Barr pores over re­port to see how much to open

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY ERIC TUCKER, MICHAEL BALSAMO AND CHAD DAY

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr scoured spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s con­fi­den­tial re­port on the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion with his advisers Saturday, de­cid­ing how much Congress and the Amer­i­can pub­lic will get to see about the two-year probe into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Moscow’s ef­forts to elect him.

Barr was on pace to re­lease his first sum­mary of Mueller’s find­ings on Sun­day, peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the process said.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s de­ci­sion on what to fi­nally dis­close seems al­most cer­tain to set off a fight with con­gres­sional Democrats, who want ac­cess to all of Mueller’s find­ings – and sup­port­ing ev­i­dence – on whether Trump’s 2016 cam­paign co­or­di­nated with Rus­sia to sway the elec­tion and whether the pres­i­dent later sought to ob­struct the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

No an­nounce­ment was ex­pected Saturday as Barr and Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, who ap­pointed Mueller and over­saw much of his work, an­a­lyzed the re­port and la­bored to con­dense it into a sum­mary let­ter of main con­clu­sions. Mueller de­liv­ered his full re­port to Barr on Fri­day.

The Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion has shadowed Trump for nearly two years and has en­snared his fam­ily and close advisers. And no mat­ter the find­ings in Mueller’s re­port, the probe al­ready has il­lu­mi­nated Rus­sia’s as­sault on the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, painted the Trump cam­paign as eager to ex­ploit the re­lease of hacked Demo­cratic emails to hurt Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton and ex­posed lies by Trump aides aimed at cov­er­ing up their Rus­siare­lated con­tacts.

Barr has said he wants to re­lease as much as he can un­der the law. That de­ci­sion will re­quire him to weigh the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s long­stand­ing pro­to­col of not re­leas­ing neg­a­tive in­for­ma­tion about peo­ple who aren’t in­dicted against the ex­tra­or­di­nary pub­lic in­ter­est in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the pres­i­dent and his cam­paign. Democrats are al­ready cit­ing the depart­ment’s re­cent prece­dent of norm-break­ing dis­clo­sures, in­clud­ing dur­ing the Hil­lary Clin­ton email in­ves­ti­ga­tion, to ar­gue that they’re en­ti­tled to Mueller’s en­tire re­port and the un­der­ly­ing ev­i­dence he col­lected.

Even with the de­tails still un­der wraps, Fri­day’s end to the 22-month probe with­out ad­di­tional in­dict­ments by Mueller was wel­come news to some in Trump’s or­bit who had feared a fi­nal round of charges.

The White House sought to keep its dis­tance, say­ing Saturday it had not been briefed on the re­port. Trump, who has re­lent­lessly crit­i­cized Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion as a “witch hunt,” went golf­ing.

In a pos­si­ble fore­shad­ow­ing of ex­pected clashes be­tween the Jus­tice Depart­ment and Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a let­ter to mem­bers that Barr’s of­fer to pro­vide a sum­mary of prin­ci­pal con­clu­sions was “in­suf­fi­cient.”

The con­clu­sion of Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion does not re­move le­gal peril for the pres­i­dent. He faces a sep­a­rate Jus­tice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion in New York into hush money pay­ments dur­ing the cam­paign to two women who say they had sex with him years be­fore the elec­tion. He’s also been im­pli­cated in a po­ten­tial cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tion by his for­mer lawyer, Michael Co­hen, who says Trump asked him to ar­range the trans­ac­tions. Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors, also in New York, have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing for­eign con­tri­bu­tions made to the presi- dent’s in­au­gu­ral com­mit­tee.

As for Mueller, with no de­tails re­leased at this point, it was not known whether he con­cluded the cam­paign col­luded with the Krem­lin to tip the elec­tion in fa­vor of the celebrity busi­ness­man. A Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial did con­firm that Mueller was not rec­om­mend­ing any fur­ther in­dict­ments, mean­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had ended with­out any pub­lic charges of a crim­i­nal con­spir­acy, or of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice by the pres­i­dent.

In a let­ter to the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic lead­ers of the con­gres­sional Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees, Barr noted Fri­day that the depart­ment had not de­nied any re­quest from Mueller, some­thing Barr would have been re­quired to dis­close to en­sure there was no po­lit­i­cal in­fer­ence.

In a Saturday con­fer­ence call to strate­gize on next steps, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a mem­ber of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, is­sued a warn­ing for his fel­low Democrats, some of whom have pinned high po­lit­i­cal hopes on Mueller’s find­ings: “Once we get the prin­ci­pal con­clu­sions of the re­port, I think it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble that that will be a good day for the pres­i­dent and his core sup­port­ers.”

A hand­ful of Trump as­so­ciates and fam­ily mem­bers have been dogged by spec­u­la­tion of pos­si­ble wrong­do­ing. They in­clude Don­ald Trump Jr., who had a role in ar­rang­ing a Trump Tower meet­ing at the height of the 2016 cam­paign with a Krem­lin­linked lawyer, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, who was in­ter­viewed at least twice by Mueller’s pros­e­cu­tors.

All told, Mueller charged 34 peo­ple, in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, his first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn, and three Rus­sian com­pa­nies. Twenty-five Rus­sians were in­dicted on charges re­lated to elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence, ac­cused ei­ther of hack­ing Demo­cratic email ac­counts or of or­ches­trat­ing a so­cial me­dia cam­paign that spread dis­in­for­ma­tion on the in­ter­net.

Five Trump aides pleaded guilty and agreed to co­op­er­ate with Mueller and a sixth, long­time con­fi­dant Roger Stone, is await­ing trial.

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