Trump ups his attacks with Mueller report due Thursday
WASHINGTON —The Justice Department expects to release on Thursday a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on President Trump, his associates, and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, setting the stage for further battles in Congress over the politically explosive inquiry.
Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the department, said Monday that officials intend to issue the report to Congress and the public on Thursday morning.
The report, which runs nearly 400 pages without exhibits, has been the subject of heated debate since Attorney General William Barr notified lawmakers last month that Mueller had completed his 22-month investigation.
As Washington counts down the final hours until publication of the redacted report, the president stepped up his attacks. Trump unleashed a series of tweets focusing on the previously released summary of Mueller’s conclusions — including a crucial one on obstruction of justice that Trump misrepresented — produced by Barr.
‘‘Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings (and great intelligence), have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction,’’ Trump tweeted. ‘‘These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!’’
Press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly made the same case on TV talk shows on Sunday.
But Trump’s inner circle knows there will probably be further releases of embarrassing or politically damaging information. Barr’s letter, for instance, hinted that there would be at least one unknown action by the president that Mueller examined as a possible act of obstruction. A number of White House aides have privately said they are eager for all Russia stories, good or bad, to fade from the headlines. And there is fear among some presidential confidants that the rush to spike the football in celebration could backfire if bombshell information emerges.
Trump and his allies also continue to attack the origins of the Russia investigation, portraying it as an effort by Democrats and career officials in the Justice Department to bring him down.
‘‘The Mueller Report, which was written by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters), should have focused on the people who SPIED on my 2016 Campaign, and others who fabricated the whole Russia Hoax. That is, never forget, the crime.’’ Trump tweeted Monday.
The Russia probe began on July 31, 2016, when the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the presidential campaign and whether anyone on the Trump campaign was involved. That probe was prompted by contacts of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos with Russian intermediaries, including a Maltese professor who told the young aide that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of e-mails.
The report’s release to Congress and the public will come days after Barr told Congress he believed ‘‘spying’’ on the Trump campaign occurred during the 2016 election, a statement that buoyed Trump and his supporters, who have long argued the Russia investigation arose from false accusations and bad motives.
Barr later softened his tone to ‘‘I am not saying improper surveillance occurred.’’
In the four-page letter to Congress, Barr said in March that Mueller ‘‘did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.’’
Barr’s letter also said the special counsel withheld judgment on whether Trump tried to obstruct justice during the investigation.
‘‘The Special Counsel . . . did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,’’ Barr wrote. ‘‘The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’ ”
Barr and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, examined the obstruction evidence laid out by Mueller’s team and concluded it did not rise to the level of obstruction of justice.
Since those findings were announced, congressional Democrats have been sharply critical of Barr’s handling of the Mueller report, accusing the attorney general of soft-pedaling the findings to protect the president.
The House Judiciary Committee is poised to issue a subpoena for the report’s redacted portions.
As Barr’s standoff with House Democrats continues, at least one influential Republican — Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California — has signed on to an effort to demand that the attorney general provide the House Intelligence Committee with any redacted intelligence and counterintelligence information Mueller considered in compiling his report.
In a letter to Justice Department leaders dated March 27 but made public only Monday, Nunes and Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, cited laws that entitle the Intelligence Committee to review such information. Schiff is the panel’s chairman, Nunes its top Republican.
In their letter, Nunes and Schiff requested ‘‘all materials, regardless of form and classification, obtained or produced by the Special Counsel’s office in the course of the investigation’’ — while also insisting that the Justice Department make Mueller and the senior staff who worked with him available to brief the committee.
Barr has spent weeks redacting sensitive information from the report in preparation for its public release. He is shielding four specific categories of information: grand jury material, details whose public release could harm ongoing investigations, any information that would ‘‘potentially compromise sources and methods’’ in intelligence collection, and anything that would ‘‘unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.’’
That last category of redaction suggests Barr wants to keep secret any derogatory information gathered by investigators about figures who ended up not being central to Mueller’s investigation.
Democrats are calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect the president. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy, as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.