- Justice Department officials discussed the special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation several times in the days leading up to when the final report is released, ABC News reported.
- The revelation comes as the DOJ prepares to release the report to Congress and the public on Thursday.
- Last week, Attorney General William Barr refused to tell Congress whether DOJ officials had discussed the Mueller report with the White House prior to its release.
The White House and the Justice Department discussed the special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation several times before the final report is released on Thursday,ABC News reported.
The revelation comes as the Justice Department prepares to make a redacted version of the highly anticipated report available to Congress and the public after nearly two years of frenzied speculation about the investigation.
And according to The New York Times, Justice Department officials and White House lawyers had “numerous conversations” about Mueller’s findings in recent days. Sources told ABC News the discussions involved a “broad” and “non-specific” briefing on the report that focused primarily on the mechanics of the document, like how it will be divided up and more.
The talks have reportedly helped President Donald Trump’s legal team prepare its rebuttal to the report and its public relations strategy once a redacted version is released Thursday.
Trump’s team has long been more concerned about Mueller’s findings in his obstruction-of-justice inquiry than his findings in the collusion thread of the Russia probe.
In particular, according to ABC News, they are concerned about Mueller’s report revealing previously unreported evidence of obstruction, as well as what information Mueller may have learned from witness interviews with individuals like former White House counsel Donald McGahn.
The revelation also sheds new light on Barr’s refusal to tell Congress during a budget hearing last week whether the DOJ had discussed Mueller’s findings with the White House ahead of the report’s release.
The attorney general has been dogged in recent weeks by accusations that he is putting his thumb on the scale in favour of the president.
In a letter to Congress last month, Barr said Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to bring a conspiracy charge against Trump or anyone on his campaign for coordinating with Russia during the 2016 election. Mueller declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” in the obstruction case and did not come to a conclusion either way, instead choosing to lay out all the evidence prosecutors had gathered.
After reviewing the evidence, Barr consulted with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other senior DOJ officials and ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to charge the president with an obstruction crime.
But Barr’s conclusion immediately sparked backlash, with Democratic lawmakers pointing to a memo he wrote calling the obstruction probe “legally insupportable.” Critics said Barr’s views on executive power, which he delineated in the memo, meant he could not objectively determine whether the president obstructed justice.
Barr is scheduled to hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. ET on Thursday to give an overview of the report, talk about the redaction process, and take questions before it is made public.
He said last month that he will redact four categories of information from the report:
- Information that went before a grand jury but did not result in criminal charges.
- Information that could compromise intelligence sources and methods.
- Information that could pertain to other ongoing investigative matters.
- Information that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”
Last week, Barr told Congress that he will include colour-coded notes for each redaction that will explain why that piece of information was left out of the version of the report delivered to Congress and the public. And in March, the DOJ also revealed that nearly every page of the report contains at least some information that needs to be redacted.
Previous special prosecutors – like Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr and Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski – went to court to get a judge’s permission to release as much information to Congress and the public as they could.
But Barr said he will not do the same and will work according to current Justice Department policy and legal guidelines.
Mueller’s team is said to be frustrated with Barr’s decisions regarding the release of the report, and some prosecutors on Mueller’s team reportedly believe their findings are more dangerous to the president than Barr indicated in his initial review.
People familiar with the matter told The Washington Post some on Mueller’s team believed Barr’s letter on the final report downplayed the fact that “the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant.”
Also, according to The New York Times, Mueller’s investigators wrote multiple summaries of their report, and some of them believe Barr should have included more of their material in the initial four-page letter he sent to Congress laying out his principal conclusions.
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