WASHINGTON—Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded the investigation that transfixed the United States, filing a widely anticipated report summarizing the findings of his two-year probe into the relationship between President Donald Trump’s election campaign and Russia.
The contents of the report will not be revealed immediately. Mueller submitted the report to newly appointed Attorney General William Barr, who gets to decide how to proceed.
Barr told members of Congress in a Friday letter that he may be able to inform them of Mueller’s “principal conclusions” by the weekend. In addition, he said he was “committed to as much transparency as possible” and that he would consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller himself “to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public” according to the law and government policy.
“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,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
The investigation has produced criminal convictions of the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, national security adviser Michael Flynn, and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.
It has not, however, proven that Trump or his campaign was directly involved in criminal Russian efforts to interfere in the election. The report could conceivably exonerate Trump of collusion allegations, lifting a three-year cloud of suspicion.
It could alternately deepen his problems.
Mueller was known to be investigating whether Trump committed obstruction of justice. And since Mueller’s team was famously secretive, it is not known what else he might have been probing that has not already been revealed through court documents.
Any immediate Trump jeopardy stemming from Mueller’s probe is expected to be political, not legal; Mueller is not recommending any additional indictments, U.S. news outlets reported. Democrats could use any finding of serious impropriety as an argument for impeachment proceedings, though party leaders have been reluctant to pursue impeachment.
“A.G. Barr has confirmed the completion of the special counsel investigation. We look forward to getting the full Mueller report and related materials,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less. The need for public faith in the rule of law must be the priority.”
The Mueller investigation has hampered Trump’s presidency from nearly the very beginning of his term. Foreign diplomatic trips and other Trump initiatives were regularly overshadowed by bombshell indictments or by guilty pleas. The White House and Congress learned to be on edge on Fridays, when Mueller developments tended to be announced.
Trump, who has derided the investigation as a “witch hunt” and relentlessly promised there was “no collusion,” said this week that he would like the entire report released, declaring, “Let people see it.” The House of Representatives voted unanimously in favour of a full release, but its recommendation is not binding.
The end of the official investigation does not necessarily mean the end of Trump’s legal issues. Federal prosecutors in New York continue to probe various Trump activities. Mueller is known to have distributed investigative leads to prosecutors outside his office. And January charges against longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone have not yet been resolved.
With regard to Trump himself, the most damning result of the investigation was related to Cohen, whose case Mueller had handed to the New York prosecutors. When Cohen pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign-period hush-money payments to women who say they had affairs with Trump, he and prosecutors alleged that the crimes were directed by Trump himself.
Mueller revealed numerous new details about the Russian effort to use hacking and disinformation to promote a Trump victory in 2016. And his convictions of top Trump associates contributed to a perception among many Americans that Trump was involved in criminality at worst, had poor judgment at best.
But none of the convictions was for anything resembling “collusion”; several were for lying to the FBI, and Manafort’s were for fraud unrelated to the campaign.
After initially staying quiet about the investigation, Trump made attacks on Mueller and his team a central feature of his rhetoric.
Mueller, a former longtime FBI director under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was widely respected by both parties when he was appointed in May 2017. But Trump hammered away at his integrity, accusing him of conflicts of interest and bias, and managed to convince a majority of Republicans that the probe was unfair.
Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8