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Here’s What’s Next Now That Mueller Has Turned In His Report

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 3/23/2019 Chris Strohm and Larry Liebert

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing For Attorney General Nominee William Barr © Bloomberg Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing For Attorney General Nominee William Barr (Bloomberg) -- Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has closed up shop and submitted his long-awaited final report, an explosive chain of events is sure to follow.

There will be a struggle in Congress, on cable TV and social media -- and probably in the courts -- over how much evidence must be disclosed from Mueller’s 22-month inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mueller Delivers Trump Report, Barr May Give Details Within Days © Bloomberg Mueller Delivers Trump Report, Barr May Give Details Within Days There’s also likely to be an epic political fight over whether anything from the inquiry directly or indirectly implicates President Donald Trump in wrongdoing that may merit his impeachment, as some Democrats say, or whether it clears him after an investigation that he and Republican supporters regularly call a “witch hunt.”

Here’s a look at how the Mueller report is likely to play out:

Why It Starts Out Secret

Justice Department regulations call for a special counsel to provide a final report to the attorney general, who decides what to tell Congress and make public.

The only exception under the regulations is that Congress must be told if the special counsel was prohibited from taking any specific action. “There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation,” Barr wrote in a letter to lawmakers Friday.

Barr may send his own summary of the findings to Congress, rather than Mueller’s actual report. He said in the letter that he was reviewing the report and may be able to advise lawmakers of Mueller’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

He said he also was consulting with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel, “to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public.”

Why Barr May Keep Trump Out of It

While Barr pledged “as much transparency as possible,” he has previously suggested that promise has its limits. At his confirmation hearing in January, Barr cited Justice Department policies that a president can’t be indicted while in office -- and that prosecutors shouldn’t comment on someone who isn’t indicted.

But a precedent may have been set by former FBI Director James Comey, when he made public comments about Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though his investigation didn’t result in any charges against her. His comments brought criticism at various points from Democrats and Republicans.

“If you’re not going to indict someone, then you don’t stand up there and unload negative information about the person,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It also isn’t clear how many details Mueller put in his report, especially about Trump.

What Democrats Will Demand

Democrats will demand to see Mueller’s full report and not just a summary from Barr, if that’s what he sends Congress.

Beyond Mueller’s report, Democrats have vowed to seek access to the bulk of the special counsel’s work -- including documents, interview notes and other evidence.

Senate Votes On Supreme Court Nominee Brett © Bloomberg Senate Votes On Supreme Court Nominee Brett

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said Barr should provide Mueller’s report “unedited” and that Congress also “has a clear interest” in obtaining “supporting materials and all the facts and evidence surrounding the numerous investigations into President Trump, his associates and his campaign.”

The Subpoena Power

“We will try to get anything we can get -- including by subpoenaing the report. Subpoenaing Mueller is also an option, as well as anyone else on his team,” said Democrat Jamie Raskin, a House Judiciary panel member. “It just seems exceedingly unlikely that they would be able to hide this report in a file cabinet someplace."

“There is no excuse for concealing any part of this report along with its findings and evidence -- it would be tantamount to a coverup,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement Friday.

The demands for full disclosure could result in a legal struggle going to the Supreme Court.

Some Republicans -- who spent two years demanding and getting internal FBI and Justice Department documents that they say showed bias against Trump and for Clinton -- agree that everything should be disclosed.

Read more: Democrats Demand Mueller Full Disclosure, Citing GOP’s Precedent

Devin Nunes wearing a suit and tie: House GOP Leadership Holds News Conference After Weekly Meeting © Bloomberg House GOP Leadership Holds News Conference After Weekly Meeting

“I mean everything,” Representative Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has said. “Witness interviews, wiretaps. Everything.”

The White House’s Options

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he wants Mueller’s report made public. “Let it come out,” he said. “Let people see it. It’s up to the attorney general.”

But White House officials have indicated they may try to suppress information about Trump if Democrats seek to force Mueller’s report or the evidence behind it to be made public in full -- or they may welcome public release if they believe the president can use it to back up his frequent “NO COLLUSION” tweets.

Trump’s lawyers want Barr to give them advance word of any information he’s thinking of releasing that they may assert falls under executive privilege.

Executive privilege is the doctrine that presidents and others in the executive branch must be able to have discussions that remain confidential. An assertion of the privilege to withhold materials from the probe is sure to be challenged by Democrats in the courts.

What Each Party Expects

Democrats say Mueller already has established a pattern of collusion between Russia and those around Trump. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia orchestrated a campaign of leaks and social-media deception intended to hurt Clinton and ultimately help Trump win the presidency.

Mueller has won guilty pleas from people involved in Trump’s presidential campaign, including his campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- who’s been sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison -- and his first national security adviser Michael Flynn. He’s also charged more than two dozen Russians.

But Republicans will challenge whether there’s evidence Trump was personally compromised by Russia or sought to obstruct the investigation.

Why It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Democrats, who won control of the House in November’s midterm elections, are gearing up for investigations and hearings that they say will go beyond whatever Mueller finds, to questions about contact with Russia, foreign funding for the Trump Organization and the president’s inaugural committee.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has described “an administration run amok,” and he’s asked for documents from 81 individuals, agencies and entities, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, and the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker.

Trump tweeted in response that “the Dem heads of the Committees have gone stone cold CRAZY.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said his panel will make sure “that the policy of the United States is being driven by the national interest, and not by any financial entanglement, financial leverage, or other form of compromise” by “the Russians or the Saudis or anyone else.”

Nor is the work of prosecutors finished.

Longtime Trump adviser and political provocateur Roger Stone has been indicted for lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks, which released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Stone has denied the charges, but Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, testified to a House committee that he heard Stone give Trump advance word that WikiLeaks was about to release the material.

Cohen, who’s due to go to prison in May after pleading guilty to felonies, also alleged an array of questionable or illegal actions by Trump -- from authorizing hush-money payments to a porn star who says he had an affair with her to routinely manipulating financial statements that the Trump Organization submitted to banks and insurance companies.

Trump has tweeted that Cohen is “lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

Read more: Trump Business Aides Under Microscope After Cohen Testimony

Federal prosecutors in New York are still looking into Trump’s company, presidential campaign and inaugural committee. Mueller has been sharing some matters and handing off others to U.S. attorney’s offices in New York, Virginia and Washington as well as the Justice Department’s national security division.

State and local prosecutors in New York also are pursuing potential cases.

--With assistance from Shannon Pettypiece.

To contact the reporters on this story: Larry Liebert in Washington at lliebert@bloomberg.net;Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Larry Liebert, Laurie Asséo

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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