Mueller Report Key Findings Awaited 03/23 10:33

Mueller Report Key Findings Awaited    03/23 10:33

   The Justice Department was expected to release the main findings as soon as 
Saturday from special counsel Robert Mueller's long and contentious Russia 
investigation, one day after Mueller wrapped up the probe that has cast a dark 
shadow over Donald Trump's presidency.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department was expected to release the main 
findings as soon as Saturday from special counsel Robert Mueller's long and 
contentious Russia investigation, one day after Mueller wrapped up the probe 
that has cast a dark shadow over Donald Trump's presidency.

   Even with the details still under wraps, Friday's end to the 22-month probe 
without additional indictments by Mueller was welcome news to some in Trump's 
orbit who had feared a final round of charges could ensnare more Trump 
associates, including members of the president's family.

   For now, the report is accessible to only a handful of Justice Department 
officials while Attorney General William Barr prepared to release the 
"principal conclusions."

   Trump, who has relentlessly criticized Mueller's investigation as a "witch 
hunt," was on the golf course in Florida on Saturday, and House Democrats were 
planning to gather by phone later in the day as they waited for the Justice 
Department to send details of Mueller's findings. Barr, who was at the 
department's headquarters on Saturday morning, said in a Friday letter to the 
House and Senate Judiciary committees that he would share Mueller's main 
findings as soon as this weekend.

   The Justice Department said the report was delivered by a security officer 
late Friday to the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and then 
it went to Barr. Word of the delivery triggered reactions across Washington, 
including Democrats' demands that it be quickly released to the public and 
Republicans' contentions that it ended two years of wasted time and money.

   The next step was up to Barr, who declared he was committed to transparency 
and speed.

   The White House sought to keep some distance, saying it had not seen or been 
briefed on the report. Trump, surrounded by advisers and political supporters 
at his resort in Florida, stayed uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter.

   With no details released at this point, it was not known whether Mueller's 
report answers the core questions of his investigation: Did Trump's campaign 
collude with the Kremlin to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of the 
celebrity businessman? Also, did Trump take steps later, including by firing 
his FBI director, to obstruct the probe?

   But the delivery of the report does mean the investigation has concluded 
without any public charges of a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and 
Russia, or of obstruction by the president. A Justice Department official 
confirmed that Mueller was not recommending any further indictments.

   That person, who described the document as "comprehensive," was not 
authorized to discuss the probe and asked for anonymity.

   That was good news for a handful of Trump associates and family members 
dogged by speculation of possible wrongdoing. They include Donald Trump Jr., 
who had a role in arranging a Trump Tower meeting at the height of the 2016 
campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, 
who was interviewed at least twice by Mueller's prosecutors. It wasn't 
immediately clear whether Mueller might have referred additional investigations 
to the Justice Department.

   All told, Mueller charged 34 people, including the president's former 
campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his first national security adviser, Michael 
Flynn, and three Russian companies. Twenty-five Russians were indicted on 
charges related to election interference, accused either of hacking Democratic 
email accounts during the campaign or of orchestrating a social media campaign 
that spread disinformation on the internet.

   Five Trump aides pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with Mueller and a 
sixth, longtime confidant Roger Stone, is awaiting trial on charges that he 
lied to Congress and engaged in witness tampering.

   Justice Department legal opinions have held that sitting presidents may not 
be indicted.

   The conclusion of Mueller's investigation does not remove legal peril for 
the president. Trump faces a separate Justice Department investigation in New 
York into hush money payments during the campaign to two women who say they had 
sex with him years before the election. He's also been implicated in a 
potential campaign finance violation by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who 
says Trump asked him to arrange the transactions. Federal prosecutors, also in 
New York, have been investigating foreign contributions made to the president's 
inaugural committee.

   In his letter to lawmakers, Barr noted the department had not denied any 
request from the special counsel, something Barr would have been required to 
disclose to ensure there was no political inference. Trump was never 
interviewed in person, but submitted answers to questions in writing.

   The mere delivery of the confidential findings set off swift demands from 
Democrats for full release of Mueller's report and the supporting evidence 
collected during the sweeping probe.

   As Mueller's probe has wound down, Democrats have increasingly shifted their 
focus to their own congressional investigations, ensuring the special counsel's 
words would not be the last on the matter.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared 
it "imperative" to make the full report public, a call echoed by several 
Democrats vying to challenge Trump in 2020.

   "The American people have a right to the truth," Schumer and Pelosi said in 
a joint statement.

   It was not clear whether Trump would have early access to Mueller's 
findings. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders suggested the White House would not 
interfere, saying "we look forward to the process taking its course." But 
Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press Friday that 
the president's legal team would seek to get "an early look" before the 
findings were made public.

   Giuliani said it was "appropriate" for the White House to be able "to review 
matters of executive privilege." He said had received no assurances from the 
Department of Justice on that front. He later softened his stance, saying the 
decision was "up to DOJ and we are confident it will be handled properly."

   The White House did receive a brief heads-up on the report's arrival Friday. 
Barr's chief of staff called White House Counsel Emmet Flood on Friday about 20 
minutes before sending the letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders of 
the Senate and House Judiciary committees.

   The chairman of the Senate panel, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was 
keynote speaker Friday night at a Palm Beach County GOP fundraising dinner at 
Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. Trump made brief remarks to the group but did not 
mention the report, according to a person who attended the event, which was 
closed to the press.

   Barr has said he wants to make as much public as possible, and any efforts 
to withhold details are sure to prompt a tussle with lawmakers who may subpoena 
Mueller and his investigators to testify before Congress. Rep. Adam Schiff, 
D-Calif., chairman of the House intelligence committee, threatened a subpoena 
Friday.

   Such a move would likely be vigorously contested by the Trump administration.

   No matter the findings in Mueller's report, the investigation has already 
illuminated Russia's assault on the American political system, painted the 
Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to 
hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering 
up their Russia-related contacts.

   The special counsel brought a sweeping indictment accusing Russian military 
intelligence officers of hacking Clinton's campaign and other Democratic groups 
during the 2016 campaign. He charged another group of Russians with carrying 
out a large-scale social media disinformation campaign against the American 
political process that also sought to help Trump and hurt Clinton.

   Mueller also initiated the investigation into Cohen, who pleaded guilty in 
New York to campaign finance violations arising from the hush money payments 
and in the Mueller probe to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal. 
Another Trump confidant, Stone, is awaiting trial on charges that he lied about 
his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails ultimately released by WikiLeaks.

   Mueller has also been investigating whether the president tried to obstruct 
the investigation. Since the special counsel's appointment in May 2017, Trump 
has increasingly tried to undermine the probe by calling it a "witch hunt" and 
repeatedly proclaiming there was "NO COLLUSION" with Russia.

   One week before Mueller's appointment, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, 
later saying he was thinking of "this Russia thing" at the time.


(KA)

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