Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference will be released on Thursday morning, promising the climactic moment in a two-year 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, 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 dissatified.
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.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.