WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday submitted his final report on his investigation into any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, and Attorney General William Barr said its “principal conclusions” could be released as soon as this weekend.
Mueller’s submission of the much-anticipated confidential report — which remains secret — marks the end of his nearly two-year investigation that has shaped the first half of President Donald Trump’s term and is expected to be an issue in his re-election campaign.
Since being appointed in May 2017, Mueller and his team convicted or indicted 34 individuals and three entities, but a senior Justice Department official told reporters he will not pursue any more indictments — an indication he decided not to charge Trump with any illegality.
“The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a 'confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions’ he has reached,” Barr wrote in a letter to the top four members of the congressional judiciary committees.
“I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend,” Barr said.
But Barr still hedged on how much of the report would become public, prompting an emerging battle with Democrats, who immediately demanded that he make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress.
“Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General (Rod) Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law,” Barr wrote.
“I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review,” he said.
Trump, who was at his golf resort Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, with White House Counsel Emmet Flood, did not immediately comment on the end of the investigation, which he has repeatedly called a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” or the final report.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement: “The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel’s report.”
Democrats, however, reacted with suspicion and warnings.
“I think we should wait for the full report to be made public before jumping to any conclusions,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a New York news conference, adding that Barr also must produce the “underlying findings and documentation.”
In a joint statement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Schumer added, “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.”
And the Democratic chairmen of key House committees sent a letter to Barr demanding the full report and underlying documents, adding, “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.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in statement that he hopes the report “will help inform and improve our efforts to protect our democracy,” especially since many Republicans “have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests.”
Barr has acknowledged the great public interest in the report and said he would make as much public as possible under the law and regulations, but he declined to promise he would release the report. He has told lawmakers he might provide his own summary of the report instead.
Rosenstein told the top four Judiciary committee members that they should not expect a repeat of former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” with her emails but wouldn’t face charges.
The House overwhelmingly supported public release of Mueller’s report in a bipartisan 420-0 vote on March 14. Trump said on Wednesday he is fine with the report’s release.
Among questions pending the report’s completion and publication:
- Did Trump or his associates coordinate with Russia on the hacking of Democrats’ emails posted by WikiLeaks and a Russian website?
- Did Trump or his associates work with Russia by providing polling or other data to Russian troll farms or the Russian GRU military intelligence agency using social media such as Facebook to influence voters?
- Did Trump and his campaign refuse to criticize Russia and only praise President Vladimir Putin because Trump pursued a lucrative Trump Tower in Moscow until the month before he became the official Republican presidential nominee?
- Did Trump obstruct justice by firing Comey, by dangling potential pardons to associates being investigated and indicted by Mueller, and by his constant barrage of attacks on Mueller and his team?
Barr said in his letter Friday that the attorney general or acting attorney general never blocked any proposed action by Mueller during his investigation.
That would include Mueller’s decision not to subpoena Trump for an interview. Instead, Mueller sent written questions that Trump and his lawyers responded to.
Mueller, whose team included more than a dozen highly skilled prosecutors and who spent more than $30 million on the investigation, has not charged Trump or any of his associates with conspiracy or other offenses related to coordinating with the Russian government.
But he has won guilty pleas from five Trump associates and recently indicted a sixth for lying to prosecutors, the FBI or Congress. He also has won pleas from two others connected to those associates for lying and identity theft.
In his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Mueller filed two indictments against four entities and 26 Russians working at a social media troll farm and a Russian military intelligence operation.
Mueller also has spun off other cases to prosecutors in Manhattan, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and has an unknown case pending before the Supreme Court.
Republicans and Democrats remain sharply split after two years of investigations by the House and Senate Intelligence committees into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the committee’s probe so far has found “no collusion.” But the top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said it’s still too early to tell.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 and 2018, shut down its probe and said no witness “provided evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between Trump campaign and the Russian government.”
But Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who became House Intelligence committee chairman this year, reopened the investigation. He recently said that “there's both direct and circumstantial evidence of collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russians, and in the public domain.”