The attorney general has sent his summary to Congress, but we’re still awaiting the full report. It could sharpen the partisan divide.
The nearly two-year investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 US presidential election, including whether anyone tied to President Donald Trump’s campaign cooperated with Russia to get him elected, came to an end March 22, when former FBI director Robert Mueller delivered his report to US Attorney General William Barr. On Sunday, Barr sent his summary to Congress, concluding that Mueller’s findings didn’t show the Trump campaign conspired with Russia.
While Mueller’s investigation has already led to the indictments of six of Trump’s advisers, along with 26 Russian nationals including some on charges of hacking, no new indictments are expected, according to CBS News (both CBS News and CNET are owned by CBS). US law makes it unlikely that a sitting president can be indicted, which is why Mueller pursued Trump’s top collaborators from the 2016 campaign.
The president wasted no time responding to Sunday’s developments. He tweeted: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.”
But even as Mueller’s investigation didn’t establish any conspiracy on the part of the president, it also made no definitive determination on obstruction of justice, CBS News reported. Barr’s letter quotes Mueller as saying that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on the matter of obstruction.
This isn’t where things end. The question now is whether all — or parts — of the report will be made public, which is up to Barr. The law doesn’t require the Department of Justice to release a report on a special counsel investigation. But the president indicated March 20 that he wants the report released, saying “Let people see it.” And politicians from both major parties have said they want the full report released.
On Sunday, top Democrats in Congress called again for the release of the Mueller report in its entirety. In a joint statement, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said that Barr isn’t a neutral observer and that his letter “raises as many questions as it answers.”
In the meantime, what Mueller found during his 675-day investigation could lead to a widening of the partisan divide in the US, with Trump supporters likely to view the final results of the Mueller probe as exonerating the president, while his detractors see the report’s contents and existing indictments as ample proof of wrongdoing.
As soon as it’s available, we’ll share instructions on how to download and/or access the Mueller report online. But between now and then, here are six things you should know:
Why we expect the Mueller report to be released to the public
The decision on whether to release the Mueller report to the public rests with Barr, who has to determine if it’s in the public’s best interest to read the report. However, during his Senate confirmation hearings in January, Barr told senators he wanted to release as much of the report as possible, “consistent with the law,” as reported by CBS News.
In addition to the president, other top Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said they want the full report released. That includes Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, and Texas Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican.
What the public won’t get to see
Because the report involves foreign relations and intelligence gathering, it’s likely to contain classified and sensitive information that may compromise sources and have implications for national security. It’s also likely to contain information on why Mueller didn’t prosecute certain individuals — information the Justice Department doesn’t usually disclose, according to CBS News. As a result, some parts of the report may be withheld altogether and other parts could be heavily redacted.
Who’s been indicted so far
As detailed by The New York Times, 32 people have been charged with crimes by Mueller — including 26 Russian nationals who are unlikely to stand trial. Those indictments include charges against 12 Russian hackers alleged to have been behind and against 13 Russians for spreading disinformation on social media, as well as the propaganda efforts’ chief accountant.
Meanwhile, six Trump associates have been accused of set of crimes that include financial malfeasance and lying to investigators, and five of them have already been convicted or pleaded guilty. The most prominent are Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump 2016 campaign; Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer; and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.
Why Trump is unlikely to be impeached
With Trump himself unlikely to be indicted or subpoenaed, it would have taken a major bombshell in the Mueller report to trigger impeachment proceedings in Congress. Even before Barr’s summary to Congress, that option became even more unlikely when Pelosi stated in early March that she doesn’t support impeachment, saying that unless there’s overwhelming evidence, impeachment would become too partisan and divisive to make it worth dominating the agenda of Congress.
Congressional investigations will continue
Even without an impeachment effort, we will see more investigations. The House Intelligence Committee announced in February that it was widening its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. As CBS News reported, the committee’s chairman, Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, pointed out that a new addition to the five lines of inquiry would be “[w]hether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates.” Separately, the House Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey.
What comes next
Since receiving Mueller’s findings on March 22, Barr and his Justice Department lawyers have been dissecting the document and have delivered a summary of its conclusions to Congress. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in 2016, will confer to decide if and how much of the report should be released to the public.
Originally published March 24 at 1:22 p.m. PT.
Update at 1:47 p.m. PT: Added Trump’s tweet.
Update at 3:17 p.m. PT: Added statement by Pelosi and Schumer.