Mueller report could be letdown for some
AG says he’ll release as much info as he can
America is waiting for special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. But anyone looking for a grand narrative on President Donald Trump, Russian election interference and all the juicy details uncovered over the past 22 months could end up disappointed.
The exact timing of Mueller’s endgame is unclear. Attorney General William Barr, who oversees the investigation, has said he wants to release as much information as he can about the inquiry into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election. But during his confirmation hearing last month, Barr said he ultimately will decide what the public sees, and that any report will be in his words, not Mueller’s.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE INVESTIGATION ENDS?
Mueller will have to turn in a report of some kind when he’s done. It could be pretty bare-bones.
Justice Department regulations require only that Mueller give the attorney general a confidential report that explains the decisions to pursue or decline prosecutions. That could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.
Mueller has given no guidance on what or when it will be, but signs a conclusion is coming soon have mounted in recent months.
Matthew Whitaker, who was acting attorney general before Barr was confirmed, said in January that the investigation is nearly done. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, has been preparing to leave his post soon. The number of prosecutors working for Mueller has dwindled, and his team, which had sought an interview with the president, has not had meaningful dialogue with Trump’s lawyers in months.
Mueller also hasn’t filed any new cases in two months.
WHAT DOES BARR SAY HE’LL DO?
Barr said he envisions two reports, and only one for congressional and public consumption.
Barr has said he takes seriously the “shall be confidential” part of the regulations governing Mueller’s report. He has noted that department protocol says internal memos explaining charging decisions should not be released.
WHAT WILL TRUMP DO?
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has said the president’s legal team wants to review any report before it’s released. Giuliani also raised the prospect that Trump lawyers could try to invoke executive privilege to prevent the disclosure of any confidential conversation the president has had with his aides.
WILL THERE BE A FINAL NEWS CONFERENCE?
It seems unlikely, especially if prosecutors plan to discuss people they never charged.
Then-FBI Director James Comey broke from Justice Department protocol in extraordinary fashion with his July 2016 news conference announcing the FBI would not recommend criminal charges against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. Barr has made clear his disapproval of Comey’s public move.
CAN CONGRESS SUBPOENA MUELLER AND HIS REPORT?
Sure. Powerful Democratic committee chairmen have said as much.
House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York has raised the prospect of subpoenaing the report and calling Mueller before Congress to ask him about his findings. So has Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Democrats also want all of Mueller’s underlying evidence, including interview transcripts and documents.
Schiff says he’s watching Barr’s moves carefully to see if he were “to try to bury any part of this report.” He says anything less than complete disclosure would leave Barr with “a tarnished legacy.”