US waits on findings of Mueller report in to Trump Russia ties

Justice department says no more indictments to come from special counsel

Kadhim Shubber, Demetri Sevastopulo and Courtney Weaver in Washington

US attorney general William Barr leaving his home on Saturday. He is expected to brief members of Congress on the Mueller report this weekend. © Getty

The US Congress was waiting to receive the conclusions of Robert Mueller’s investigation into links between Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia, following the end of a 22-month probe the US president has repeatedly slammed as a “witch hunt”.

The White House had still not been briefed on the contents of the special counsel report on Saturday, said Hogan Gidley, deputy spokesperson for the president. William Barr, the US attorney-general, was reviewing the report and would not be releasing its conclusions until at least Sunday, justice department officials said.

Since Mr Barr received the confidential report on Friday evening from Mr Mueller, a former FBI director who was tapped as special counsel for the Russia probe, Washington has been rife with speculation about its findings. Democrats on Saturday debated how to respond to the report once its conclusions were known, and repeated their demands for full transparency.

In a letter to key members of Congress, Mr Barr said he might be able to provide lawmakers with the conclusions of the report “as soon as this weekend”. He added that he was “committed to as much transparency as possible” and would keep Congress “informed as to the status of my review”.

A justice department official said Mr Mueller had not recommended any further indictments, and it was unclear on Saturday what conclusions Mr Mueller had reached about Mr Trump. Justice department guidelines prevent federal prosecutors from indicting a sitting president.

Mr Mueller — who was appointed after Mr Trump fired James Comey as FBI director — ended his investigation without bringing any public charges alleging a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. As part of his inquiry, Mr Mueller also investigated whether Mr Trump attempted to obstruct justice by trying to pressure Mr Comey to drop parts of the initial probe and then by firing Mr Comey.

Mr Trump has faced continuing suspicion because of his odd relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The US president has repeatedly refused to criticise the Russian leader even though American intelligence has concluded that Mr Putin ordered interference into the 2016 US election.

Congressional Democrats and many of the Democratic presidential contenders for the 2020 election called immediately for Mr Barr, who was recently appointed by Mr Trump to replace Jeff Sessions, to release the report to the public and to provide lawmakers with any underlying documents.

“Attorney-General Barr must not give President Trump . . . any sneak preview,” said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat. “The White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public.”

Mr Trump, who has spent two years attacking the Russia probe, remained uncharacteristically silent, spending Saturday playing golf with musician Kid Rock in Florida.

Mr Mueller had attempted to interview Mr Trump in person but the move was blocked by the president’s lawyers who would only allow him to submit written answers to questions.

Sarah Sanders, the president’s press secretary, said the White House looked “forward to the process taking its course” and that it had “not received or been briefed on the . . . report”.

Peter Carr, spokesperson for the special counsel, said Mr Mueller would “be concluding his service in the coming days”.

The conclusion of the Mueller investigation marked the start of a new phase of the Trump presidency — one that could be dominated by the battle over how much of the report and evidence is made public.

Democratic congressional aides said the House judiciary committee would subpoena the full report and its underlying documents if Mr Barr did not release them publicly. Democrats have also left open the possibility that they could subpoena Mr Mueller to testify before Congress.

Earlier this month, the House voted almost unanimously to support the full release of the report. On Wednesday Mr Trump told reporters he was happy for the report to be published. “Let it come out. Let people see it,” he said.

The delivery of the report moves the spotlight to congressional investigators and prosecutors in New York who are investigating Mr Trump’s financial affairs. During the course of his probe, Mr Mueller spun out a swath of matters that continue to be examined by other parts of the justice department. Those inquiries pose a risk to Mr Trump, particularly from the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York.

Should Democrats receive the conclusions of the report, they also will probably debate whether there are grounds to attempt to impeach the president.

Ms Pelosi has repeatedly indicated that she has no intention of leading impeachment proceedings against Mr Trump. In recent weeks, she has argued that impeachment would be divisive for the country, unless there was compelling evidence that would spark bipartisan support. Other Democrats have warned that any attempt at impeachment would energise Trump voters ahead of the 2020 election.

Jerry Nadler, the Democratic head of the House judiciary committee who holds the power to launch impeachment proceedings, has also played down that likelihood. This month he said members of Congress would need very convincing evidence to prove they were not merely attempting to overturn the 2016 election.

While the implications for Mr Trump remain unknown, Mr Mueller, a respected former head of the FBI and a Vietnam war veteran, has racked up several indictments and guilty pleas that detail Russian activities during the 2016 election campaign.

Mr Mueller has secured guilty pleas from five associates of Mr Trump for crimes that include lying about their contacts with Russians, including Paul Manafort, who served as his campaign manager, and Michael Flynn, a retired general who was fired after several weeks as national security adviser.

Mr Mueller also indicted a sixth associate of the president, Roger Stone, who has pleaded not guilty and has yet to be tried. The special counsel also charged 28 Russian nationals and entities with interfering in the election through social media propaganda campaigns and the hacking of Democratic emails.The nearly two-year long investigation, which began in May 2017, was remarkable for both its speed and the absence of leaks to the media. At a recent event, Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law, said: “Nobody has done it better than Mueller and his team.”

In his letter, Mr Barr said Mr Mueller had not been prevented from taking any steps he had wished to take. The disclosure, which is required by the special counsel regulations, indicated that Mr Mueller carried out his investigation without interference from the officials who oversaw the probe.

The report was delivered to Mr Rosenstein on Friday by a security officer from the special counsel’s office and was relayed to the attorney-general within minutes, according to the justice department official. The White House was notified that the report had been received around 4.40pm on Friday.

The moment came during a congressional recess, meaning most lawmakers were out of Washington and in their home districts.

Kamala Harris, the California senator who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Mr Barr must ensure there was “total transparency”.

“A declassified report must be made public immediately, and all underlying investigative materials should be handed over to Congress,” said Ms Harris, who called on Mr Barr to testify under oath before Congress.

Other Democratic presidential contenders — ranging from Cory Booker to Elizabeth Warren to Amy Klobuchar — also called for the report to be released.

Many Republicans also want the report to be made public, including Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House judiciary committee.

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