Were Robert S. Mueller III ever to tell the inside story of his investigation, much of America would likely come to a standstill to hear what he had to say. There is virtually no chance that will happen when he testifies for about five hours before two congressional committees this week. It took weeks of negotiations just to persuade him to show up. He has already said that his testimony won’t go beyond what is in the 448-page report he delivered, and he urged people to read it.
But even members of Congress admit that they have only skimmed it. And even if all Mr. Mueller does is quote from his report, his words will be carefully analyzed, from the points he chooses to highlight to the inflections of his voice. Ahead of the hearings, we pose some of the many lingering questions about his two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump obstructed justice by trying to interfere with it, along with what we know or not about the answers.
The Mueller report says his prosecutors did not want to delay the investigation at a late stage with a subpoena fight that could drag on. They also thought they had “substantial” information from other witnesses that allowed them to assess the president’s actions. Nonetheless, not subpoenaing Mr. Trump was one of Mr. Mueller’s most controversial because it arguably allowed the president to evade hard questions without real political damage.
After more than a year of negotiations, the president refused to be questioned by prosecutors. He also refused to answer any questions related to allegations of obstruction of justice or to the presidential transition period. He submitted written replies to questions, but they revealed little.
The prosecutors asked Mr. Trump more than 65 written questions, including follow-ups. Although he has professed to have the “world’s greatest memory,” Mr. Trump said more than 30 times that he had no recollection. For instance, he said he did not recall any communications with Roger J. Stone Jr., a friend and former campaign adviser now facing criminal charges, in the six months preceding the election. When prosecutors complained that his answers were “inadequate,” they were rebuffed.
This is probably the most burning question for Mr. Mueller, but good luck getting him to answer it. His report cites a 2000 opinion by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel which states that a sitting president cannot be criminally charged. Given that, the prosecutors never analyzed whether the evidence against Mr. Trump amounted to a prosecutable case. Still, one would assume the team discussed it, at least informally.
Some Mueller defenders note that if Mr. Barr was disappointed with how Mr. Mueller ended his investigation, he could have just ordered him to come to a conclusion. Asked about that, Mr. Barr told The New York Times this month that Mr. Mueller had a lot of time to think about his approach, and “I wasn’t going to try to bully him into doing something different.”
The report says that accusing the president of a crime would not only inhibit the president’s ability to govern, but could “potentially pre-empt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.” A footnote cites the Constitution’s impeachment clauses. One interpretation is Mr. Mueller felt it was his job to gather evidence, and Congress’s job to decide whether and how to hold Mr. Trump accountable.
Critics claim that Mr. Barr has glossed over the president’s efforts to interfere with the special counsel’s work and downplayed the seriousness of the evidence against him. During a 10-minute address at the Justice Department in May — his only public comments about the inquiry so far — Mr. Mueller stressed the gravity of allegations of obstruction of justice.
Mr. Barr is pushing forward with his review of the origins of the Russia investigation. He has said he wants to know how “the bogus narrative” began “that Trump was essentially in cahoots with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election.” Mr. Mueller presumably knows something about how it began because he inherited the inquiry, though it had already been underway for nearly 10 months. His report notes investigators had already collected “substantial evidence” by the time he was appointed in May 2017.
Before Mr. Barr released his report, Mr. Mueller met twice with the attorney general and wrote him two letters. One has been made public, and it makes clear that Mr. Mueller wanted Mr. Barr to release executive summaries of his report. But in his news conference, Mr. Mueller declined to criticize Mr. Barr for not doing so, saying that he believed the attorney general had acted in good faith and was grateful that he ultimately released almost the entire report.
President Trump repeatedly mocked the special counsel’s team as angry Democrats. Before he was nominated as attorney general, Mr. Barr said that he would have preferred “more balance on this group.” At his news conference, Mr. Mueller praised his F.B.I. agents and prosecutors as people “of the highest integrity” who conducted the investigation in a fair and independent manner.
The report notes that a president is not immune from criminal prosecution once he leaves office, nor are others who might have conspired to obstruct justice. During his brief appearance in May, Mr. Mueller also noted that the special counsel regulations specifically authorized him to investigate obstruction of justice.
The special counsel’s investigation lasted nearly two years. Mr. Mueller delivered his 448-page report on March 22. Mr. Barr and Mr. Rosenstein reached their decision two days later. On the other hand, they had a running start: Mr. Mueller had kept Mr. Rosenstein abreast of developments throughout the inquiry, and Mr. Barr had also been briefed after being sworn in as attorney general.
The Democrats will certainly try to get Mr. Mueller to recount the president’s most questionable behavior. The report suggests that four episodes were particularly problematic: ordering the White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II to have the Justice Department fire Mr. Mueller; pushing Mr. McGahn to deny that he had directed him to oust Mr. Mueller; dangling the possibility of a pardon for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was fighting criminal charges filed by Mr. Mueller; trying to force Attorney General Jeff Sessions, through an intermediary, to drastically limit Mr. Mueller’s investigation.
At an April 18 news conference, Mr. Barr said that the special counsel “did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials” by WikiLeaks. Nonetheless, if any Trump campaign associates worked with WikiLeaks to release documents stolen by Russia, even in a legal fashion, it would raise ethical questions and could hurt Mr. Trump politically.
Among other obstacles, the report noted that numerous witnesses lived abroad, and documents could not be obtained.
The report references the president’s oldest son 164 times, but the information does not seem to be drawn from any interview of him by prosecutors. One sentence mentioning Donald Trump Jr. was heavily redacted to protect grand jury secrecy. Mr. Mueller will likely refuse to answer this question for the same reason the information is redacted from the report.
Good morning and welcome to Fox News First. Here’s what you need to know as you start your Monday…
All eyes on Mueller’s testimony this Wednesday Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s highly-anticipated testimony on Capitol Hill on the findings of his report and whether President Trump committed obstruction during the investigation is the focus, so far, of the week, and the hearing will be the center of the news universe on Wednesday. It appears top Democrats have made up their minds before Mueller has even been sworn in. In an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday,” House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., accused President Trump of committing “high crimes and misdemeanors” and said the president’s infractions meet the standard of impeachment.
Host Chris Wallace asked Nadler what Democrats will do if Mueller’s testimony falls flat, and the House Judiciary chairman said he expects the hearing to have an impact on the electorate and plans to ask specific fact-finding questions to help enlighten the public. Nadler also said he isn’t worried about Republicans asking probing questions about the investigation’s origins via the Steele dossier, and claimed they’d only be wasting their time. Click on the video above to watch the full interview.
TUNE IN: Don’t miss Fox News’ special all-day coverage of Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday, anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, starting at 8 a.m. ET this Wednesday.
Major power outages from Michigan to New York during dangerous heat wave As the heat wave gripped much of the country on Sunday, power outages reported in multiple states left hundreds of thousands of customers in the dark. Crews were working to restore power after heavy storms over two days knocked out power for more than 800,000 Michigan homes and businesses. In New York City, where all eyes were on the power grid even before the hot weather following a Manhattan blackout last weekend, electricity company Con Ed reported roughly 12,000 scattered outages early Sunday evening, the vast majority in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.
Embattled Puerto Rico governor won’t seek re-election, but refuses to resign Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Sunday he will not seek re-election but refused to resign, as corruption allegations continue to fuel widespread protests in San Juan. Rosselló, a Democrat, made the announcement Sunday in a four-minute Facebook video. He also said he agreed with the people’s right to protest and was willing to confront the impeachment process, which already had begun in Puerto Rico’s legislature. The controversial governor said although he will not resign as the island’s leader, he will step down as head of his pro-statehood party.
Iran says it dismantled CIA spy ring, sentences some to death: report Iran’s Intelligence Ministry on Monday said it uncovered a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency spy ring, arrested 17 suspects and sentenced some to death, according to a report from the country’s semi-official news agency said. “The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” said a ministry statement read on state television. Emails from Fox News to the CIA and the State Department were not immediately returned.
President Trump, the welcome wedding crasher After a tumultuous week in Washington, President Trump unexpectedly dropped in on the wedding of PJ Mongelli and Nicole Marie Mongelli on Saturday night at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, as enthusiastic attendees broke into chants of “USA.” Fox News is told the bride and groom are huge fans of the president, had dreamed of him attending their wedding and got engaged at the golf club in 2017. Flags and pro-Trump banners could be seen at the event. As Trump talked with members of the family, a man approached him and shouted, “I’m the father, I’m the father! Thank you so much!”
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, warned in an interview on CNN that he will not allow his team to be “intimidated” by the White House, after expressions of Washington officials of possible restrictions on the disbursement of money for the recovery of the Island after The devastating passage of Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
“If the bully comes close, I’ll give him a fist in the mouth, it would be a mistake to mistake courtesy for courage,” Rosselló Nevares said.
According to the CNN news network , Puerto Rico government officials were “threatened” by Pete Navarro and other Trump advisers at a meeting. According to the publication, even profanity was used against the island’s advisers.
“You must stop being jod … with the request for a meeting,” Navarro allegedly warned.
So far the White House has not spoken itself on the matter.
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