It's been over a month since special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election became available to the public, with a fair number of redactions. But today marks the first time Mueller spoke out on the report in a 10-minute public statement to explain why he won't further testify to Congress on the report's contents.
"The report is my testimony," said Mueller, a former FBI director. "I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress."
Mueller also announced his resignation from the Department of Justice and said the special counsel's office is closing now that its investigative work is done.
The 448-page report, available as a PDF for download from the Justice Department's website, is the culmination of a high-profile, nearly two-year investigation that captured the attention of Americans and interested onlookers abroad. Beyond posing questions about the relationship between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign and whether they worked together to secure his victory, it also shined a light on how the US election system was vulnerable to manipulation from outside forces. The investigation came to an end on March 22 when special counsel Mueller delivered his report to US Attorney General William Barr.
The bottom line: There's no question Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election and that its attacks on the US "deserves the attention of every American," Mueller said Wednesday.
Two days after receiving the report in late March, Barr sent a four-page summary to Congress with his conclusion the Trump campaign didn't conspire with Russia on the interference and that Trump didn't obstruct justice. On April 18, the Justice Department livestreamed a press conference — about an hour before the release of the redacted report — in which Barr stated that no conspiracy was found between the Russians trying to undermine the election and any Americans, including members of the Trump campaign.
But Barr's summary and press conference has set off its own controversy, with Democrats and other critics of saying Barr misrepresented the findings and left the public confused.
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What's the backstory here?
Mueller's investigation has led to indictments of six of Trump's advisers, along with 26 Russian nationals, including some on charges of hacking. Indictments against 12 of the Russians were tied to malware that infected the servers of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election campaign. The compromised servers enabled the theft of thousands of emails that were subsequently published by WikiLeaks.
No new indictments were expected, according to CBS News. And long-running Justice Department policy means that it's unlikely a sitting president would be indicted. In fact, Mueller specifically cited the department's policy as the reason his office couldn't even consider charging Trump with a crime.
The president wasted no time responding to Barr's initial summary on March 24, tweeting: "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION." He has repeated that statement multiple times since then, though Mueller's remarks on May 29 call into question the president's summation of the report since Mueller's team opted not to exonerate the president on possible obstruction charges. Said Mueller, "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so."
In the past two months, lawmakers have weighed in, with Democrats saying Barr showed bias toward Trump and Republicans saying the public release of the redacted report was a positive thing. Critics note details in the report paint Trump in a negative light.
Although Mueller's investigation didn't establish conspiracy on the part of the president, it made no definitive determination on obstruction of justice. Barr's March 24 letter quotes the Mueller report as saying that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him" on the matter of obstruction. Barr has opted not pursue an investigation into the questions surrounding obstruction.
The law doesn't require the DOJ to release a report on a special counsel investigation. But the president indicated on March 20 he wanted the report released and said, "Let people see it." Politicians from both major parties continue to insist that the full report, with a minimum of redactions, be released.
What we know about the redactions
At his April 18 press conference about the release of the Mueller report, Barr said there are "limited redactions" in the version of the report released to Congress and the public and that they are "clearly labeled." He went on to explain that there are four categories of redactions in the report:
- Grand jury material
- Information that would disclose sensitive sources
- Information that would impair other cases
- Information that would implicate the privacy or reputation of third parties
He also said that no redactions or recommendations for redactions were made by people outside the Justice Department and no redactions were made based on the president's executive privilege.
Top Democrats in Congress have called for the release of the Mueller report in its entirety. In a joint statement on March 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said Barr isn't a neutral observer and that his letter "raises as many questions as it answers."
On May 1, Barr appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the Mueller report, and he defended his March 24 summary and his overall assessment of the investigation. The day before the hearing, it was revealed that Mueller had written a letter to Barr saying, in part, that the attorney general's summary "did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office's work and conclusions."
In the meantime, what Mueller found during his 675-day investigation could lead to a widening of the partisan divide in the US, with Trump supporters likely to view the final results of the Mueller probe as exonerating the president, while his detractors see the report's contents and existing indictments as ample proof of wrongdoing.
How to read the Mueller Report for free
You can access Mueller's report at the Department of Justice website. Since it's in PDF format, you can download the file to your device for offline viewing or transfer it to another device like a phone, tablet or e-reader.
You can also read the 448-page report directly here:
Why the Mueller report was released to the public
In addition to the president, other top Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said they want the full report released. They include Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida.
The Justice Department worked with Mueller's team to redact certain information from the public version of the report. During his Senate confirmation hearings in January, Barr told senators he wanted to release as much of the report as possible, "consistent with the law," as reported by CBS News.
Barr said he would be clear about the redactions, according to The New York Times.
Who's been indicted so far
As detailed by The New York Times, 32 people have been charged with crimes by Mueller, including 26 Russian nationals who are unlikely to stand trial. Those indictments include charges against 12 Russian hackers alleged to have been behind cyberattacks in 2016 against the Democratic National Committee and against 13 Russians for spreading disinformation on social media, as well as the propaganda efforts' chief accountant.