On Thursday morning, Robert Mueller’s almost two-year-long investigation into the possible collusion between President Trump and Russia will finally come to an end. At 9:30 in the morning on Thursday, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are scheduled to hold a press conference to talk about the findings in the public release of Mueller’s report. The fact that they have chosen to hold a press conference before the report has even been published has stirred up some of the congressional Democrats, proving that they’re not going to give up on the investigation that easily.
As of Thursday morning, there were a few Democrats who were demanding that Barr cancel the conference, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement asking for Attorney General Barr to testify. In the statement, Schumer and Pelosi wrote: “Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality. We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible.” Already, there has been a combative tone set for the day.
It wasn’t immediately evident when the DOJ was going to release the redacted version of Mueller’s 400-page investigation, but lawmakers are expected to receive it by noon. It should also be posted online for the public around that time. Even though Barr has already determined that Mueller’s report has cleared President Trump of illegally colluding with Russia, the Democrats have indicated that they’re not planning on letting it go, especially with all of the redactions in the report. The Democrats are also eager to find proof that President Donald Trump obstructed justice while the investigation into Russia was happening. According to Fox News, Trump’s legal team is preparing to issue a rebuttal report in order to challenge any allegations of obstruction against the president. According to a source close to Trump’s legal team, the lawyers had originally drawn up their rebuttal last year when the president was facing Mueller’s questions.
According to Attorney General Barr, Mueller’s report has been redacted to legally mandated standards to protect four areas of concern: classified information, ongoing investigations, sensitive grand jury-related matters, and the privacy and protection of people who haven’t been charged with anything. Barr has claimed that Trump was not one of those people. During a hearing last week, Attorney General Barr said: “No, I’m talking about people in private life, not public officeholders.” On Wednesday, the DOJ announced during a filing in the ongoing Roger Stone case that certain members of Congress will be allowed to see the Mueller report “without certain redactions” in a secured setting. Roger Stone, a long time friend and business associate of Donald Trump’s, is waiting for his trial to start to face charges of obstructing justice and giving false statements.
Barr and Rosenstein are expected to answer questions at the press conference on Thursday, which was initially announced by President Trump and confirmed by the DOJ. More than likely, Barr and Rosenstein will be pressured to answer questions about the redactions in the report. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has stated that he is prepared to issue subpoenas for the full report “very quickly” if it’s released with blacked out sections in it. This will surely break out into a major battle in the courtroom.
Information from the grand jury, including interviews with witnesses, is typically off limits but it can be obtained in court. Eventually, some of the records were released from the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton, and the investigation into former President Nixon before he resigned. The major difference between those cases and Mueller’s report is the fact that the House Judiciary Committee had already started the impeachment process. According to Federal court rules, a court may order disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.” Ironically, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with other Democrats, have ignored suggestions calling for Trump’s impeachment.
Barr’s decision regarding the lack of evidence against Trump in the Mueller report will also be up for discussion. Late last month, Barr released a four-page summary of Mueller’s findings. In that summary, Barr stated that Mueller didn’t establish evidence that Trump’s team or any of his associates had anything to do with conspiring with Russia during the 2016 election “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” But when it came to obstruction, Barr stated that Mueller had provided enough evidence for “both sides” of the issue, but he pointed out that it would be hard to prosecute an obstruction if there isn’t an underlying crime. All of the evidence will finally be scrutinized on Thursday. The report will most likely contain unfavorable details about President Trump’s efforts to take control of the investigation. It also may cause the Trump campaign to look eager to exploit Russian aid, plus the emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign. As the public and Congress judge the contents of the report, the release of the report will also prove whether or not Barr is a credible, trustworthy person.
Barr, who joined the Senate as attorney general in 1991 but reclaimed the seat this last February, has received plenty of criticism from Democrats who have accused him of covering for President Trump. As soon as Barr announced that there would be a press conference on Thursday, Nadler immediately stated that Barr “appears to be waging a media campaign” on Trump’s behalf. Barr and several other Democrat committee chairs joined together in a joint statement to call for Barr to cancel the press conference. In the statement, the Democrats wrote: “This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it. [Barr] should let the full report speak for itself. The Attorney General should cancel the press conference and provide the full report to Congress, as we have requested. With the Special Counsel’s fact-gathering work concluded, it is now Congress’ responsibility to assess the findings and evidence and proceed accordingly.”
It is well-known that Mueller has spent the past two years investigating the influence that President Trump had over the Russia Probe. Not only did Mueller investigate the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, but he also looked into the apparent request from the president for Comey to end the investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser, the role he played in drafting an incomplete explanation about a meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, as well as, his continuous attacks on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Still, President Trump has shown no signs of backing down. On Wednesday, Trump wrote: “Wow! FBI made 11 payments to Fake Dossier’s discredited author, Trump hater Christopher Steele. The Witch Hunt has been a total fraud on your President and the American people! It was brought to you by Dirty Cops, Crooked Hillary and the DNC.”
Several Republicans, including ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, have continuously pushed for answers into the origins of the Mueller probe, which began shortly after Comey was fired in May of 2017. Trump has made several justifications for firing Comey, including what was described by the president as “mismanagement of the Hillary Clinton email probe”, as well as, Comey’s refusal to announce to the public that the president was not under investigation. While in testimony in December, Comey acknowledged that when the investigation into possible collusion began investigators “didn’t know whether we had anything.” Legal opinions from the Justice Department say that a sitting president can’t be indicted, but Barr claims to not have thought about that when he decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to establish obstruction. Mueller did bring charges against 34 people, including six of President Trump’s aides and advisers. He also revealed that the Russians attempted to influence the presidential election in 2016. Of those that were charged by Mueller, twenty-five of them were Russians who were accused of either hacking into Democratic email accounts or using social media to spread disinformation online.