President ups attacks with Mueller report due Thursday
The president isn’t waiting. As Washington counts down the final hours until publication of the redacted special counsel report – now expected Thursday – Donald Trump stepped up his attacks Monday in an effort to undermine potential disclosures on Russia, his 2016 campaign and the aftermath.
He unleashed a series of of tweets focusing on the previously released summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions – including a crucial one on obstruction of justice that Trump again misrepresented – produced by Attorney General William Barr.
“Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings [and great intelligence], have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction,” Trump tweeted. “These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!”
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly tried to make the same case on TV talk shows Sunday. But the political battle is far from finished over the special counsel’s investigation of Russian efforts to help Trump in 2016 and whether there was cooperation with his campaign.
Democrats are calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect the president. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.
The Justice Department announced Monday that it expects to release the redacted version Thursday morning, sending the findings of the nearly two-year probe to Congress and making them available to the public.
Mueller officially concluded his investigation late last month and submitted the confidential report to Barr. Two days later, the attorney general sent Congress a four-page letter that detailed Mueller’s “principal conclusions.”
In his letter, Barr said the special counsel did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump associates during the campaign. However, contrary to Trump’s false claim, Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Instead, Mueller presented evidence on both sides of that question. Barr said he did not believe the evidence was sufficient to prove that Trump had obstructed justice, but he noted that Mueller’s team did not exonerate the president.
Portions of the report being released by the Justice Department will be redacted to protect grand jury material, sensitive intelligence, matters that could affect ongoing investigations and damage to the privacy rights of third parties, the attorney general has said.
The scores of outstanding questions about the investigation have not stopped the president and his allies from declaring victory.
They have painted House Democrats’ investigations as partisan overreach and have targeted news outlets and individual reporters they say have promoted the collusion story. The president himself seethed at a political rally that the whole thing was an attempt “to tear up the fabric of our great democracy.”
He has told confidants in recent days that he was certain the full report would back up his claims of vindication but was also convinced the media would manipulate the findings in an effort to damage him, according to two Republicans close to the White House not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. In the waiting game’s final days, the White House continued to try to shape the narrative.
“There was no obstruction, which I don’t know how you can interpret that any other way than total exoneration,” Sanders said on “Fox News Sunday.”