Americans were forced to wait a bit longer Saturday for news about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
By: Rob Garver
Mueller delivered the confidential report on his probe Friday to Attorney General William Barr, who then told congressional leaders by letter that “I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”
But Barr spent Saturday reviewing the report, and as of midafternoon, according to a Justice Department spokesman, his summary for Congress was not expected for at least another day.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the White House had not received and had not been briefed on the report. Echoing comments of the night before from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, he said the next steps in the investigation were up to Barr.
The central questions that Mueller, a former FBI director, set out to answer: Did Donald Trump or his aides collude with the Russians to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 with embarrassing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman? Or was the president-to-be merely the fortunate beneficiary of Russia’s malicious tactics? And did Trump attempt to torpedo the subsequent investigation to protect himself and his political advisers and aides?
The probe has led to the indictments of 37 individuals and entities, mostly Russian operatives who remain at large. Seven people, including five former Trump associates, have pleaded guilty and five have been sentenced to prison.
Among high-profile cases, former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador, and Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was recently sentenced for a host of crimes.
Ahead of the report’s delivery, speculation was rife that the special counsel would bring additional indictments, but there was no additional legal action before the report was released to the Justice Department.
With the report’s delivery, the Mueller investigation is effectively over, but not the president’s legal troubles. In recent months, Mueller has farmed out parts of his investigation to U.S. attorney’s offices, including the Southern District of New York, where prosecutors have opened separate investigations into the Trump Organization and other Trump entities.
Whether Mueller’s report will lead to vindication for the president, his impeachment, or some sort of messy, in-between alternative is unknowable for now.
By law, Barr decides what parts — if any — of the document to disclose to Congress and the public.
Trump has repeatedly called the special counsel investigation a “witch hunt” and insists there is no evidence of his collusion with the Russians. While the president has said “I don’t mind” if the report is made public, there is likely to be considerable legal wrangling between the White House, the Justice Department, Trump’s personal lawyer and Congress before portions or all of the report are released.
Justice Department regulations require Mueller to submit a “confidential report” of his findings to the attorney general, and the attorney general to “notify” Congress about it. There are no requirements for Mueller to make his findings public.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, told House Democrats that the full report must be released to Congress.
The California Democrat sent a letter to colleagues ahead of an “emergency” call with all rank-and-file lawmakers Saturday to discuss where Democrats “go from here” in their oversight of the White House.
She further said she would reject a classified briefing because members of Congress must be allowed to discuss it publicly. The bottom line, she said on the call is that the American people “deserve the truth” (VOA News)
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