Special counsel Robert Mueller ends investigation, no further indictments expected
Robert Mueller is done.
After a 22-month investigation, charges against 37 defendants, seven guilty pleas and one conviction at trial, the Justice Department announced Friday that the special counsel’s office has wrapped up its probe into Russian election interference, possible Trump campaign collusion with Moscow and obstruction of justice.
There will be no further indictments from the special counsel, a senior Justice Department official said.
The Justice Department informed lawmakers in a brief letter that Mueller has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William Barr detailing the decisions his team made to prosecute or not prosecute those who were investigated.
Barr said he may provide Congress with “the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”
A Justice Department official described the report as “comprehensive” and said those principal conclusions are “expected to be made public.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House has not seen Mueller’s findings.
“The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel’s report,” Sanders said in a statement.
The completion of the special counsel’s investigation marks the end of one of the most dramatic chapters in Donald Trump’s presidency, one that led to numerous criminal charges against and guilty pleas by some of his closest associates. The conclusion of the investigation, however, opens a new chapter into the fallout from the report and a potentially fraught political battle over the extent to which its contents are made public.
It’s too soon to say what Mueller’s report will ultimately mean for the President, but surviving the investigation without being subpoenaed for a sit down interview with the special counsel’s team is a significant victory for Trump and his legal team.
It’s also not clear what Mueller uncovered about Trump’s involvement or advance knowledge, if any, of WikiLeaks release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The special counsel’s findings on the question of obstruction of justice are also unknown, but Trump’s allies will likely argue anything short of a criminal indictment proves the President did nothing wrong.
Barr wrote in his letter that Justice Department leaders never told the special counsel throughout the investigation a proposed action should not be pursued.
The fight to make Mueller’s report public could be fierce and possibly spark a court battle between Congress and the executive branch. Key House Democrats have said that the full report that Mueller submitted to Barr should be made public, and they intend to subpoena for the document — and Mueller’s underlying evidence — if it is not handed over to Congress. White House lawyers, meanwhile, expect to have an opportunity to review whatever Barr intends to submit to Congress and the public.
Congressional Democrats and Democratic presidential candidates issued a flurry of statements Friday demanding that Barr make Mueller’s full report public.
“We look forward to getting the full Mueller report and related materials,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-New York. “Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less. The need for public faith in the rule of law must be the priority.”
Mueller did not speak publicly during his nearly two-year investigation into Trump and his team. Instead, his prosecutors largely used indictments and court filings to illustrate their sweeping investigation. To announce charges against Russian operatives on two separate occasions in 2018, Mueller relied on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in 2017 and oversaw much of his work.
What Mueller found
The investigation revealed that Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election were far more extensive than previously known, and multiple Trump associates lied about their contacts with Russian officials and others with ties to Moscow.
The list of officials in Trump’s orbit who have pleaded guilty in Mueller’s probe is lengthy, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone was charged in January with obstruction, false statements and witness tampering. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Mueller has not yet alleged a conspiracy to collude with Russians or detailed what he learned about the other key issue he investigated: whether the President obstructed justice, either by pressuring then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017 to go easy on Flynn or by later firing Comey — which is what prompted Mueller’s appointment in the first place.
Trump had repeatedly attacked Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax,” sending hundreds of tweets that have gone after Mueller and his team of prosecutors, as well as Cohen after he began cooperating with Mueller. Earlier this month, Trump launched into a long broadside against the probe in a two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, summing up the criticisms he’s launched throughout the Mueller probe.
“You put the wrong people in a couple of positions, and they leave people for a long time that shouldn’t be there, and all of a sudden, they’re trying to take you out with bullshit, OK,” Trump said.
But Trump has also signaled he isn’t opposed to Mueller’s report being released publicly. Asked on Wednesday whether the public had a right to see the report, Trump said, “I don’t mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House, if you want, let them see it.”
While Mueller’s investigation is finished, the investigations into Trump, his business and his administration are far from over. The new Democratic-controlled House has announced multiple investigations into all elements of Trump’s life, while Mueller’s team has farmed out some cases to other prosecutors across the Justice Department that will continue, such as the probe into the Trump inaugural committee’s donations and spending.
Gates, a key Mueller witness, continues to cooperate in several ongoing investigations, prosecutors said this month.
On Capitol Hill, Cohen testified publicly last month, accusing Trump of directing him to issue hush-money payments to two women alleging affairs, which Trump has denied, and alleging Trump committed financial fraud. Multiple committees are now pursuing other Trump Organization associates for testimony, as well as Trump’s family members like Donald Trump Jr.
But the biggest question for Congress may ultimately be tied to Mueller’s investigation, and whether his findings spark an effort in the House to begin impeachment proceedings against the President.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier this month that impeaching the President was “just not worth it.” But Mueller’s findings could amplify the liberal voices in the House Democratic caucus already calling for Trump’s impeachment.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
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U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said in a statement, “Attorney General Barr should immediately turn over all records to Congress and make the full Special Counsel’s report public. Mueller investigated issues at the very core of our democracy—including whether a foreign power worked with the president or his campaign to get him elected, and whether Trump and those around him tried to cover it up. The American people deserve to know all the facts now. The future of American democracy depends on it.”
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said in a statement,
“Now that the Special Counsel’s report has been delivered to the Attorney General, the imperative for transparency and full disclosure is immediate and urgent. The public has a right to know all of the findings and evidence that resulted from this investigation. The public interest is paramount in disclosing not only conclusions, but the facts that led to them. There is no excuse for concealing any part of this report along with its findings and evidence – it would be tantamount to a cover-up.”
Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) released the following statement:
“The country needs full and complete transparency on alleged interference in our elections, and I once again call for the report to be made public in its entirety. Just last week, the House of Representatives voted in overwhelming bipartisan fashion to pass a resolution by a vote of 420-0 that expressed this same sentiment – that the report should be made available to Congress and to the public once completed. The report is now completed. The Department of Justice needs to fulfill its duty to the American people and make public the findings of the Mueller Investigation.”