Mueller mania
May 1, 2019

Ahead of his Wednesday Senate and Thursday House testimonies about the report, Attorney General William Barr offered to let six Democrats and six Republicans see parts of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report the general public didn't, Politico reports. Yet despite Democrats' constant demands for Barr to release more of the report to the public, only two Republicans took advantage of that.

The top four members of both the House and Senate Judiciary committees were offered the less redacted report, as were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Only Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Judiciary Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) actually looked at it, with both telling Politico it didn't "change" any of their feelings from the first report.

Barr offered up the less redacted report at Justice Department headquarters last week, and also would let lawmakers choose one staffer to see it too, per Politico. The report moved to a secure room on Capitol Hill this week. McConnell has said he'd likely go look on Thursday and McCarthy said he was "satisfied' with the redacted report, but no Democrats gave Politico explanations for holding out.

In Barr's Wednesday testimony, Graham acknowledged again that he'd seen the confidential version of the report, though he said he hadn't "read it all." Given that grand jury information still remains redacted even in the confidential version that top lawmakers could've seen, no one really has. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 10, 2019

Attorneys for former White House Counsel Greg Craig said on Wednesday they expect he will be charged in a foreign lobbying investigation that came out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Craig served in the first term of the Obama administration, and was recently a senior partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. In a statement, his lawyers, William Taylor and William Murphy, said he is "not guilty of any charge and the government's stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion." Federal prosecutors in New York declined to file charges, they added, and the indictment is expected to come out of Washington, D.C.

Under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, individuals must let the Justice Department know if they are lobbying or advocating in the United States on behalf of a foreign government or political entity. The expected indictment is connected to work Craig did in 2012 with President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on behalf of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, The Associated Press reports. Last year, Manafort pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his Ukrainian lobbying. Catherine Garcia

April 5, 2019

President Trump was publicly exuberant when Attorney General William Barr released his four-page recap of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, and in private he was "pumping his fist with excitement when he recounted the good news to his allies," Politico reports, citing a person told about his reaction. "But every victory lap has a finish line — and Trump appears to be approaching his," Gabriel Sherman writes at Vanity Fair.

Trump's "response to the Barr letter was overplayed," a former West Wing official told Vanity Fair. A Republican close to the White House agreed that the Mueller denouement is a prime example of Trump getting "oversold on things," adding: "The White House realizes the report may have a lot of sh-t in it." Jimmy Fallon diagnosed Trump with "premature exoneration" on Thursday's Tonight Show.

The quick end to the post-Mueller victory lap was accelerated when "misfortune and mayhem almost immediately began piling up," Politico recaps:

Trump unleashed two new political crises — one on health care, one on the Mexican border — and then retreated on both of them. A brief lull in House Democratic oversight action ended abruptly when House investigators demanded his tax returns. And news reports revealed that Mueller's soon-to-be-released findings may be far more damaging than Attorney General William Barr has publicly indicated, suggesting that the Russia scandal is hardly in the president's rear view window. ...

On Thursday, the House approved a Senate measure cutting off U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's military campaign in Yemen, a plan the White House opposed. ... A day before, the House released information that showed Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, was denied a security clearance last year because of concerns about foreign influence, private business interests, and personal conduct. The weekend arrest of a Chinese woman carrying a malware-laced device into Trump's Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, only added to the growing questions about presidential information security. [Politico]

Well, there's always the next investigation. Peter Weber

April 4, 2019

When Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility of President Trump obstructing justice, it was prepared so every section had its own summary, with the belief each would be made available to the public, a U.S. official familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

With that in mind, some members of the Mueller team have told associates they are frustrated with Attorney General William Barr sending a four-page letter to Congress that summarized the report in his own words. "There was immediate displeasure from the team when they saw how the attorney general had characterized their work instead," the official told the Post, adding that Mueller's office prepared their summaries in "a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself."

Barr's letter said Mueller did not establish criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia's government, and also didn't reach a conclusion on obstruction. The investigators found the obstruction evidence, however, to be "alarming and significant," the Post reports, with one person telling the paper "it was much more acute than Barr suggested." The New York Times first reported about the frustration felt by some investigators. Catherine Garcia

April 3, 2019

Some investigators who worked with Special Counsel Robert Mueller have said Attorney General William Barr did not accurately summarize the findings of their probe, as what they reported was more damaging to President Trump than Barr indicated, people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

Two days after Mueller submitted his nearly 400-page report to Barr last month, the attorney general sent Congress a four-page memo summarizing his takeaways, barely quoting the special counsel's office. Multiple summaries of the report had already been written, the Times reports, and some of the investigators believe Barr should have put more of their conclusions in the memo. Investigators did not ask Barr to release his memo so quickly, and some have expressed concerns that he did so in order to set a positive narrative, before the full report could be released.

Barr wrote in his summary that Mueller did not determine there was any criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but was unable to exonerate Trump of obstruction. The government officials and others who spoke with the Times would not reveal why the investigators thought their findings are "more troubling" than Barr's letter indicates, but it is believed the report looks closely at Trump's attempts to derail the investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 election, the Times reports. Read more about the investigators and friction between their team and the Justice Department at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

April 3, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to approve a raft of subpoenas on Wednesday, most notably a demand that Attorney General William Barr turn over a full, unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference and President Trump's campaign, plus underlying documentation. Democrats hold a seven-seat majority on the panel, and the vote is expected to hew closely to party lines. If committee chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issues the subpoena and Barr ignores it, the Judiciary Committee could hold him in contempt, setting up a potentially lengthy court battle. Barr missed an April 2 deadline to turn over the roughly 400-page report.

The Judiciary Committee will likely also vote to subpoena documents and testimony from former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, former White House Counsel Don McGahn and Deputy Counsel Ann Donaldson, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and former Communications Director Hope Hicks. Those five Trump associates were among 81 people, agencies, and other entities asked for documents in early March, pursuant to the House Democrats' wide-ranging investigation into potential corruption and obstruction of justice surrounding Trump. Peter Weber

March 28, 2019

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is officially over, but there are still several loose ends. One of them involves an unidentified company owned by an unnamed foreign government that Mueller's grand jury subpoenaed in July 2018 for unspecified documents. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the company in its fight to avoid turning over the subpoenaed information. The corporation has been racking up fines of $50,000 a day since Jan. 15 for not complying with the subpoena.

In court on Wednesday, David Goodhand, the federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., now handling the case, said the grand jury impaneled by Mueller "is continuing robustly." Goodhand was fighting a request from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for access to court filings in the mysterious case and information on the company involved. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said she will approve a "huge chunk" of the Reporters Committee's request but gave prosecutors time to redact the documents.

Howell also said she would consider releasing the names of the company and the country that owns it, but she declined to do so now because the case is ongoing. Mueller handed off several investigations to other federal prosecutors, and the U.S. attorney's office in Washington took charge of the mystery corporation case along with the criminal prosecution of Roger Stone. "It's not entirely clear what else a grand jury, whose dealings are generally secret under law, may be considering," The Associated Press said, though once the grand jury is discharged, all related contempt fines stop accruing and subpoenas expire. Peter Weber

March 27, 2019

Former FBI Director James Comey says he hopes Attorney General William Barr's four-page letter summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report establishes "to all people, no matter where they are on the spectrum, that the FBI is not corrupt, not a nest of vipers, of spies, but an honest group of people trying to find out what is true."

In an interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt airing Wednesday night, Comey said despite President Trump spreading lies about the FBI in an attempt to discredit its efforts to get to the bottom of Russian interference in the 2016 election, "the institutions will be fine, because the American people know them and also know this president, know what he's like. I think the people of the United States are going to see what I know about the FBI: These are people who are not in anyone's tribe, they're trying to find the facts."

In his letter, Barr said Mueller found no actionable proof the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, but was unable to reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Trump fired Comey in early May 2017, while Comey was leading the investigation into Russian interference, and Mueller was appointed later that month. Trump originally said he fired Comey at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but during a later interview with Holt, he declared it was his decision.

"I thought that's potentially obstruction of justice, and I hope somebody is going to look at that," Comey said, adding that Trump appeared to be saying "I got rid of this guy to shut down an investigation that threatened me." Watch the entire interview below. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads