- A pair of bombshell revelations about the upcoming release of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in the Russia investigation sent Capitol Hill into a frenzy on Wednesday.
- First, the Justice Department announced that Attorney General William Barr would hold a press conference to provide an “overview” of the report, more than an hour before Congress gets a copy.
- Later, it was reported that Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House officials about the report in recent days and that the talks had helped President Donald Trump’s team draft a rebuttal to Mueller’s findings.
- “The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a hastily arranged press conference on Wednesday evening.
- “The president and his lawyers have been beating the drum and saying, you know, there was no collusion, no obstruction, that this report represents a complete and total exoneration,” one House Judiciary aide told INSIDER. “So why are they so concerned about what’s in the report? Why are they working so hard to craft this narrative before we even see the thing?”
- Another committee aide said Democratic lawmakers were furious that Barr had decided to hold a press conference before releasing the report to Congress.
- “They’re apoplectic,” this person said. “This whole thing is a s—show and a sham. But it’s just what Trump wanted. He hit the jackpot with Barr.”
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
Capitol Hill flew into a frenzy late Wednesday evening following two bombshell revelations about the highly anticipated final report in the Russia investigation.
First, the Justice Department announced that Attorney General William Barr would hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. ET on Thursday to brief the public on an “overview” of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings.
The department said Barr would also give insights into what prompted him to draw his “principal conclusions” about Mueller’s findings and would take questions from reporters about the contents of the report and the process of redacting and releasing it.
The press conference, which will not include Mueller or any members of his team, will take place over an hour before a copy of the report is delivered to Congress.
Shortly after news of the press conference broke, The New York Times reported that Justice Department officials have had numerous discussions with White House lawyers over the past several days about the report.
Barr ‘appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,’ Democrats say
Sources have told ABC News that the discussions involved a broad and nonspecific briefing on the report that focused primarily on the mechanics of the document. The talks have reportedly helped President Donald Trump’s legal team prepare its rebuttal to the report and its public-relations strategy once the redacted version is released Thursday.
The pair of revelations sparked an immediate and sustained backlash from Democratic lawmakers and congressional aides on the Hill.
“The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a hastily arranged press conference on Wednesday evening.
“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation” in Trump’s favour, he added.
Nadler then went through a list of what he characterised as steps Barr had taken to shield the president and the White House:
- Barr summarized the report and released “cherry-picked findings” in a March 24 letter to Congress.
- He withheld summaries Mueller’s team wrote about their findings that were intended for the public.
- He briefed the White House on the report before releasing it to Congress.
- He decided to hold a press conference to “put his own spin” on Mueller’s investigation before lawmakers and the public could obtain the report.
Nadler added that his “central concern” was that Barr “is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves but is trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House.”
In his March 24 letter to Congress, Barr told lawmakers that Mueller did not find enough evidence to bring a conspiracy charge related to Russia’s election interference against Trump or anyone associated with the campaign.
Barr added that Mueller declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” in whether Trump obstructed justice in the investigation and instead laid out all the evidence prosecutors had collected. Barr said he reviewed that evidence and, in consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded it was not sufficient to charge the president.
The Justice Department has not commented on Democrats’ claims.
‘It’s just what Trump wanted. He hit the jackpot with Barr.’
Trump and his allies seized on Barr’s summary and said it represented “a complete and total exoneration” of the president and proved that Mueller and his team were on a two-year “witch hunt” against Trump.
But Democratic congressional aides pointed to a discrepancy between the narrative pushed by the White House and the steps Barr has taken since Mueller’s team submitted its report.
“The president and his lawyers have been beating the drum and saying, you know, there was no collusion, no obstruction, that this report represents a complete and total exoneration,” one House Judiciary aide told INSIDER. “So why are they so concerned about what’s in the report? Why are they working so hard to craft this narrative before we even see the thing?”
Another committee aide said Democratic lawmakers were furious that Barr had decided to hold a press conference before releasing the report to Congress.
“They’re apoplectic,” this person said. “This whole thing is a s—show and a sham. But it’s just what Trump wanted. He hit the jackpot with Barr.”
Rep. Maxine Waters, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, echoed that, telling MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that she “never expected Barr to do anything that would be respectful to the members of Congress or to include us in any real way.”
“He auditioned for this job,” she said, adding, “He is basically a lackey and a sycophant for the president of the United States of America.”
White House said to be bracing for Mueller’s obstruction findings
Late Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that Mueller’s report would be lightly redacted and offer a detailed and granular look into the obstruction thread of the special counsel’s investigation.
Trump’s team has long been more concerned about Mueller’s findings in his obstruction inquiry than those in the collusion thread of the Russia investigation.
In particular, according to ABC News, they are concerned that Mueller’s report will disclose previously unreported evidence of obstruction, as well as what information Mueller learned from witness interviews with people like the former White House counsel Donald McGahn.
The Times and The Post have reported that some on Mueller’s team appear dissatisfied with the way Barr characterised their findings and that they think the evidence they gathered in the obstruction case is alarming and significant.
One former White House official who was involved in Mueller’s investigation told INSIDER they wouldn’t be surprised if the obstruction findings had far-reaching ramifications for Trump.
“Can you imagine how much worse Mueller’s report would have been if the president’s lawyers had agreed to let him sit down and interview with prosecutors?” this person added. “Not letting him testify was the smartest move they have made throughout this whole investigation.”
Meanwhile, both Nadler and Waters said Wednesday that they hoped Mueller would testify before Congress about his findings in the investigation.
Nadler added that lawmakers and their staffs would carefully read the redacted report over the next few days.
“But on the assumption that it’s heavily redacted,” he said, “we will most certainly issue the subpoenas in very short order” to obtain an unredacted copy and the underlying evidence for the report.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.