- Attorney General William Barr is ready to announce the end of the Russia investigation as early as next week, CNN reported on Wednesday.
- Previous reporting indicated that before he was confirmed as attorney general last week, Barr had begun planning how to rein in Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation.
- Barr said at his confirmation hearing last month that instead of sending Mueller’s report to Congress he would send his own summary of Mueller’s findings.
- Barr has described Mueller’s investigation into whether the president obstructed justice as “legally insupportable” but did not commit to recusing himself from overseeing the special counsel.
- Legal experts said that a report from Mueller would not necessarily signify the end of the Russia investigation, adding that there are still multiple ongoing court cases and cooperating witnesses stemming from it.
Attorney General William Barr is gearing up to announce the end of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as soon as next week, CNN reported on Wednesday. Barr is also said to be planning to submit a summary of Mueller’s findings soon afterward.
According to CNN, before his confirmation last week, Barr had begun planning how to take control of the investigation. He was reportedly focused on two decisions: how much information to report to Congress about Mueller’s findings, and who the deputy attorney general would be. (Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing Mueller, has said he plans to step down after the investigation.)
Barr had his sights set on Jeffrey Rosen, the deputy transportation secretary, to replace Rosenstein, CNN said. On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump nominated Rosen.
The Justice Department was also believed to be preparing for the conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation, according to a separate report from The Washington Post. Five attorneys from the special counsel’s office have reportedly left since the start of the investigation, and some of them are in talks with former employers about returning to work, people with knowledge of the situation said.
Despite his controversial comments about Mueller’s probe, Barr did not commit to recusing himself
In the weeks leading up to his highly anticipated testimony, Barr drew sharp scrutiny over a memo he wrote last year arguing that Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice is “legally unsupportable” and should not be sanctioned by the Justice Department.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Barr said he wrote the memo – which he sent to the White House, the Justice Department, and lawyers representing other defendants in the Russia investigation – because he was concerned that Mueller’s obstruction inquiry was based on an overly broad interpretation of the law and could have far-reaching ramifications.
Asked whether he would commit to making any report Mueller produces available to Congress and the public, Barr said it would not be made public. Instead, he told lawmakers, the public would see Barr’s summary of the special counsel’s findings.
One former senior Justice Department official who worked closely with Mueller when he was the FBI director told INSIDER that Barr’s comments about Mueller’s obstruction inquiry were a “red flag.”
“If I’m reading the attorney general’s summary of Mueller’s findings, the first thing I’m going to look for is what Barr says – or doesn’t say – about the obstruction case,” this person said. “The good thing about the obstruction probe is that the public already knows a lot of what Mueller was investigating through Trump’s public statements and media reports. It will be interesting to see how much of that makes it into Barr’s summary.”
When lawmakers asked Barr whether he would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation in light of the memo he sent last year, Barr said he would seek the advice of Justice Department ethics officials but did not commit to following it.
Barr said that he is friends with Mueller and that he didn’t think the special counsel would embark on a “witch hunt,” as Trump and his allies have claimed. Barr also pledged to notify Congress if he denied Mueller any resources or other requests.
William Barr confirmed as attorney general
A Mueller report does not signal the end of the Russia probe
Legal experts said that the submission of Mueller’s findings to Congress would not necessarily signal the end of the investigation.
There are several pending court cases and reported indictments related to the investigation that could soon drop. Among other things, a federal judge recently voided the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s plea deal with prosecutors, who are said to be weighing whether to put Manafort on trial again.
Mueller has also referred some cases that fell outside the scope of his appointment to other DOJ offices.
One of those investigations – now being handled by the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office – centres on Trump’s role in several hush-money payments made before the 2016 election to women who said they had affairs with him, and whether those payments violated campaign-finance laws.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and longtime fixer, pleaded guilty in that investigation, as well as in Mueller’s inquiry. Cohen is cooperating with prosecutors.
Cohen is set to testify before several congressional committees about his involvement in the payments and the Trump Organisation’s push at the height of the campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He had been scheduled to start a three-year prison sentence in March, but a federal judge on Wednesday pushed the date back to May 6.
Rick Gates, the deputy Trump campaign chairman and a former associate of Manafort’s, is also cooperating with prosecutors, as is Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Last month, prosecutors also charged the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone with obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering.
Stone pleaded not guilty to all seven felony counts and said he intended to go to trial. He said he would not cooperate with prosecutors against Trump but signalled that he would be open to talking to them about others involved in the Russia investigation.
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