WASHINGTON - Special counsel Robert Mueller has closed his long and contentious Russia investigation with no new charges, ending the probe that has cast a dark shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency but launching a fresh wave of political battles.
The report’s details remain a mystery, accessible to only a handful of Justice Department officials while Attorney General William Barr prepares to release the “principal conclusions” soon.
The Justice Department said the report was delivered by a security officer Friday afternoon to the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and then it went to Barr. Word of the delivery triggered reactions across Washington, including Democrats’ demands that it be quickly released to the public and Republicans’ contentions that it ended two years of wasted time and money.
Meanwhile, the Democratic chairs of six House committees are demanding that the Justice Department release "without delay" the full report. They say they expect Barr also to turn over all evidence Mueller has uncovered.
The Democrats say since the Justice Department asserts a sitting president can’t be indicted, Barr’s failure to release evidence of criminal or other misconduct by Trump “would raise serious questions about whether the Department of Justice policy is being used as a pretext for a cover-up of misconduct.”
The six chairs are Jerrold Nadler of Judiciary and Eliot Engel of Foreign Affairs; Elijah Cummings of Oversight and Reform; Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Maxine Waters of Financial Services and the Ways and Means Committee’s Richard Neal.
Trump returned to West Palm Beach for his 22nd trip to Mar-a-Lago Friday.
Now what? Mueller ends the Russia investigation
Special counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his Trump-Russia investigation and on Friday delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr.
But what the report looks like isn’t clear. Justice Department regulations required only that Mueller give the attorney general a confidential report that explains the decisions to pursue or decline prosecutions. It could have been as simple as a bullet point list, but the Justice Department has described it as “comprehensive.”
Whatever is in the report, we may not get all the juicy details that were uncovered over the past 22 months — at least not right away. But this story is far from over.
WHAT WILL THE ATTORNEY GENERAL DO?
Barr has to decide what should be released to Congress and the public.
In a letter to lawmakers Friday, Barr suggested this could come in stages. He said he could release Mueller’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. He also said that he would consult with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to see what other information could be released “consistent with the law.”
He said he remains “committed to as much transparency as possible.” But Barr has previously said he takes seriously the “shall be confidential” part of the regulations governing Mueller’s report. He has noted that department protocol says internal memos explaining charging decisions should not be released.
WILL TRUMP BE ABLE TO SEE THE REPORT?
It is unclear whether Trump will ask to see the full report and under what circumstances he or his attorneys might be able to view it, especially because the document is meant to be confidential for Justice Department leadership.
Mueller reports to the Justice Department, not the White House.
Barr said at his confirmation hearing that he would not permit White House interference in the investigation. But he also has voiced an expansive view of executive power in which the president functions as the country’s chief law enforcement officer and has wide latitude in giving directives to the FBI and Justice Department.
Democrats could seize on any disclosure to the president to argue that the report really isn’t confidential and should be immediately provided to them as well.
WHAT WILL DEMOCRATS DO?
Democrats are demanding access to the full Mueller report and the underlying evidence in the investigation — and are threatening to issue subpoenas if they don’t get them.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on CNN that Congress needs to know “and so does the country.”
But Trump, as the leader of the executive branch, could direct the Justice Department to defy the subpoena, setting the stage for a court fight that could go to the Supreme Court.
WHAT WON’T HAPPEN NOW?
A Justice Department official says Mueller is not recommending any further indictments in the Russia investigation.
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