Attorney General William Barr spent Saturday reviewing special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into President Donald Trump and Russian election interference, but had not released any new information to the public by the evening.
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were at the Justice Department on Saturday morning, where they were reviewing Mueller’s report and working on a summary of conclusions to provide to lawmakers.
A Justice Department official said Barr and Rosenstein, along with their key advisers, were working closely together to read and analyze the report and prepare the principal conclusions that would be submitted to Congress.
“They’re working basically hand in hand,” the official said.
The official said very few people know the report’s contents.
Voters’ minds elsewhere
Meanwhile in New Hampshire and other 2020 battleground states Saturday, voters wanted presidential candidates to answer questions on a range of issues other than the Mueller probe — from health care and climate change to marijuana legalization, military preparedness and gun control.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was among the candidates in New Hampshire, said the media asks about the report, but voters know whatever the outcome of this probe there are pressing challenges facing working families.
“I think the most important issue for voters is health care. I hear it again and again and again. People are struggling to keep up with the increases in their costs, and underneath health care is that our economy is not working for the middle class, not providing security or opportunity for them or the poor,” Hickenlooper said during a phone interview.
Hickenlooper said he doesn’t presume some of the details in Mueller’s report should remain secret because of classified information or matters about which Trump can claim executive privilege.
“Remember when Richard Nixon wanted to claim the tapes should not be released because of executive privilege? That was crazy,” Hickenlooper said.
“Let’s not prejudge what all the arguments are until we see all the facts,” he said.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told reporters after a town hall forum in Rye that she was surprised voters didn’t ask her about the Mueller report.
Instead, she faced questions about the environment, immigration and relations with Israel. She made a glancing reference to Mueller when asked about the separation of powers.
“I tried to kind of delicately bring it up because I think it is the major issue,” Klobuchar said.
She said she remains concerned Barr will try not to divulge all the details in the report.
In West Ossipee on Saturday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a combat veteran, fended a question about whether there should be a resumption of the military draft. Gabbard said that she’d oppose a draft and that a central theme of her candidacy has been her opposition to “wasteful wars” waged by the U.S. when that money should be spent on domestic needs.
While campaigning at New England College in Henniker on Friday night, Gabbard said impeachment of Trump might be unhealthy for the country.
“I think on the question of impeachment, setting aside the arguments for or against, the danger of an impeachment is it will surely further divide an already divided country,” Gabbard said. “In order to defeat this President, we need to do it at the ballot box.”
Campaigning in South Carolina, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke said impeachment should only be an “absolute last resort” and that it was up to the voters to pass the ultimate judgment on Trump next year.
Likewise, Democratic rival and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said while campaigning in the same state Saturday that the Mueller report will not necessarily spell doom for the Trump presidency.
“It may well be the only appropriate case is impeachment, but to me the most decisive way to put an end to Trumpism is for it to be defeated massively at the ballot box,” Buttigieg said.
The announcement that Mueller’s work had come to an end came Friday from the attorney general. Barr spent the afternoon and early evening in his fifth-floor office reading the special counsel’s final report — which one Justice Department official described as a “comprehensive” document.
Barr told lawmakers in a letter that he “may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions” as early as this weekend. A Justice Department spokesman said those conclusions would be made public, but declined to otherwise describe what was in the report.
The submission of Mueller’s report ended his closely watched inquiry, a probe that has engulfed the Trump administration since its inception, leading to criminal charges against 34 people, including six former Trump associates and advisers.
A senior Justice Department official said the special counsel has not recommended any further indictments — a revelation that buoyed Trump’s supporters, even as additional Trump-related investigations continue in other parts of the Justice Department.
Democrats and others reacted to the end of Mueller’s probe by calling for the full report to be released. Though Mueller is not recommending additional criminal charges, his findings could prove politically damaging to the president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a joint statement saying that the report and “underlying documentation” must be provided to Congress.
Two advocacy groups quickly filed lawsuits seeking to make Mueller’s full report public.
Trump’s supporters, meanwhile, took news of the report’s filing as an optimistic indication that he was on the cusp of being vindicated after nearly two years under Mueller’s microscope.
“The fact that there are no more indictments is a big deal,” said David Bossie, a top Trump ally. “This president has had his entire two-year presidency under a cloud of this fake, made-up Russian collusion story.”
Trump flew to his Florida resort on Friday, accompanied by senior aides and White House lawyers.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s lawyers, said he has been counseling patience.
“My message is: We’ve all waited this long, let’s just await the reading of what’s disclosed and then we can have proper final reactions. There’s too much assuming going on, on the other side, and we shouldn’t fall into that trap,” said Giuliani. “The best news is that the release means the case is over. But you can’t say more, or know more, until you read it. I’m confident, as I’ve been from the start, that the president did nothing wrong and that will sustain him. For everything he’s done, there’s a clear explanation he can make to the public.”
The conclusions that Barr is expected to release could be brief and high-level — which surely would leave lawmakers and others unsatisfied. Earlier this month, the House voted nearly unanimously to urge the Justice Department to release Mueller’s report in its entirety.
Barr and Rosenstein have noted publicly that Justice Department policies generally discourage prosecutors from making public any unflattering information about those they decide not to charge, or information that is classified or gathered by a grand jury. In his letter to lawmakers Friday, Barr said he would consult with Rosenstein and Mueller, who remains special counsel though his investigation is complete, “to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies.”
Those discussions will likely last significantly beyond the weekend. And no matter what Barr decides, lawmakers might upend his plans by subpoenaing documents and summoning witnesses to testify about the now-concluded Mueller probe.