Tue, 23 Jul 2019

U.S. lawmakers have expressed hopes for a quick release of the details contained in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited confidential report into Russias role in the 2016 presidential election -- an investigation that has consumed the nation the past 22 months.

Mueller submitted the report on March 22 to Attorney General William Barr, who said he could inform Congress of its principal conclusions 'as soon as this weekend.'

How much of the report is released publicly is now up to Barr, the Justice Department, Congress, and the White House.

Mueller was required by law to submit the report at the conclusion of his investigation, and Barr has said wants to make much of it public.

But the law gives Barr wide discretion on how much of the report to release, and there have been fears in Congress that President Donald Trumps White House may seek to hide its most damning contents.

Democrats in particular demanded that all of it be made public without any editing by the White House.

'We want the full report, we want it now. We want it before the president is able to make any edits,' Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat, said on CNN.

The top Democrats in Congress -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer -- said it was 'imperative' that the full report be made public and that the White House play no role in determining what is released.

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

Democrat Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said: 'Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less. The need for public faith in the rule of law must be the priority.'

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, urged 'Attorney General Barr -- release the Mueller report to the American public. Now.'

Six Democratic congressional committee chairmen wrote to Barr that if the report indicates there is reason to believe Trump 'has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct,' the Justice Department should not attempt to hide it.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said administration officials had not received the report or been briefed on it. However, one of Trumps personal lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, said the presidents lawyers want to see the report before the findings are made public.

The beginning of the end of Muellers 22-month investigation that had mesmerized lawmakers, activists, journalists, average Americans, and most of all, Trump, came in the late afternoon on March 22.

After 4 p.m., a security officer from the special counsels went to the Justice Department headquarters carrying a letter to inform the attorney general that Mueller had completed his probe.

An hour later, the news was delivered to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, and shortly thereafter was made public, leading cable news channels to announce Breaking News.

Trump, spending the weekend at his resort in Florida, spoke at a Republican Party event at the estate but did not mention the report, a senior administration official told AP.

Hours earlier, Trump had attacked the investigation, which he has often called a witch hunt and a hoax.

'For two years, we've gone through this nonsense, because there's no collusion with Russia,' he said.

'People will not stand for it.'

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he welcomed the announcement that Mueller had completed his investigation.

'Many Republicans have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests,' McConnell said in a statement. 'I hope the Special Counsel's report will help inform and improve our efforts to protect our democracy.'

Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican and a vocal Trump supporter, said he believed the report would back the presidents claim that he did not collude with Russians during the presidential campaign.

'The reports that there will be no new indictments confirm what we've known all along: There was never any collusion with Russia. The only collusion was between Democrats and many in the media who peddled this lie because they continue to refuse to accept the results of the 2016 election,' Scalise said.

Since 2017, Mueller has been examining both Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign and interactions between associates of Trump and Russian officials.

Mueller has also been examining whether Trump unlawfully tried to obstruct justice by trying to hinder his investigation.

Over the course of his probe, Mueller has indicted more than three dozen people and entities on various charges.

To date, however, none of the charges directly address the question of whether there was coordination between Trump officials and Russian officials.

Mueller has also targeted a dozen Russian military intelligence, as part of a plot to hack into computers of the Democratic political officials, as well as a company known informally as Russias troll factory, for spreading misinformation on social media networks.

Russia has also denied the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community that it engaged in a cyber-and-propaganda effort during the 2016 campaign, aimed at undermining the U.S. electoral process, discrediting Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, and bolstering Trumps bid for the presidency.

It is too early to tell whether there will be more indictments coming. Shortly after the report was sent to the Justice Department, U.S. media quoted a Justice official as saying it did not contain any new indictments, though there was no official confirmation of that.

It is possible Mueller has already laid the legal groundwork for other prosecutions in other locations, which would continue on even though Mueller has ended his own work. Muellers earlier efforts, for example, led to the U.S. attorney for Manhattan charging Trumps longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, with various financial crimes. Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty in exchange for his help with other investigations.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and The New York Times RFE/RL

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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