Mueller report: What we know, what we don’t know, and what we may never find out
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WASHINGTON – The investigation that has cast a cloud over Donald Trump’s presidency is over.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his final and confidential report on Friday afternoon, signaling the end of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links to Trump’s campaign. Attorney General William Barr announced its end in a letter to top lawmakers on the House and Senate judiciary committees.
“The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a ‘confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions’ he has reached,” Barr wrote. “I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”
Exactly when that will happen is unclear. Barr returned to the Justice Department’s headquarters on Saturday and was reviewing the report, according to a department official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans were figuring out how to respond when the Justice Department delivers his conclusions. Senior Republicans in the House of Representatives had a conference call Friday night to discuss their strategy and top Democrats planned one for Saturday afternoon, according to aides who were not authorized to speak publicly.
We know the report is “comprehensive,” as described by Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. We know that 34 people and entities were indicted and that a half a dozen of them are former Trump advisers and aides who were convicted of federal crimes.
Here’s what we know, what we don’t know, and what we might never find out:
Did Mueller find collusion?
We don’t know — yet. The investigation did not charge any Americans with coordinating with Russia to help Trump win. And a senior Justice Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the special counsel’s office did not recommend new indictments.
What happens Next?
As Barr said in his letter, he could alert Congress as soon as Saturday about Mueller’s “principal conclusions.”
That does not amount to the whole report. Instead, it’s a written summary of Mueller’s findings — essentially parts of the report that Barr believes he can share in accordance with Justice Department rules. The only information Barr is required to reveal is whether Mueller’s bosses overruled his investigative actions. And Barr said that did not happen.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries and Democratic Committee chairs will have a conference call at 3 p.m. Saturday to discuss messaging on what comes next for the report, according to two senior Democratic aides familiar with the call.
How big is the report?
We don’t know. Kupec said it was “comprehensive,” but didn’t elaborate. A security officer from Mueller’s office delivered a printed copy to the offices of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who turned it over to Barr on Friday afternoon.
Will we get to read the Mueller report?
It’s too soon to tell.
What’s certain is that there will be a fight in Congress to make the report public. Lawmakers and President Trump have indicated that they want the report to become public. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said minutes after Barr’s letter to Congress that he looks forward to getting the “full report and related materials.”
“Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less,” Nadler tweeted.
Barr told lawmakers that he was “committed to as much transparency as possible.” But he did not say he would release Mueller’s complete report. Instead, he said he would consult with Mueller and Rosenstein to “determine what other information from the report can be released consistent with the law … and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies.”
Barr has said that the department often cannot reveal information about grand juries, or “derogatory” information about people who have not been charged with a crime.
What happens to Mueller?
Peter Carr, Mueller’s spokesman, said the special counsel would be “concluding his service in the coming days.” A small staff would remain to close down Mueller’s office. The office had already confirmed that some of his prosecutors and investigators were leaving for other jobs.
So Mueller came up empty?
The investigation has led to charges against some of Trump’s closet advisers.
- Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, is serving a 7 1/2-year prison sentence for tax fraud, bank fraud and other charges.
- Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about meetings with Russians during the presidential transition, is awaiting sentencing.
- Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, will start a three-year sentence in May for campaign finance violation, tax evasion and lying to Congress.
- Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime adviser, was most recently indicted for lying to Congress and investigators about his interactions with WikiLeaks during the campaign.
And we know what investigators believe the 13 Russian nationals and a Russian troll farm did to disrupt U.S. politics and tilt the presidential election in Trump’s favor.
It’s still unclear whether Mueller’s report will speak to a pattern among those cases. “That’s part of what the Mueller report is for. One of the things the Mueller report will do is it will attempt to put all of the indictments Mueller has brought into an overall context,” said Patrick Cotter, a white-collar defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor.
What did we know already?
In hundreds of pages of court filings, Mueller’s office revealed an extensive Russian intelligence operation that used hacking, stolen documents and phony social media campaigns to sew discord in U.S. politics and support Trump’s campaign for the presidency. It revealed that some of Trump’s aides worked eagerly to benefit from that operation, seeking damaging information from Russians even as Trump was seeking out business in the country. And it revealed that many of Trump’s aides then lied to Congress, federal investigators and the public to downplay those connections.
What about other people?
Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for example. They, along with Manafort, met on June 9, 2016 at Trump Tower with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya and several other Russians. The meeting occurred after Trump Jr. was promised it would yield dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That meeting was a focal point of Mueller’s investigation, but the fact that no one has faced charges for it suggests Mueller’s team didn’t think it amounted to a crime.
All the lies?
The special counsel’s investigation revealed an extensive pattern of perjury. Several of Trump’s former advisers, including Flynn, Cohen and Stone, either admitted to or were accused of lying. Will Mueller address that in his report? Cotter hopes so.
“Because to a federal prosecutor, I think that it is a strikingly unusual aspect on this whole case. That so many people lied to investigators,” Cotter said.
Is this the end?
Mueller referred his investigation on Cohen’s criminal activities to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, who opened an inquiry into illegal hush-money payments to silence two women who claimed to have had sex with Trump. Justice Department investigators have also been examining lobbying firms tied to Manafort, and Trump’s inaugural committee.
The department hasn’t said whether Mueller’s office made any other referrals.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson, Eliza Collins and Bart Jansen