Some version of the long awaited Mueller report will likely be released on Sunday, according to Justice Department sources who spoke with the Associated Press and Reuters — while other reports said as soon as Sunday. Either way, it sounds as though the Justice Department review of the report is well underway — though what Congress and the public will get to see remains an open question, and Attorney General William Barr is the person who, for now, gets to decide on the answer.
On Friday, Barr said that he “was committed to as much transparency as possible” regarding the release of the report, and reportedly spent Saturday working with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other staff to determine what they will include in a letter summarizing Mueller’s primary conclusions to Congress (and the public). No matter what they send, Democrats are getting read to fight for more.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Saturday that a summary of the report would not be sufficient, and that she would not agree to a classified briefings either, wanting all discussion of the report to be held in public. House Democrats are loudly announcing their expectation that the report be released in full, and have said they will subpoena the report and Mueller himself if they have to, as well as take the Trump administration to court. They also told the Justice Department to preserve all documents related to Mueller’s report and investigation, and reportedly spent part of Saturday strategizing as to how they will handle the ongoing situation.
Either way, Barr will likely send over his summary once it’s ready whether it contains the information Democrats expect or not. The key point of contention — beyond Democrats’ distrust of the Trump administration — is whether or not the version Barr releases divulges disparaging details about people who have not been indicted. In this case, should the report contain negative information about President Trump (who cannot be indicted as a sitting president) or his son, Donald Jr., that information would be withheld from Congress and the public according to longstanding Justice Department protocol.
Norms aren’t what they used to be, however. Former FBI director James Comey smashed that protocol when he publicly chastised Hillary Clinton in 2016 amid the infamous — and arguably election-result altering — investigation into her use of a private email server. Comey also ultimately made a large amount of information available to Congress and the public from the investigation — which produced no indictments.
The precedent was then broken again when Trump declassified, and Rosenstein made public, the FBI’s surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in what was a plainly obvious attempt by Trump to discredit the Russia investigation.
Barr has said he will not follow those newer precedents, but with control of the House, Democrats have the subpoena power to go around him — though it would take more time.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s allies (and sons) have been doing victory laps since the news that the Mueller report would recommend no additional indictments — beyond the 34 it had already made — assuming that means Trump and his family members will be exonerated. The president has stayed eerily mum since the Mueller report news broke, however.
On Friday night, Trump attended a GOP fundraising dinner at Mar-a-Lago where Senator Lindsey Graham elicited Hillary Clinton-targeting chants of “lock her up” from the crowd when he said that “both sides” needed to be investigated. The Washington Post reports that Trump seemed upbeat at the party, and that Mick Mulvaney and Sarah Sanders had accompanied Trump to Florida to help calm and contain the president on the suddenly Mueller-focused weekend:
Trump agreed with his aides to be restrained in his public comments about the Mueller report until he gets a full briefing on its findings, which could occur as early as Sunday. Reminded that the president’s inclination has been to break the shackles his aides place on him by tweeting his feelings, one senior administration official replied, “The stakes are higher.”
He then maintained his silence on Saturday and golfed with Kid Rock.
The only other news to emerge on Saturday was Mueller spokesman Peter Carr’s announcement that the case involving Trump campaign and transition team official Rick Gates — who cooperated with the Mueller probe and continues to cooperate with other federal investigations — was passed off to the U.S. attorney in D.C.