gathered by a small electronic device called “ThinSat” designed to orbit the Earth. It is developed not by high-paid engineers and software programmers, but by Chicago-area students like Guerra.

“We focused on coding the different parts of the sensors that the ThinSat is composed of. So, we coded so that it can measure light intensity, pressure.”

“This stuff is very nerdy,” Jesus Garcia admits with a chuckle.

“What we hope to accomplish is look at Earth from space as if it was the very first exoplanet that we have. So, imagine that we are looking at the very first images from a very distant planet.”

As a systems engineer, Garcia oversees the work of the students developing ThinSat for the Adler’s Far Horizon’s Project, which he outlines “bring all types of students, volunteers and our staff to develop projects, engineering projects, that allow us to answer scientific questions.”

Garcia says the students he works with on the project cross national, racial and cultural divides to work toward a common goal.

“Here at the Adler, we have students who are minorities who have been faced with challenges of not having opportunities presented to them,” he said. “And here we are presenting a mission where they are collaborating with us scientists and engineers on our first mission that is going into space.”

Rocket carries project into space

As the NASA-owned, Northrop Grumann-developed Antares rocket successfully blasted off from the coast of Virginia on April 17, it wasn’t just making a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

On board was ThinSat, the culmination of work by many at the Adler, including Guerra, who joined the Far Horizons team as a high school requirement that ended up becoming much more.

“A requirement can become a life-changing opportunity, and you don’t even know it,” she told VOA. “It’s really exciting to see, or to know, especially, that my work is going to go up into space and help in the scientific world.”

Daughter of immigrants

It is also exciting for her parents, immigrants from Guatemala, who can boast that their daughter is one of the few who can claim to have built a satellite orbiting the Earth.

“I told them it might become a worldwide type of news, and I’m going to be a part of it. And they were really proud. And they were calling my family over there and saying, ‘She might be on TV.’ And it’s something they really feel a part of me about,” Guerra said.

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Long after the data compiled by ThinSat is complete, Guerro will still have a place in history as a member of a team that put the first satellite developed by a private planetarium into space.

She says her friends don’t think that’s nerdy at all.

“It’s cool, because it’s interesting to see that something so nerdy is actually going to work, and is going to go up into something so important,” she said. (VOA)