Mueller's Trump-Rus­sia re­port to be re­leased on Thurs­day

The Guardian (USA) - - Front Page - David Smith in Washington

Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s re­port on Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence will be re­leased on Thurs­day morn­ing, promis­ing the cli­mac­tic mo­ment in a twoyear saga that has jeop­ar­dised Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency and held Washington spell­bound.

Wil­liam Barr, the at­tor­ney gen­eral, plans to re­lease a redacted ver­sion of the near 400-page re­port on the 2016 elec­tion to both Congress and the pub­lic, a jus­tice de­part­ment spokes­woman, Kerri Ku­pec, said.

Op­po­nents of Trump hope the re­port will an­swer long­stand­ing ques­tions about his ties to Rus­sia, in­clud­ing what tran­spired at a June 2016 meet­ing at Trump Tower in New York in­volv­ing his son, Don­ald Trump Jr, and a Rus­sian lawyer who promised “dirt” on ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Mueller is also ex­pected to shed light on whether, once in the White House, Trump sought to ob­struct jus­tice, for ex­am­ple by fir­ing James Comey as FBI di­rec­tor in May 2017, when the agency was head­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But the ex­tent of Barr’s redac­tions could prove con­tro­ver­sial and leave many dis­sat­is­fied.

Mueller turned over a copy of his re­port to the at­tor­ney gen­eral on 22 March. Two days later, Barr re­leased a four-page let­ter sum­maris­ing what he said were Mueller’s pri­mary con­clu­sions, no­tably that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion did not es­tab­lish that mem­bers of Trump’s elec­tion cam­paign con­spired with Rus­sia.

That find­ing led to ju­bi­la­tion and some gloat­ing by the pres­i­dent and his sup­port­ers. An­a­lysts urged cau­tion, how­ever, sug­gest­ing that while the con­tacts with Rus­sia might not have risen to the level of a crime, the full re­port may still de­tail be­hav­iour and fi­nan­cial en­tan­gle­ments that raise ques­tions about Trump’s cu­ri­ous pat­tern of def­er­ence to Rus­sia’s pres­i­dent, Vladimir Putin.

Barr also wrote that Mueller pre­sented ev­i­dence “on both sides” about whether Trump ob­structed jus­tice and did “not ex­on­er­ate him” on that point, in­stead de­clin­ing to draw a con­clu­sion. Barr said he re­viewed Mueller’s ev­i­dence and made his own de­ter­mi­na­tion that Trump did not com­mit the crime of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

As a Trump ap­pointee, Barr has been un­der pres­sure from Democrats to re­lease the re­port with­out redac­tions. But he has said he must redact some sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing grand jury in­for­ma­tion and de­tails about US in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing.

While the prospect of the Demo­cratic-led House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives at­tempt­ing to im­peach Trump ap­pears to have dimmed, the House ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee will be look­ing for any ev­i­dence rel­e­vant to on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, cor­rup­tion and abuse of power by the pres­i­dent or oth­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Shortly af­ter the an­nounce­ment on Mon­day, Trump re­sponded with a char­ac­ter­is­tic swerve, at­tempt­ing to ac­cuse Democrats of or­ches­trat­ing a witch-hunt.

He tweeted: “The Mueller Re­port, which was writ­ten by 18 An­gry Democrats who also hap­pen to be Trump Haters (and Clin­ton Sup­port­ers), should have fo­cused on the peo­ple who SPIED on my 2016 Cam­paign, and oth­ers who fab­ri­cated the whole Rus­sia Hoax.

“That is, never for­get, the crime... Since there was no Col­lu­sion, why was there an In­ves­ti­ga­tion in the first place! An­swer – Dirty Cops, Dems and Crooked Hil­lary!”

The White House ap­pears re­laxed about the prospect of the re­port’s pub­li­ca­tion, per­haps be­liev­ing it has al­ready won the bat­tle of per­cep­tions. Ax­ios re­ported: “Two of the pres­i­dent’s top ad­vis­ers who will be han­dling the re­sponse to Mueller’s re­port were watch­ing the Masters [golf cham­pi­onship] when [asked] about it this week­end.

“By all ac­counts, the pres­i­dent him­self is also tak­ing a fairly blasé ap­proach. The sub­ject has barely come up, if at all, in re­cent se­nior staff meet­ings, according to two sources with di­rect knowl­edge. And in re­cent calls to aides and al­lies, Trump has barely men­tioned it.”

Wil­liam Barr tes­ti­fies dur­ing a House sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing in Washington DC on 10 April. Pho­to­graph: Man­del Ngan/AFP/Getty Im­ages

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