(Written by Katie Benner)
Attorney General William Barr will release the highly anticipated special counsel’s report to Congress and to the public Thursday morning, a Justice Department spokeswoman said Monday.
Barr will release the report after department lawyers black out secret grand jury testimony, classified information, material related to continuing investigations and other delicate information, said the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec.
Investigators for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, found no conspiracy between Russia’s 2016 election interference and Trump associates, Barr told lawmakers last month in a letter outlining their main findings. They declined to make a decision on whether President Donald Trump illegally obstructed justice but stopped short of exonerating him, but Barr and Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, stepped in and concluded that Trump had not committed an obstruction offense.
Barr has come under fire for that decision and for other aspects of his handling of the report. Some of Mueller’s investigators have told associates that Barr played down the negative implications for Trump when he shared their main conclusions, and lawmakers have demanded the full text of the document.
The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee asked the Justice Department and the FBI on Monday to share counterintelligence information that investigators uncovered during the inquiry and for Mueller to brief their panel.
“We look forward to the department and the bureau’s continued cooperation with the committee on this matter of grave national importance,” wrote Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the committee, and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the panel’s top Republican, citing the committee’s role in conducting oversight of counterintelligence matters.
Barr said in hearings last week that he would work with lawmakers to allow them to see some of the information he is redacting from the report. And he has promised to be as transparent as possible and said the redacted report would give the public an accurate picture of the investigative findings.
“Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” Barr wrote to lawmakers last month.
No matter how much information is redacted, the report, at nearly 400 pages, is certain to upend Washington. White House aides, lawmakers and anyone with a stake in the findings have begun preparing to digest them and spin them to their advantage.
Once the White House receives the report, Emmet T. Flood, the White House lawyer dealing with the investigation, will read it and brief Trump; other aides plan to examine it for information related to obstruction of justice, according to people familiar with their plan.
Trump, who has a typical schedule Thursday, including plans to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and to participate in a veterans event with the first lady, has sought to define the report before its release. He incorrectly declared a “total exoneration” when Barr delivered the bottom-line conclusions last month.
Barr has pushed back on criticisms of his handling of the report, reminding members of Congress that he was giving them more information than he was required to under the regulations governing the special counsel and noting that the rules were written by Clinton administration officials seeking to avoid a repeat of the lengthy Starr report, which contained lurid sexual details about President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and analysis of potential crimes the president was not ultimately charged with.
Barr also said Mueller had declined an offer to review his letter outlining the investigation’s main conclusions and that Mueller “has a fuller explanation” of why he did not come to a conclusion on obstruction that will be in the report.
Barr has also said he will make himself available to testify on Capitol Hill after the report is released.
While the special counsel rules allow the attorney general to decide whether to share the report with the public and how much of it to release, Democrats have shown an unwillingness to rely on Barr’s judgments.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize its chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to subpoena Barr to compel him to turn over an unredacted copy of the special counsel’s report as well as its underlying investigative files.
Barr told senators last week that releasing the redacted report would be the first step in what promises to be a protracted back-and-forth with Democratic lawmakers over how much of the document they are allowed to see.
“I intend to take up with the House and Senate Judiciary committees, the chairmen and ranking members of each, what other areas they feel they have a need to have access to the information and see if I can work to accommodate that,” Barr said.
Democrats did not accept his reassurances. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said that any attempt to hide pieces of the report would “only fuel suspicions that the Justice Department, which represents the United States, is playing the role of President Trump’s defense team.”
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, has also asked that the committee invite Mueller to testify. “It is Special Counsel Mueller who is best positioned to testify regarding the underlying facts and material in which you are so interested,” Collins wrote in a letter to Nadler.