/AG William Barr plans to deliver Mueller report to Congress and the public in weeks not months

AG William Barr plans to deliver Mueller report to Congress and the public in weeks not months

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Attorney General Barr issues a summary of the Mueller report that clears Trump and Trump campaign officials of collusion with Russia.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Attorney General William Barr plans to deliver special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and the public in “weeks not months,” a Justice Department official said Tuesday, offering the first indication of how soon the government would release more complete findings of the investigation. 

The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, said the department has “no plans at this time” to provide a copy of the report to the White House before it is made public.

That timetable comes after lawmakers intensified their demands for access to the special counsel’s full report. Leaders of six House committees said in a letter to the attorney general that they wanted to see the entire document by April 2. They also asked him to turn over the evidence Mueller’s investigators had gathered, saying the materials were “urgently needed by our committees to perform their duties under the Constitution.” 

Barr issued a four-page summary of that report on Sunday, declaring that Mueller’s 22-month inquiry had not found that President Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election. On the separate issue of whether Trump had sought to thwart the investigation, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that the president’s conduct did not constitute a crime after Mueller’s team declined to reach a conclusion on whether Trump had obstructed justice.

Trump and his allies swiftly declared victory in the inquiry that had cast a shadow over nearly all of his presidency to date. Congressional Democrats, however, said Barr’s summary had only heightened their interest in obtaining a fuller account of how Mueller reached his conclusions. 

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A small team of Justice Department staffers is reviewing the report to determine which parts are based on grand jury testimony or would reveal information about other pending cases, subjects Barr has said the department is constrained to keep secret, according to an official who was not authorized to speak publicly. 

The department offered no clues on Monday about how long that review would last, or even about the size of the report Mueller had delivered.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday sent a letter to Barr calling for the report’s release. “A four-page summary … with no underlying evidence or findings, is not adequate to accomplish our constitutional, legislative, and oversight responsibilities,” Feinstein said. 

Democrats said they were particularly interested in Mueller’s decision not to decide whether the president had committed obstruction, and how Barr could have reached his own conclusion so rapidly. 

A Justice Department official has said that Mueller’s team informed Barr and Rosenstein during a meeting three weeks ago that they could not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Mueller’s indecision on obstruction, the official has said, was unexpected.

“It was Bob Mueller’s decision not to reach a conclusion on obstruction,” the official said. “It was entirely Bob Mueller’s decision.”

Barr, nominated by Trump to replace Jeff Sessions, is all but assured to be called to testify before Congress to explain his action, along with the special counsel in what is shaping up as a protracted political fight that could spill into 2020 presidential election cycle.

In his letter, Barr said department lawyers would review the report to remove material that must remain secret, such as grand jury-related information. Then he said he would review it again to determine “what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Department policies.” 

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Democrats have also pointed to recent history to suggest they are entitled to more. In September 2016, for example, the FBI released documents related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state. 

Justice Department officials have since turned over 880,000 pages of documents on the Clinton email probe, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an op-ed last week. “There’s no excuse to bury information on Trump Russia and counterintelligence.”

Meanwhile, Mueller’s office began winding down its work. Prosecutors who work there notified federal courts that they were withdrawing from a case involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, to be replaced by prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. 

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