Special counsel Robert Mueller late Friday delivered a report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Russian meddling into the 2016 election. Barr told members of Congress he could brief them on the report as early as this weekend.
The Mueller report draws to a close a 673-day investigation that cast a shadow over the Trump administration as the special counsel worked to determine whether the president or his campaign colluded with Russia or obstructed justice.
A senior Justice Department official said Friday that Mueller had recommended no further indictments, according to several news reports.
In his letter to Congress informing members of the investigation’s conclusion, Barr wrote that he will consult with Mueller and with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on what elements of the report should be released to the public.
“I remain committed to as much transparency as possible,” Barr wrote.
Barr letter to Congress –> pic.twitter.com/swpCpwgWtt
— David S. Joachim (@davidjoachim) March 22, 2019
Democrats immediately called on Barr to release the full report.
“Now that special counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General, it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement. “Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his staff any ‘sneak preview’ of special counsel Mueller’s findings or evidence, and the White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public.”
News that Mueller has transmitted his report to Barr set up a possible legal showdown between House Democrats and the Justice Department if Barr declines to give Congress a full, unredacted copy of the report. Barr replaced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired because Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.
In a brief press conference Friday evening, Schumer continued to press for release of the full report. “There is no reason on God’s green earth why Attorney General Barr should do any less.”
Asked if the reported absence of further indictments meant that Trump was owed an apology, Schumer said, “I think we should wait for the full report to be issued before jumping to any conclusions.” He then clarified, “I think we should wait for the full report to be made public before jumping to any conclusions.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), in a tweet, urged Mueller “to testify before Congress about the evidence he gathered, the scope of his work, and findings.”
And six House committee chairs issued a pointed statement that not only called on Barr to release the Mueller report “without delay,” but that warned him against covering up information if it implicates the president. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), Committee on Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), and Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) wrote that Barr also should give them the underlying evidence in the investigation.
“To be clear, if the Special Counsel has reason to believe that the President has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct, then the Justice Department has an obligation not to conceal such information,” the Democrats said. “…Because the Justice Department maintains that a sitting president cannot be indicted, to then withhold evidence of wrongdoing from Congress because a sitting President cannot be charged is to convert Justice Department policy into the means for a cover-up. Anything less than full transparency would raise serious questions about whether the Department of Justice policy is being used as a pretext for a cover-up of misconduct.”
Earlier in the day Trump told reporters the decision to release the report will be up to Barr. Earlier in the week, while questioning why Mueller was writing a report in the first place, he told reporters that the report should be released to the public. “Let it come out, let people see it,” he said.
Trump, who flew to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, hours before the report was handed to his attorney general, has insisted that he did not collude with Russia.
Trump’s personal lawyers, Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, said they were “pleased that the office of special counsel has delivered its report to the Attorney General pursuant to the regulations” and said that “Attorney General Barr will determine the appropriate next steps.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also said, in a tweet, that the next steps are up to Barr. “The White House has not received or been briefed on the special counsel’s report,” she added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement that did not mention Trump or his campaign, but focused instead on Russia.
“Many Republicans have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests. I hope the special counsel’s report will help inform and improve our efforts to protect our democracy,” McConnell said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, took to Twitter on Friday evening to applaud how the special counsel investigation was handled.
“I have always believed it was important that Mr. Mueller be allowed to do his job without interference, and that has been accomplished,” Graham wrote.
Barr has broad discretion over what steps he can pursue next: he’s required to write a summary report for Congress, but it’s up to him whether he releases the report (or a sanitized or redacted version of the report) to the public. During his confirmation hearing last year, Democrats repeatedly asked whether he would agree to make the report public; he declined to commit to do so.
Barr’s summary will be delivered to the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. The summary report must include an explanation of instances in which the attorney general prevented Mueller from taking action.
Investigations have only just begun
Mueller’s team has filed dozens of indictments and secured convictions and guilty pleas in the conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election: Six of Trump’s close associates and employees have faced charges. George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser; Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair; Rick Gates, a campaign aide and longtime Manafort business partner; Michael Flynn, a former foreign policy adviser; Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer; and Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, have all been charged by Mueller. Manafort and Cohen have been convicted and sentenced to prison.
Other investigations will continue now that Mueller has concluded his work.
Congressional committees are investigating the president and his associates: The House and Senate Intelligence committees are looking at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign, while House Oversight, Finance, and Ways and Means are investigating the president’s businesses, his hush-money payments made during the campaign, his taxes, his inauguration contributions and expenditures, and his transition.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, is also leading an investigation into Russian influence in the National Rifle Association after Maria Butina pleaded guilty in December to attempting to infiltrate the gun rights group on behalf of Russia.
The most sprawling congressional investigation is being overseen by Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who has requested documents from 81 companies, federal agencies, U.S. and foreign individuals, Republican organizations, and people within Trump’s inner circle, including several members of his family. The committee plans to seek documents from other groups and individuals as well.
Congress isn’t Trump’s only problem now that the Mueller probe is over. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating what role the president played in paying off two women who said they had affairs with him, payments that could amount to campaign finance violations.
The president’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, provided congressional investigators with checks last month that Trump personally signed to reimburse him for hush-money payment. Cohen said Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, also signed hush-money reimbursement checks.
Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in jail after pleading guilty to lying to Congress about the timing of a Trump Tower project in Moscow.
Federal prosecutors are also probing Trump’s Inaugural Committee and whether it committed any crimes when it raised and spent more than $100 million for the president’s inauguration in 2017. Prosecutors last month forced the committee to turn over a wide range of documents including all of its donors, donations, and event attendees and its communications with a large donor Imaad Zuberi, a Los Angeles-based financer who once registered as a foreign agent on behalf of the Sri Lankan government.
The New York State Department of Financial Services has launched its own probe into the Trump Organization and has issued a subpoena to the insurance company that represents the president’s business.
The probe launched after Cohen’s accused Trump of inflating his net worth to lenders, inflating property values to insurers, and deflating his property values so he could dodge taxes. Cohen testified to Congress that Trump inflated his assets by $4 billion in one instance so he could obtain a loan from Deutsche Bank in a failed effort purchase the NFL football franchise Buffalo Bills.
The New York attorney general is also still digging into the president’s former charity, the Trump Foundation, which dissolved in December after prosecutors found it was functioning as “little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” the attorney general Barbara Underwood explained.
Democrats have also called on the FBI to look into whether Trump sold access to Chinese businesspeople through the former owner of a Florida massage parlor that was busted by law enforcement officials for operating a prostitution and sex trafficking ring. The Miami Herald reported that the former massage parlor owner, Cindy Yang, arranged to have her Chinese clients attend one of Trump’s 2017 fundraisers as her guests.
This story was updated with additional details.