WASHINGTON – Special Counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has presented to Attorney General William P. Barr a report reporting on his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Justice, ending an investigation that has exhausted the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for almost two years.
In a letter sent Friday to congressional leaders, Barr told congressional officials that he could inform them in the coming days of the special council's findings. "I may be able to inform you of the main conclusions of the special council this weekend," he wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate.
It is up to Mr. Barr to share the report with the Congress and, by extension, with the American public. In March, the House unanimously voted in favor of a non-binding resolution to make the report's findings public, reflecting the strong support shown by both parties to disseminate all the evidence found by the parties. prosecutors.
Mr. Barr wrote that he "remained committed to the greatest possible transparency and I will keep you informed of the progress of my review". He also added that Justice Department officials never had to check Mr. Mueller because he had proposed an unjustified investigation – an action that Barr would have been required to report to Congress under the settlement. His statement suggests that Mr. Mueller's investigation proceeded without political interference.
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Since Mr. Mueller's appointment in May 2017, his team has focused on how Russian agents have sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential race and on whether related individuals in the Trump campaign cooperated with them, without their knowledge or unconsciously. Although the investigation, begun a few months earlier by the FBI, uncovered a large-scale Russian-influenced operation, there is no public evidence that the president or his associates Have been illegally assisted.
Nevertheless, the damage to Mr. Trump and those around him has been significant. Half a dozen old Trump aides have been charged or convicted of crimes primarily for lying to federal investigators or to Congress. Others are still under investigation in cases that Mr. Mueller's office has referred to federal prosecutors in New York and elsewhere. Dozens of intelligence officers or Russian citizens, as well as three Russian companies, were charged in cases that could languish in court because the defendants could not be extradited to the United States.
According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, Kerri Kupec, only a handful of law enforcement officers saw the report. Department of Justice officials briefed the White House about 20 minutes before telling lawmakers, Kupec said. Barr's chief of staff told Emmet Flood, the White House lawyer in charge of investigating Russia. She said some members of Mr. Mueller's team would stay to close the office.
Although Mr. Mueller's report is complete, some aspects of his investigation remain active and may be overseen by the same prosecutors once they have been reassigned to their former positions in the Department of Justice. For example, recently filed court documents suggest that investigators are still looking for why the author of the former Trump campaign president, Paul Manafort, had forwarded the data from the election inquiry in 2016 to a Russian partner who, according to prosecutors, was linked to Russian intelligence.
Mr. Mueller has long investigated whether Mr. Trump was preventing justice from protecting himself or his employees. Despite months of negotiations, prosecutors have been unable to personally interview the president.
Mr. Trump's lawyers insisted that he answer only the written questions of the special council. Although, under current Justice policy, a sitting president can not be charged, Trump's lawyers were concerned that his answers in an oral interview would have political repercussions, including an indictment, or endanger it legally once its term has expired.
Since Watergate opened a special investigation by the prosecutor, the American public has been so fascinated. Mr. Trump helped to make Mr. Mueller a well-known name, attack his investigation about twice a day on average, as an unjust and political attempt to invalidate his election. He never forgave former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for being challenged from the investigation of Russia, which allowed his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, to appoint Mr. Mueller.
Trump reiterated his attacks on the special council this week, saying Mueller had decided to create a report "unannounced", unaware that the regulations required it. But the president also said the report should be made public because "tens of millions" of Americans would like to know what it contains.
"Let people see it," said Trump. "There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was not anything. "
Barr told congressional leaders that he would decide what to release after consulting with Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein.
In court, the evidence collected by the Mueller team was kept. Any accused who is still not awaiting trial has pleaded guilty or has been convicted by a jury. Although no American has been accused of illegally plotting with the Russians to tip the elections, Mueller discovered a web of lies by former Trump associates.
Five of them were found to have misled federal investigators or Congress about their interactions with the Russians during the campaign or transition. They include Mr. Manafort; Michael T. Flynn, First Counselor to the President for National Security; and Michael D. Cohen, a former lawyer and longtime repairer for Mr. Trump. A sixth former councilor, Roger J. Stone Jr., must be tried in November for lying to Congress.
Those who know Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. Director, predicted a legal and legalistic report without an opinion – nothing to do with the 445-page treaty drafted by Kenneth W. Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton in 1998. Operating under a law now Mr. Starr had much more leeway than Mr. Mueller to set his own investigation limits and make judgments.
The regulation that governs Mr. Mueller, which reports to the Ministry of Justice, requires him to explain his decision to seek or refuse to initiate criminal proceedings only in a confidential report to the Attorney General. The Attorney General is then required to inform the leaders of the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate.
During the confirmation hearing in the Senate, Mr. Barr promised to disclose as much information as possible, saying "the country needed a credible resolution of these issues". But he might be reluctant to disclose the part of Mr. Mueller's report that could be of most interest: who the special counsel refused to prosecute and why, especially if Mr. Trump is on that list.
The department's long-standing practice, with few exceptions, is not to identify those who are merely targets of investigation, in order to avoid unfairly tarnishing their reputations, particularly because would have no chance to defend themselves in court. Mr. Rosenstein, who has overseen Mr. Mueller's work and has a say in what is published, believes strongly in this principle.
In a letter of May 2017 that the President seized to justify his decision to dismiss James B. Comey under the name of F.B.I. The director, Mr Rosenstein, strongly criticized Mr Comey for having announced in the previous year that Hillary Clinton, then presidential candidate, would not be charged with a crime for mismanaging classified information in the past year. as Secretary of State. The publication "derogatory information on the subject of a criminal investigation denied", wrote Mr. Rosenstein, is "a classic example of what prosecutors and federal officials have learned not to do."
Weighing this principle against the public's right to know is even more difficult in the president's case. If Mr. Mueller refused to lay criminal charges against Mr. Trump, he might have been guided not by the lack of evidence, but by the legal opinions of the Department of Justice that a sitting president could not be in accusation. The Office of the Ministry's Legal Counsel has repeatedly indicated that stigma and the burden of criminal prosecution would undermine the ability of the President to lead.
Mr. Trump told Mr. Barr the decision to disclose it. But behind the scenes, White House lawyers are preparing for the opportunity to argue that some documents are protected by the privilege of the executive, particularly if the report indicates whether the president's interactions with his key advisers or advisors legal acts are evidence of an obstruction of justice.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said that, given the Department's view that presidents are protected from prosecution, it is all the more important to the public. to see Mr. Mueller's report.
"To support that a president in office can not be indicted, and then conceal from Congress the evidence of wrongdoing because the president can not be charged, it is to convert D.O.J. means of concealment, "he said before the House approved his non-binding resolution to disclose the findings of the special council.
Some predict that the revelations in Mr Mueller's report will not satisfy Mr Trump's critics or supporters, especially as the public is very much looking for answers. A A Washington Post-Schar School poll in February illustrated the wide gap between public opinion: most of the respondents did not believe in the evidence of crimes that Mr. Mueller's team had already proven in court, while most Democrats thought they had proven crimes that he had not even alleged.
The last weeks have brought new signs of the end of the work of the special council. Five prosecutors left, which brought the team from 16 to 11 people. Mr. Mueller's office has confirmed that Andrew Weissmann, one of the most important deputies, will also be leaving soon. A key F.B.I. agent, David W. Archey, was transferred to another position.
Mr. Rosenstein was scheduled to leave the Department of Justice by mid-March, but may be expecting to see the report come to an end.