Attorney General William Barr is expected to send Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and make it public on Thursday morning, an event two years in the making that could provide new revelations damaging to President Donald Trump or reinforce his claims of vindication.
The likely timing was announced Monday by Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec.
Those following Mueller’s investigation will pore over the report’s almost 400 pages for any new disclosures of contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 election, as well as evidence that the president sought to obstruct justice by interfering in the probe.
But readers also will puzzle over sections that Barr has said he’ll blank out. He’s said the redacted material will be color-coded to indicate whether it involves classified material, grand jury information or damage to the reputation of a private citizen “peripheral” to the investigation.
Democrats in Congress have demanded that Barr provide them with Mueller’s full report -- and all the evidence behind it. So the release may be the start of a legal clash with subpoenas from committees in the Democratic-controlled House that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
In a bid to head off a legal battle, Barr said during hearings last week that he would work with leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on providing them more information after the public version of the report is released.
Mueller submitted his final, confidential report to Barr last month. Now, its public release will put Barr’s reputation to the test because of a four-page letter he issued on March 24 that he said summarized its key findings.
Trump boasted in a tweet hours after Barr’s summary that Mueller found “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.”
In fact, Barr quoted Mueller as failing to establish that Trump or people associated with his campaign conspired in Russia’s campaign interference “despite multiple efforts by Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
But the special counsel found there was evidence “on both sides of the question” of whether Trump obstructed justice and that his probe didn’t “exonerate” the president, Barr wrote.
One key question the report may answer is why Mueller decided not to make a recommendation one way or the other on whether to charge Trump with obstructing justice.
Nonetheless, the attorney general went beyond Mueller, saying that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reached their own conclusion that the evidence didn’t back a finding of obstruction.
Barr sparked further controversy in testimony before a Senate panel when he confirmed he was starting his own inquiries into counterintelligence decisions that may have involved “spying” on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump and Republicans have argued that the Russia investigation was tainted early on by anti-Trump bias in the FBI and Justice Department.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “very, very dismaying and disappointing” that “the chief law enforcement officer of our country is going off the rails.” She said Barr “is the attorney general of the United States, not the attorney general of Donald Trump.”
All of this is sure to come up when Barr testifies about the Mueller report before the House and Senate Judiciary panels. He’s offered to appear on May 1 and May 2.