Monday April 22, 2019
Home Lead Story Three Most Im...

Three Most Important Things to Look out for in Mueller Report

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

0
//
mueller report
FILE - 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.

mueller report
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. VOA

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.

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.

mueller report
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. VOA

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.

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.'”

 

mueller report
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. VOA

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.

ALSO READ: House Committee Wants Barr to Release Summaries of Mueller Report

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

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

0
mueller report
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.

mueller report
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.

mueller report
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.”

mueller report
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.

mueller report
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.

mueller report
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.

mueller report
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.

ALSO READ: ‘Dirty Cops’ Ahead of Mueller Report Release, U.S. President Donald Trump Takes Stand

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)