Robert Mueller’s report is NOT expected next week – Justice DepartmentFebruary 23, 2019
BREAKING NEWS: Robert Mueller’s report is NOT expected next week says Department of Justice, ending days of fevered speculation over Trump-Russia probe
- Special Counsel report is NOT expected next week, senior U.S. could be finished as soon as next week
- Report will go to newly minted attorney general William Barr when it is published
- Barr can choose how much information to give Congress and whether to make anything – or all of it – public
- The decision could have historic implications for the Trump presidency
- Final Paul Manafort sentencing memorandum from Mueller’s office is also due Friday by midnight
- Special counsel could load it up with details, fearing the final investigation report will be buried at the Justice Department
A senior U.S. Justice Department official on Friday shot down expectations that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office will deliver a highly anticipated report next week on its investigation into possible Russian interference in U.S. elections.
‘Any reports that the Special Counsel’s report will be delivered to the DOJ during the week of February 28 are incorrect,’ the official said.
CNN reported on Wednesday that the Justice Department may announce as early as next week that Mueller had given Attorney General William Barr his report. Barr would review the findings and submit his own summary to Congress, CNN reported.
‘It’s not surprising that they would not issue a report while the president is in Vietnam engaged in high-stakes international diplomacy,’ said a person close to the administration, referring to President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has ben engaged for more than 21 months in a wide-ranging probe of allegations that the 2016 Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russians to tilt the election
No end in sight: Trump is also waiting for the end of the Mueller probe but will fly to Vietnam for a summit with Kim Jong Un without the threat of it being sent to the attorney general when he is out of the country
The denial of an imminent end to Mueller’s probe came on a day when Mueller was due Friday to deliver a final sentencing memorandum in the case of Paul Manafort, the disgraced former Trump campaign chairman who faces decades in prison for bank and tax fraud, among other convictions.
Mueller could choose to turn the last public filing of his tenure into a treasure trove of details that would otherwise remain secret.
Meanwhile, regardless of the end to the threat of receiving Mueller’s report next week, Barr is on the cusp of staring down what will almost certainly be the most consequential decision of his long career.
The position catapults him, on the job just one week, from Justice Department outsider free to theorize and speculate on the special counsel’s investigation to the man at the center of the legal and political firestorm that will accompany its looming conclusion.
William Barr has been attorney general for just one week but is on the cusp of staring down what will almost certainly be the most consequential decision of his long career: how much of the special counsel’s findings to make public
The final Paul Manafort sentencing memorandum from Mueller’s office is due Friday, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller could load it up with details that he fears the Justice Department will bury otherwise
With Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein preparing to exit after supervising the day-to-day investigation for nearly two years, and with Trump loyalist Matthew Whitaker now replaced in the top job, Barr is in the hot seat: He is responsible for navigating the department through congressional and public demands for details of Mueller’s findings while dealing with a White House that may challenge, or even stifle, the conclusions.
Friends say Barr is accustomed to pressure-cooker situations by virtue of his experience as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush and other senior Justice Department jobs.
He oversaw the department’s response when Los Angeles erupted in riots after the Rodney King verdict and when Cuban inmates took hostages at a federal prison in Alabama. He blessed Bush administration pardons in the Iran-Contra scandal and offered legal advice on the White House’s ability to invade Panama.
In this case, though, no less than the fate of Donald Trump’s presidency may hang in the balance of whatever Barr decides.
‘I’m sure it’s going to be a tough set of decisions and circumstances, but Bill doesn’t shy away from tough situations,’ said former Justice Department colleague Timothy Flanigan. ‘He’s not likely to sit there fretting over what does this mean for his legacy or his long-term political viability.’
Although Barr carefully weighs difficult decisions and consults others before making them, once he’s made them, ‘he doesn’t kind of circle and fret,’ Flanigan said.
Key decisions are expected soon as Mueller shows signs of concluding his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
Mueller is required to produce a confidential report to Barr that explains his decisions to pursue or decline prosecutions. That could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages. Barr will then have to decide how much of Mueller’s findings should be disclosed to the public.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Barr was noncommittal about what he would do, though he said repeatedly that he supported making as much public as possible, ‘consistent with the law.’ He said in his congressional testimony that he will write his own report summarizing Mueller’s findings for Congress and the public.
‘I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political or other improper interests influence my decisions,’ he said.
Barr has noted that department protocol says internal memos explaining charging decisions should not be released. The attorney general is required only to say the investigation has concluded and describe or explain any times when he or Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed ‘was so inappropriate or unwarranted’ that it should not be pursued.
Democrats could use Mueller’s findings as the basis of impeachment proceedings and have threatened to subpoena them if they are withheld from Congress.
It’s not clear what the White House or Trump’s lawyers may do to learn details of Mueller’s findings. But they may try to block the public release of any report that they believe could expose private conversations between the president and his staff.
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Hovering in the background is the 2016 decision by then-FBI Director James Comey to break Justice Department norms in the Hillary Clinton email investigation by publicly criticizing the Democratic presidential candidate even while saying she wouldn’t be charged. Barr has said repeatedly that he disagrees with Comey’s decision and considers it a mistake.
It’s unclear what Mueller will place in his report and how far it will go in answering the central question of the investigation – whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – or how much he will reveal about whether the president sought to obstruct justice through firing Comey and other actions.
The exact timing of Mueller’s endgame is still unclear. But Attorney General William Barr, who oversees the investigation, has said he wants to release as much information as he can about the probe into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election
Barr made clear at his confirmation hearing that he agreed Russia had meddled in the 2016 election and that Mueller’s investigation, contrary to Trump’s claims, is not a ‘witch hunt.’
But his view on the obstruction question is more nuanced. As a private citizen, he sent the Justice Department a memo last June arguing that Trump couldn’t be investigated for firing Comey because a president has discretion to hire and fire subordinates. He has since sought to make clear that he believes that a president can be guilty of obstructing justice in other ways, such as by destroying evidence or instructing witnesses to lie.
It’s not clear if Mueller will make recommendations about the president, though Barr has said he sees no reason to revisit Justice Department legal opinions that say a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Barr, who friends say was reluctant to return as attorney general, has made clear that at age 68, he feels empowered to do the right thing and not care about the consequences. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
‘I’m kind of glad it’s him,’ Flanigan said, ‘and not me.’
ROBERT MUELLER’S PROBE SO FAR: EIGHT CONVICTIONS – INCLUDING THREE TOP TRUMP AIDES, A JAILED ATTORNEY AND 25 RUSSIANS ACCUSED
GUILTY: MICHAEL FLYNN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in December 2017. Awaiting sentence
Flynn was President Trump’s former National Security Advisor and Robert Mueller’s most senior scalp to date. He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: MICHAEL COHEN
Pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to further count of lying to Congress in November 2018. Sentenced to three years in prison and $2 million in fines and forfeitures in December 2018
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007. He is the longest-serving member of Trump’s inner circle to be implicated by Mueller. Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump – and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations – and admitted that he acted at the ‘direction’ of ‘Candidate-1’: Donald Trump.
He also admitted tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.
And he admitted lying to Congress in a rare use of the offense. The judge in his case let him report for prison on March 6 and recommended he serve it in a medium-security facility close to New York City.
GUILTY: PAUL MANAFORT
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to two further charges. Awaiting sentence
Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and chaired it from June to August 2016, overseeing Trump being adopted as Republican candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He is the most senior campaign official to be implicated by Mueller. Manafort was one of Washington D.C.’s longest-term and most influential lobbyists but in 2015, his money dried up and the next year he turned to Trump for help, offering to be his campaign chairman for free – in the hope of making more money afterwards. But Mueller unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges. A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent is due in September.
GUILTY: RICK GATES
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Gates was Manafort’s former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
GUILTY AND JAILED: GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Sentenced to 14 days in September 2018, and reported to prison in November. Served 12 days and released on December 7, 2018
Papadopoulos was a member of Donald Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: RICHARD PINEDO
Pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018. Sentenced to a year in prison
Pinedo is a 28-year-old computer specialist from Santa Paula, California. He admitted to selling bank account numbers to Russian nationals over the internet that he had obtained using stolen identities.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in February 2018. He served a 30-day prison sentence earlier this year and was deported to the Netherlands on his release
Van der Zwaan is a Dutch attorney for Skadden Arps who worked on a Ukrainian political analysis report for Paul Manafort in 2012.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about when he last spoke with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik.
GUILTY: W. SAMUEL PATTEN
Pleaded guilty in August 2018 to failing to register as a lobbyist while doing work for a Ukrainian political party. Awaiting sentence
Patten, a long-time D.C. lobbyist was a business partner of Paul Manafort. He pleaded guilty to admitting to arranging an illegal $50,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration.
He arranged for an American ‘straw donor’ to pay $50,000 to the inaugural committee, knowing that it was actually for a Ukrainian businessman.
Neither the American or the Ukrainian have been named.
CHARGED: KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK
Indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. At large, probably in Russia
Kilimnik is a former employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm and helped him with lobbying work in Ukraine. He is accused of witness tampering, after he allegedly contacted individuals who had worked with Manafort to remind them that Manafort only performed lobbying work for them outside of the U.S.
He has been linked to Russian intelligence and is currently thought to be in Russia – effectively beyond the reach of extradition by Mueller’s team.
INDICTED: THE RUSSIANS
Twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States. They remain at large in Russia
Two of these Russian nationals were also indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 11 were indicted for conspiracy to launder money. Fifteen of them were also indicted for identity fraud.
Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the charges. Russia effectively bars extradition of its nationals. The only prospect Mueller has of bringing any in front of a U.S. jury is if Interpol has their names on an international stop list – which is not made public – and they set foot in a territory which extradites to the U.S.
INDICTED: MICHAEL FLYNN’S BUSINESS PARTNERS
Bijan Kian (left), number two in now disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s lobbying company, and the two’s business partner Ekim Alptekin (right) were indicted for conspiracy to lobby illegally. Kian is awaiting trial, Alptekin is still to appear in court
Kian, an Iranian-American was arrested and appeared in court charged with a conspiracy to illegally lobby the U.S government without registering as a foreign agent. Their co-conspirator was Flynn, who is called ‘Person A’ in the indictment and is not charged, offering some insight into what charges he escaped with his plea deal.
Kian, vice-president of Flynn’s former lobbying firm, is alleged to have plotted with Alptekin to try to change U.S. policy on an exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who is accused by Turkey’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of trying to depose him.
Erdogan’s government wanted him extradited from the U.S. and paid Flynn’s firm through Alptekin for lobbying, including an op-ed in The Hill calling for Gulen to be ejected. Flynn and Kian both lied that the op-ed was not paid for by the Turkish government.
The indictment is a sign of how Mueller is taking an interest in more than just Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
INDICTED: ROGER STONE
Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign official and longtime informal advisor to Trump, was incited on seven counts including obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks.
Stone was a person of interest to Mueller’s investigators long before his January indictment, thanks in part due to his public pronouncements as well as internal emails about his contacts with WikiLeks.
In campaign texts and emails, many of which had already been publicly revealed before showing up in Mueller’s indictment, Stone communicated with associates about WikiLeaks following reports the organization had obtained a cache of Clinton-related emails.
Stone, a former Nixon campaign adviser who has the disgraced former president’s face permanently tattooed on his back, has long been portrayed as a central figure in the election interference scandal, but as recently as January 4 told Dailymail.com that he doesn’t expect to be indicted.
‘They got nothing,’ he said of the special counsel’s investigation.
According to the federal indictment, Stone gave ‘false and misleading’ testimony about his requests for information from WikiLeaks. He then pressured a witness, comedian Randy Credico, to take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify, and pressured him in a series of emails. Following a prolonged dispute over testimony, he called him a ‘rat’ and threatened to ‘take that dog away from you’, in reference to Credico’s pet, Bianca. Stone warned him: ‘Let’s get it on. Prepare to die.’
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