I am prepared for any eventuality in terms of the report’s findings. I am not yet fully prepared for the reality that we’ll probably never get to read the actual report, even though Bill Barr already alerted us to that possibility during his confirmation hearing. We’ve been watching this cloak-and-dagger TV drama for two farking years. We deserve closure.
What we’re going to get, it sounds like, is a summary of Mueller’s findings, probably not the actual text. So, a “Scooby Doo mysteries” degree of closure.
By the way, isn’t the president out of the country next week on important business? If Mueller finds that he obstructed justice, maybe Trump will seize the opportunity to defect to North Korea.
Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary of Mueller’s confidential report, according to people familiar with the plans…
The regulations require Mueller to explain in his report all decisions to prosecute or not prosecute matters under scrutiny. Barr would also need to inform Congress if the Justice Department prevented the special counsel team from pursuing any investigative steps…
Mueller and his prosecutors are still reporting to work as frequently as ever — with some even coming in on recent snow days and Presidents’ Day. But also visiting them more often than ever before are the prosecutors from the DC US Attorney’s Office and others in the Justice Department who’ve worked on the Mueller cases.
Mueller may be done with TrumpWorld but that doesn’t mean the rest of the DOJ is. CNN notes that observers have spotted carts full of files leaving Mueller’s office, presumably headed to U.S. Attorney offices in New York and D.C. or elsewhere. Mueller is limited to investigating matters related to Russia; any unrelated crimes he uncovers get handed off to other federal prosecutors, which is how Michael Cohen ended up pleading guilty to campaign-finance offenses in Stormygate in New York.
Which is a long way of saying that we might not get closure next week even if we get the full report. A clean bill of health on Russiagate would be wonderful news for Trump, but whether the Southern District of New York is working on anything related to, say, the Trump Organization’s practices based on evidence obtained by the special counsel will remain a mystery for now.
I doubt they’ll release the report, or the summary of the report, before next Wednesday’s summit with North Korea. Barr won’t want one of his first acts on the job to be distracting the president while he’s consumed with nuclear diplomacy. I’d bet the earliest we hear anything is the Monday following. One thing to consider in the meantime is whether Trump has been given any indication of what the report might say. He was pretty worked up about Mueller this past weekend, even by his usual standards.
Another question is what House Democrats can do to try to make the report public despite Barr’s and the DOJ’s best efforts to keep it confidential. Law prof Kim Wehle, a former federal prosecutor, considered that last month for the Bulwark:
The House of Representatives could subpoena the first report—the one by Mueller to Barr that describes the special counsel’s charging decisions. President Trump would likely ask a court to halt that subpoena, arguing that executive privilege protects it from disclosure. That argument is tricky; executive privilege is not a blanket defense for any president. It must bend to other public interests, including criminal investigations. Both Nixon and Clinton lost that battle in court.
The bigger problem with a congressional subpoena of a confidential memo explaining Mueller’s charging decisions is a structural one. As a constitutional matter, it would set a potentially dangerous precedent by giving Congress too great a role in overseeing prosecutors’ decisions to start, pursue, and end particular criminal investigations. Congress is a political animal; enabling politically motivated criminal prosecutions is a stepping stone to tyranny.
I don’t follow that last part. “Overseeing” implies some sort of authority by Congress over the DOJ’s decision to prosecute or not prosecute someone. Obtaining Mueller’s report to Barr would merely inform Congress of Mueller’s reasoning, not give them power to order a “politically motivated criminal prosecution.” Since the House is the only body that can “indict” the president by impeaching him, arguably it’d be the DOJ that’s usurping the legislature’s role in prosecutions in this case by not sharing the report’s information on Trump.
In fact, according to Wehle, it’s conceivable that Barr won’t provide Congress with any information about Mueller’s report. Technically, under regulations, Barr is only supposed to inform Congress about recommendations in Mueller’s report with which he disagrees. If he agrees with everything, there’s no need for notice to Congress. That would be ludicrous under the circumstances, though, when the country’s waiting to hear if there’s probable cause to believe the president conspired with Russia during the campaign or obstructed justice afterward. Which is why I think Barr will volunteer a summary of Mueller’s findings even if it doesn’t call for any prosecutions. This is, inescapably, a highly political case with implications for the country’s governance. Of course Congress needs to be informed.