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Barr to Discuss Report Ahead of Release04/18 06:40

   After nearly two years of waiting, America will get some answers straight 
from Robert Mueller but not before President Donald Trump's attorney general 
has his say.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- After nearly two years of waiting, America will get some 
answers straight from Robert Mueller--- but not before President Donald Trump's 
attorney general has his say.

   The Justice Department on Thursday is expected to release a redacted version 
of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and the Trump 
campaign, opening up months, if not years, of fights over what the document 
means in a deeply divided country.

   Even the planned release of the nearly 400-page report quickly spiraled into 
a political battle Wednesday over whether Attorney General William Barr is 
attempting to shield the president who appointed him and spin the report's 
findings before the American people can read it and come to their own judgments.

   Barr will hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference to present his interpretation of 
the report's findings, before providing redacted copies to Congress and the 
public. The news conference, first announced by Trump during a radio interview, 
provoked immediate criticism from congressional Democrats.

   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had "thrown out his credibility & 
the DOJ's independence with his single-minded effort to protect" Trump. And 
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "The process is poisoned before the 
report is even released."

   "Barr shouldn't be spinning the report at all, but it's doubly outrageous 
he's doing it before America is given a chance to read it," Schumer said.

   Hours before Barr's press conference, Pelosi and Schumer issued a joint 
statement calling for Mueller to appear before Congress "as soon as possible."

   They said Barr's "partisan handling" of the report has "resulted in a crisis 
of confidence in his independence and impartiality."

   A Justice Department official confirmed Barr's plan to speak and answer 
questions about his "process" before the report's public release. He will be 
accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the 
investigation after Mueller's appointment in May 2017. Mueller and other 
members of his team will not attend, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said.

   After the news conference, the report will be delivered to Congress on CDs 
between 11 a.m. and noon and then be posted on the special counsel's website, 
said the official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and 
spoke on condition of anonymity.

   Barr formulated the report's roll-out and briefed the White House on his 
plans, according to a White House official who was not authorized to discuss 
the matter publicly. The White House declined to comment on an ABC News report 
that it had been briefed on the contents of Mueller's report beyond what Barr 
has made public.

   At a later date, the Justice Department also plans to provide a "limited 
number" of members of Congress and their staff access to a copy of the Mueller 
report with fewer redactions than the public version, according to a court 
filing Wednesday.

   The report is expected to reveal what Mueller uncovered about ties between 
the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct. It will also 
lay out the special counsel's conclusions about formative episodes in Trump's 
presidency, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey and his efforts to 
undermine the Russia investigation publicly and privately.

   The report is not expected to place the president in legal jeopardy, as Barr 
made his own decision that Trump shouldn't be prosecuted for obstruction. But 
it is likely to contain unflattering details about the president's efforts to 
control the Russia investigation that will cloud his ability to credibly claim 
total exoneration. And it may paint the Trump campaign as eager to exploit 
Russian aid and emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton's campaign 
even if no Americans crossed the line into criminal activity.

   The report's release will be a test of Barr's credibility as the public and 
Congress judge whether he is using his post to protect Trump.

   Barr will also face scrutiny over how much of the report he blacks out and 
whether Mueller's document lines up with a letter the attorney general released 
last month. The letter said Mueller didn't find a criminal conspiracy between 
the Trump campaign and the Russian government but he found evidence on "both 
sides" of the question of whether the president obstructed justice.

   Barr has said he is withholding grand jury and classified information as 
well as portions relating to ongoing investigation and the privacy or 
reputation of uncharged "peripheral" people. But how liberally he interprets 
those categories is yet to be seen.

   Democrats have vowed to fight in court for the disclosure of the additional 
information from the report and say they have subpoenas ready to go if it is 
heavily redacted.

   House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Wednesday he will 
"probably find it useful" to call Mueller and members of his team to testify 
after reading the version of the report Barr releases.

   Nadler also criticized the attorney general for trying to "bake in the 
narrative" of the report to the benefit of the White House.

   Late Wednesday, Nadler joined the chairs of four other House committees in 
calling for Barr to cancel his news conference. But Rep. Doug Collins of 
Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, defended Barr and 
accused Democrats of "trying to spin the report."

   Collins said Barr has done "nothing unilaterally," saying he had worked with 
Rosenstein and Mueller's team "step by step."

   Mueller is known to have investigated multiple efforts by the president over 
the last two years to influence the Russia probe or shape public perception of 
it.

   In addition to Comey's firing, Mueller scrutinized the president's request 
of Comey to end an investigation into Trump's first national security adviser; 
his relentless badgering of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his 
recusal from the Russia investigation; and his role in drafting an incomplete 
explanation about a meeting his oldest son took at Trump Tower with a 
Kremlin-connected lawyer.

   Overall, Mueller brought charges against 34 people --- including six Trump 
aides and advisers --- and revealed a sophisticated, wide-ranging Russian 
effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twenty-five of those 
charged were Russians accused either in the hacking of Democratic email 
accounts or of a hidden but powerful social media effort to spread 
disinformation online.

   Five former Trump aides or advisers pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate 
in Mueller's investigation, including Trump's campaign chairman, national 
security adviser and personal lawyer.


(CZ)

 
 
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