Mueller ends the Russia investigation: What happens next?
What is the attorney general expected to do? Will Trump see it? What can the Democrats do? Here’s what to expect next.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his Trump-Russia investigation and has delivered his final report to US Attorney General William Barr.
Mueller has been investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and whether President Donald Trump unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.
Trump has denied collusion and obstruction, calling the investigation a “witch-hunt”. Russia has denied interfering in the election.
The report, submitted on Friday, is confidential at this point, and it is still unclear how much, if any, the public may get to see.
Barr has said he plans to write his own account of Mueller’s findings, and that he envisions two reports, and only one for congressional and public consumption.
Here’s what to expect next:
What happens now?
Justice Department regulations required only that Mueller give the attorney general a confidential report that explains the decisions to pursue or decline prosecutions. That could be as simple as a bullet points list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.
What is Attorney General Barr required to do?
The attorney general said he envisions two reports and only one for congressional and public consumption, which he will write.
Barr has said he takes seriously the “shall be confidential” part of the regulations governing Mueller’s report. He has noted that the department protocol says internal memos explaining charging decisions should not be released.
Barr has said he will draft his report for the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. But the regulations provide little guidance for what such a report would say.
The attorney general is required only to say the investigation has concluded and describe or explain any times when he or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed “was so inappropriate or unwarranted” that it should not be pursued.
In a letter Barr sent Friday to the four politicians, he said there were “no such instances”.
He also said he may be in a position to advise them of Mueller’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend”.
Barr said he would determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public after speaking with Mueller and Rosenstein.
Will Trump be able to see the report?
President Trump’s lawyers want an early look at Mueller’s findings before they are made public.
That’s according to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer. He said Trump’s legal team has not received any assurances that they will get the early look they want, though.
It is unclear under what circumstances Trump or his lawyers might be able to view it, especially because the document is meant to be confidential for the Justice Department leadership.
Mueller reports to the Justice Department, not the White House.
Barr said at his confirmation hearing that he would not permit White House interference in the investigation. But he also has voiced an expansive view of executive power in which the president functions as the country’s chief law enforcement officer and has wide latitude in giving directives to the FBI and the Justice Department.
What can the Democrats do?
Democrats could seize on any disclosure to the president to argue that the report really isn’t confidential and should be immediately provided to them as well.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff says his panel will issue subpoenas if Mueller’s report – and its underlying evidence – are not released to Congress for further review.
The California Democrat said on CNN that Congress needs to know “and so does the country”.
He said he’s willing to subpoena Mueller as well as Attorney General Barr, if needed, to push for disclosure.
House Judiciary Committee member, Jerrold Nadler, also said his panel could subpoena Mueller or the report.
“We could subpoena the final report. We could subpoena Mueller and ask him in front of the committee what was in your final report. Those are things we could do,” Nadler told ABC’s This Week in October.
But Trump, as the leader of the executive branch, could direct the Justice Department to defy the subpoena, setting the stage for a court fight that would almost certainly go to the Supreme Court.
House Democrats now see the Mueller investigation as a starting point for their own probes of Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.