- The Justice Department will release a redacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report in the Russia probe on Thursday.
- For the last two years, Mueller spearheaded a tight ship as he and his team of prosecutors conducted one of the most politically sensitive investigations in modern US history.
- We’ve put together a running list of everything you need to know about the highly anticipated report ahead of its release, and how Washington’s political factions are bracing for its impact.
The Justice Department announced will release a redacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report in the Russia investigation on Thursday at roughly 11:00 am ET.
The report’s release will cap nearly two years of frenzied speculation about the most politically sensitive investigation in modern US history.
Here’s everything we know about the highly anticipated report so far:
When will the Mueller report be delivered to Congress?
Congress will get the report sometime between 11 a.m. ET and noon on Thursday. Before that, Attorney General William Barr will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. ET to brief reporters on an “overview” of the document and to answer questions about the redaction process and more.
What was Mueller investigating?
Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017, after President Donald Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey. According to a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein outlining the scope of Mueller’s appointment, he was tasked with investigating the following:
- “Any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”
- “Any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
- “Any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).” This federal statute authorizes the special counsel to investigate federal crimes “committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere” with the investigation, such as perjury and obstruction of justice.
Throughout the course of the investigation, the public learned through media reports and legal disclosures by the special counsel’s office that Mueller was investigating several threads, including: Trump’s business ties to Russia; his campaign associates’ links to Russia; the contacts and meetings between his advisers and those linked to the Russian government; Trump aides’ involvement in foreign lobbying activities; Trump’s decision to fire Comey and any other attempts to hamper the investigation; the Trump Organisation’s push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow; why several Trump associates lied to Congress, the FBI, or the public about their involvement in episodes being investigated; and more.
What format will the report be in?
The report will be delivered to Congress on a CD-ROM. It’s unclear whether the document will be in an easily readable format – like a PDF document that allows you to search for keywords – or if it will be a paper copy scanned and uploaded.
How long is the report?
Barr said the final report is nearly 400 pages.
What do we know about it so far?
Broadly, the report will cover two lines of inquiry: did the Trump campaign conspire with the Russian government during the 2016 election? And did the president try to hamper the investigation after Comey confirmed its existence during a congressional hearing in March 2017?
In a letter to Congress last month, Barr said Mueller’s team did not find sufficient evidence to bring a conspiracy charge against Trump or anyone associated with his campaign. On the obstruction question, Barr said Mueller had declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” and deferred from drawing a conclusion, one way or another.
But Barr, in consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with an obstruction offence. Barr said current Justice Department policy saying that a sitting president cannot be indicted was not a factor in his decision.
What new information could we learn?
Allies of the president took a victory lap after Barr released his “principal conclusions” to Congress. But legal experts and national-security veterans say their celebration may be premature.
Specifically, they emphasised that the prosecutorial standard for proving conspiracy is higher than the counterintelligence standard used by agencies like the CIA.
For that reason, they believe Mueller’s final report includes details that, while they may not rise to the level of criminal conduct, go far beyond those included in the cursory summary Barr sent to Congress.
Intelligence veterans say the information Barr did not include from Mueller’s report could go a long way in answering many of the lingering questions the public has about the myriad contacts, meetings, and interactions between Trump associates and those associated with the Russian government.
What will be redacted?
Barr stirred up some controversy on the Hill when he told Congress that he would be redacting certain categories of information from the final report. The categories that will be blocked out in the public report are:
- 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.
In March, Barr 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.
How are Democrats reacting to the report’s upcoming release?
Democratic lawmakers were apoplectic about Barr’s decision to hold a press conference over an hour before making the report available and said the move was designed to craft a narrative about the report that favours the president.
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 Wednesday evening.
Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns about Barr’s oversight of the Mueller probe from the start. Those concerns stem in large part from a controversial memo Barr sent to the Justice Department and the White House last year, in which he argued that Mueller’s obstruction probe was “legally insupportable” and should not be sanctioned by the Justice Department.
Democrats contend that Barr’s memo proves he is inherently biased against a key thread in Mueller’s investigation, and therefore his “principal conclusion” that Trump did not obstruct justice is not an objective legal assessment.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, and other Democrats are pushing hard for an un-redacted version of the report. Democrats argue that it is necessary for Congress to have all the information to properly perform its oversight functions.
They also say Mueller’s decision not to prosecute Trump does not necessarily mean he did not commit impeachable offenses.
The Wall Street Journal reported that once they get a redacted version of the report, House Judiciary Committee lawyers and aides plan to comb through the document and determine whether there is a large gap between what they requested from the Justice Department and what the redacted copy of the report provides.
Based on their findings, The Journal reported, the committee will decide whether to subpoena the department for a full version of the report, as well as its underlying evidence.
How are Republicans reacting to the report’s upcoming release?
Republicans are increasing calls for an investigation into the roots of the Russia investigation.
Trump and his Republican allies in Congress, like House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes, have long claimed that senior FBI and Justice Department officials acted on anti-Trump bias and launched the Russia probe to undermine his presidency.
Republicans also falsely claim that the FBI illegally “spied” on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. During a hearing before Congress last week, Barr told lawmakers he had put together a team to investigate whether any “unauthorised surveillance” of the campaign occurred, but he acknowledged there was no evidence to date suggesting it had.
Still, Trump and his loyalists seized on Barr’s remarks ahead of the report’s release, saying it proved the origins of the Russia probe were corrupt.
Last week, Nunes told Fox News’ Sean Hannity he was privately pushing Barr to launch criminal investigations into at least eight former FBI and Justice Department officials involved in probing Trump’s ties to Russia.
He added that he plans to meet with Barr and discuss the criminal referrals “when appropriate.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has also signalled an interest in investigating the DOJ’s oversight of the Russia investigation.
“Once we put the Mueller report to bed, once Barr comes to the committee and takes questions about his findings and his actions, and we get to see the Mueller report, consistent with law, then we are going to turn to finding out how this got off the rails,” Graham told Fox News last month.
How are Trump and his legal team reacting to the report’s upcoming release?
Trump celebrated when Barr released his initial review of Mueller’s findings, claiming that they represented a “complete and total exoneration” of him (even though Mueller’s team specified in their report that their findings did not exonerate Trump).
The president also supported releasing an un-redacted copy of the report at first. But his tune changed as Democrats began calling for the same, and Trump later said the report should not be released at all.
Two people with knowledge of the matter told INSIDER on Thursday that Trump’s legal team is not concerned about the redacted report being released because they don’t believe it will shift public opinion against the president.
Indeed, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lead defence lawyer, told INSIDER last year that “our jury is the American people.” He added that if Trump and his allies sowed enough doubt about the legitimacy of the Russia investigation, the public would not trust Mueller’s findings, regardless of how damaging they were, and Trump would not be impeached.
How is the Mueller team reacting to the report’s upcoming release?
Contrary to the Trump legal team’s belief, 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.
For the past two years, Mueller ran the tightest ship in Washington, DC. His office publicly broke its silence just twice during the investigation.
One former White House official who was previously involved in the Mueller investigation told INSIDER the public should take prosecutors’ decision to express their frustration about Barr seriously, given what’s at stake.
“If prosecutors are concerned that their conclusions may be obscured or misrepresented – and if they’re worried enough that they’re talking about it to other people – that’s something everyone needs to take seriously, regardless of whose side you’re on,” the former official added.
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