(CBS NEWS) Attorney General William Barr will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. at the Justice Department headquarters, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in attendance. Following the press conference, the report will be delivered to lawmakers on CDs and released online shortly afterward, a senior Justice Department official said.
Democratic members of Congress raised concerns on Wednesday about the timing of the release, blasting the Justice Department for preparing to release it only after Barr’s press conference. The report is expected to be delivered on CDs to Capitol Hill between 11 a.m. and noon, according to a senior Justice Department official. It will then be posted publicly on the special counsel’s website.
Barr released a four-page letter summarizing the main points of the report earlier this month, saying that Mueller had concluded that President Trump did not coordinate with Russian individuals to influence the 2016 campaign.
Barr also said Mueller had not made a determination as to whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice, but Barr and Rosenstein concluded the president had not.
Democrats have criticized Barr and Rosenstein’s determination, and have called for the full, unredacted report to be released. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has said he will subpoena the report from the Justice Department if it is redacted.
Mr. Trump, who has not seen the report, has repeatedly claimed that the report has vindicated him completely. He has also referred to the investigation as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”
“No Collusion – No Obstruction!” the president tweeted Tuesday morning.
Barr to discuss executive privilege and interactions with White House
8:00 a.m.: At his press conference, Barr will address whether the White House invoked executive privilege over any aspects of the report, an official said. He will also seek to clarify the interactions between the Justice Department and the White House about the report over the past few weeks and discuss the process for how redactions were made.
The press conference is expected to last 20 to 30 minutes. An official described Barr’s demeanor as “calm” Thursday morning.
— Paula Reid
Why Barr is holding a press conference before the report is released
7:30 a.m.: Jonathan Turley, a CBS News legal analyst, said on “CBS This Morning” he believes Barr hopes to use his press conference to explain how the report’s redactions were made. However, he acknowledged Mr. Trump’s opponents will read this move as an attempt to spin the report in favor of the administration.
“There’s going to be so much spin in this city it’s going to knock the Earth off its rotational axis,” Turley said. Turley, who has known Barr for many years, said he did not believe the attorney general was holding the press conference to carry water for the president, but to provide more information about how the redactions were decided.
“He’s going to lay out how these things are done so the American people understand what they’re about to see and how it came about,” Turley said.
Turley said the most consequential portion of the report may deal with whether the president committed obstruction of justice. Mueller did not make a determination on this issue, leaving Barr to determine Mr. Trump had not obstructed justice.
“The obstruction section of the report is likely to have the meat of what we’re looking for, as opposed to collusion,” Turley said.
— Grace Segers
Democrats want Barr to cancel press conference
7:00 a.m.: House Democrats, furious that Barr will speak to the press an hour and a half before Congress and the public are set to see the redacted report, have called on Barr to cancel his press conference.
“The central concern here is that Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves but is trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House,” Nadler said Wednesday evening alongside Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Ted Deutch, Val Demings and Madeleine Dean. Nadler accused Barr of staging a “media campaign” on behalf of the president.
Nadler, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel also released a joint statement calling on Barr to cancel the conference.
“This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it,” the committee chairs said in the statement released Wednesday evening.
— Grace Segers
Pelosi and Schumer call on Mueller to testify publicly
6:30 a.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released an early-morning statement calling on Mueller to testify in both the House and Senate:
“Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality. We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth.”
— Stefan Becket
What you won’t see in the report
Barr told members of Congress he would make as much of the report public as possible, but would redact sections based on four criteria:
- Information from the grand jury
- Classified information
- Material related to ongoing investigations
- Any information which would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”
Grand jury information, which includes witness information, can be obtained in court. Some grand jury records in the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton and an investigation into President Richard Nixon were released. However, those records were released after the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment proceedings.
Nadler has expressed wariness about impeaching Mr. Trump, and may argue in court that the materials can be obtained without formal impeachment proceedings.
Barr said during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing that the report will be color-coded with accompanying “explanatory notes” describing the basis for each redaction.
Barr made waves in a hearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee by suggesting that “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, saying he will investigate the origins of the Mueller report.
“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I’m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all,” Barr said. His testimony left Democrats to assume Barr is carrying the president’s water on this issue, as Mr. Trump seized upon the allegations his campaign had been surveilled.
— Grace Segers
Trump attorneys working on a counter-report
The president’s personal attorneys have been working on a counter-report to rebut Mueller’s findings. This counter-narrative has been in the works for months and they have continued to edit it this week. The length of the report has varied, although Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said “they are trying to make it concise.”
Giuliani said Wednesday his team is confident the Mueller report “can be answered real simple.” They will emphasize that Mueller found no chargeable wrongdoing and there were no charges of collusion or obstruction against president or anyone else.
There is no indication the president’s legal team has seen the Mueller report, so this is based on publicly available information and what they know from working with their client in this investigation.
The White House is working separately from the president’s personal attorneys and are taking a more low-key approach. They will read the redacted report and issue a statement as they did with the four-page letter from Barr.
— Paula Reid
Democrats prepare for the release of the report
Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has said Congress is “entitled to see all” of Mueller’s report, doubling down on his demand that the Justice Department provide his committee with the findings of the nearly two-year Russia investigation with no redactions.
“Congress has a right to the entire report with no redactions whatsoever so we can see what’s there,” Nadler said on “Face the Nation” earlier in April. “We’re entitled to see it because Congress represents the nation. And Congress has to take action on any of it. So we’re entitled to see all of it.”
Nadler said he would go to court to obtain secret grand jury testimony that might be included in the unredacted report.
“We would have to go the court to get the release of the grand jury information but that has happened successfully in every previous situation,” Nadler said. “And it’s not up to the attorney general to decide with respect to that or with respect to other material that he decides Congress can’t see.”
Members of other congressional committees have also called for greater information on the report.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, and GOP ranking member Devin Nunes came together in a rare bout of bipartisanship to demand “full visibility” into the findings, citing the probe’s counterintelligence origins and the committee’s own statutory oversight responsibilities.
In a letter dated March 27 and addressed to Barr, Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray, the committee leaders asked to be provided with “all materials, regardless of form and classification, obtained or produced by the Special Counsel’s Office in the course of the investigation.”
Schiff and Nunes said those materials should include records related to the investigation’s scope and subjects as well as any “raw reporting” related to intelligence or counterintelligence matters. They also requested a briefing for the full committee from Mueller himself, alongside members of his senior team and relevant law enforcement and national security officials.
— Olivia Gazis and Camilo Montoya-Galvez
Republicans plan to react to the report
The president’s allies have also been preparing for the release of the report. One House GOP aide says their office is looking for details in the obstruction section of Mueller’s report that Democrats may try to “harp on.” GOP aides will play “devil’s advocate” as they comb through the report to know how best to respond to Democratic attacks.
“We really expect Democrats to harp on the redactions” to imply there was something “nefarious” or “damning” redacted, and try to respond to that, the GOP aide said.
A second House GOP aide expressed concern about the unknowns of the “palace intrigue” that could be in the report, and said Thursday can only be perceived an upside for Democrats, since it doesn’t take 400 pages to say “no collusion, no obstruction.”
“The reality is that Barr’s letter said essentially, as understood by I think certainly Republicans and probably the American people, basically you said you know there was no collusion and there was essentially no obstruction,” the second GOP aide said. “So now we’ve got 400 pages to read on Thursday. And the reality is that it doesn’t take 400 pages to say no collusion, no obstruction. So I think, I think Thursday’s going to be a day where you’ll see the Democrats making a lot of molehills into mountains. They’re going to be looking for anything in there, and certainly I think Thursday’s kind of all upside for them because in their estimation anything that doesn’t say no collusion, no obstruction is probably good news.”