WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the team he assembled to investigate U.S. President Donald Trump and his associates have been funded through the end of September 2019, three U.S. officials said on Monday, an indication that the probe has funding to keep it going for months if need be.
The operations and funding of Mueller’s office were not addressed in the budget requests for the next government fiscal year issued by the White House and Justice Department on Monday because Mueller’s office is financed by the U.S. Treasury under special regulations issued by the Justice Department, the officials said.
“The Special Counsel is funded by the Independent Counsel appropriation, a permanent indefinite appropriation established in the Department’s 1988 Appropriations Act,” a Justice Department spokesman said.
There has been increased speculation in recent weeks that Mueller’s team is close to winding up its work and is likely to deliver a report summarizing its findings to Attorney General William Barr any day or week now. Mueller’s office has not commented on the news reports suggesting an imminent release.
Representatives of key congressional committees involved in Trump-related investigations say they have received no guidance from Mueller’s office regarding his investigation’s progress or future plans.
The probe, which began in May 2017, is examining whether there were any links or coordination between the Russian government led by Vladimir Putin and the 2016 presidential campaign of Trump, according to an order signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Critics of the probe, including Trump allies, have suggested the investigation is a misuse of taxpayer funds and should be wrapped up quickly.
Justice Department documents show that Mueller’s office reported spending around $9 million during the fiscal year which ran from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018. No figures are available for the current fiscal year.
Ninety days before the beginning of a federal government fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1, special counsels such as Mueller “shall report to the Attorney General the status of the investigation and provide a budget request for the following year,” according to the regulations.
Department officials said that under these regulations, a special counsel should request funding for the next fiscal year by the end of June. It is not known if Mueller is preparing such a request for fiscal year 2020.
Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has said there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow, and has labeled Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”
Attorney General Barr States Mueller Report Will Be Released Within A Week, With Redactions
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that he expects to release a redacted version of the special counsel’s Trump-Russia investigation report “within a week” as he defended his handling of the document.
Barr told members of Congress at his first public appearance since receiving special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that his earlier projection of releasing a version by mid-April still stood. The nearly 400-page report is being scoured now to remove grand jury information and details relating to pending investigations.
The redactions will be color-coded and accompanied by notes explaining the decision to withhold information, he said.
Democrats scolded Barr over his handling of the report, telling him they were concerned that a summary of its main conclusions he released last month portrayed the investigation’s findings in an overly favorable way for President Donald Trump.
Rep. Nita Lowey, the Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said she was taken aback that Barr had reduced Mueller’s report to a four-page letter in just two days. That letter said that Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump associates, and that Barr did not believe the evidence in the report was sufficient to prove the president had obstructed justice.
“Even for someone who has done this job before, I would argue it’s more suspicious than impressive,” Lowey said.
Explaining the rapid turnaround for his letter, Barr said, “The thinking of the special counsel was not a mystery to the Department of Justice prior to the submission of the report.”
Barr was summoned to Congress to talk about his department’s budget request, but lawmakers still asked about the Mueller report as they waited to see it. Barr’s opening remarks focused on funding requests for immigration enforcement and the fights against violent crime and opioid addiction, not mentioning the special counsel’s report at all.
Barr would not discuss the substance of Mueller’s findings but did explain his process for receiving and reviewing the report. He said he had offered Mueller the chance to review his four-page letter, but that Mueller declined. Asked about reports that members of Mueller’s team were unhappy with his handling of the report, Barr said he suspected any discontent may have reflected their desire to put out more information.
“I felt I should state bottom-line conclusions, and I tried to use special counsel Mueller’s own language in doing that,” he said.
Barr also said that he could be open to releasing some redacted details after consulting with congressional leaders, though he said he did not have plans to ask a court for permission to disclose secret grand jury testimony.
Mueller sent his final report to Barr on March 22, ending his almost two-year investigation into possible ties between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Barr released a four-page letter summarizing the report two days later and said he would release a redacted version of the full report by mid-April, “if not sooner.”
The new attorney general’s budget testimony — traditionally a dry affair, and often addressing the parochial concerns of lawmakers — came as Democrats were enraged that he was redacting material from the report and frustrated that his summary framed a narrative about Trump before they were able to see the full version.
The Democrats are demanding that they see the full report and all its underlying evidence, though Trump and his Republican allies are pushing back.
The chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee, Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano of New York, told Barr there were “serious concerns about the process by which you formulated your letter; and uncertainty about when we can expect to see the full report.”
Barr said in the summary released last month that Mueller didn’t find a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin. He also said that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, instead presenting evidence on both sides of the question. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided that the evidence was insufficient to establish obstruction.
Facing the intensifying concerns from Democrats that he may have whitewashed Mueller’s findings, Barr has twice moved to defend, or at least explain, his handling of the process since receiving the special counsel’s report. He has said that he did not intend for his four-page summary of Mueller’s main conclusions to be an “exhaustive recounting” of his work and that he could not immediately release the entire report because it included grand jury material and other sensitive information that needed to be redacted.
He is likely to be asked to further explain himself at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that is also on the budget.
Barr is to testify on the report itself at separate hearings before the Senate and House Judiciary committees on May 1 and May 2. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary panel, confirmed the May 2 date on Twitter and said he would like Mueller to testify.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said he would be satisfied hearing only from Barr and not Mueller.
Latest: The Mueller Report
The Latest on Congress and the special counsel’s Russia report
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Democrats are intensifying their demands for Robert Mueller’s full report after learning the special counsel’s Trump-Russia findings run to more than 300 pages.
- The House Judiciary Committee approved subpoenas for special counsel Robert Mueller’s full Russia report as Democrats pressure the Justice Department to release the document without redactions.
- Attorney General William Barr has defended his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation, saying the document contains sensitive grand jury material that prevented it from being immediately released to the public.
- Mr. Barr defended as “entirely proper” an unsolicited memo he wrote criticizing Mr. Mueller’s examination of whether the president obstructed justice.
WR N'Keal Harry
OT Kaleb McGary
CB Deandre Baker
DE L.J. Collier
DT Jerry Tillery
DB Johnathan Abram
DE Montez Sweat
WR Marquise Brown
RB Josh Jacobs
Democrats Preparing To Subpoena For Full Mueller Report
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee will prepare subpoenas this week seeking special counsel Robert Mueller’s full Russia report as the Justice Department appears likely to miss an April 2 deadline set by Democrats for the report’s release.
The Judiciary panel plans to vote on subpoenas Wednesday, a day after the deadline. The chairmen of several House committees asked for the full, unredacted report last week after Attorney General William Barr released a four-page summary laying out the report’s “principal conclusions.” Barr said in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees on Friday that a redacted version of the full 300 page report would be released by mid-April, “if not sooner.”
The planned committee vote, announced Monday morning, would not automatically issue subpoenas but authorize House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to send them if he decides to do so.
“As I have made clear, Congress requires the full and complete special counsel report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence,” Nadler said in a statement. “Attorney General Barr has thus far indicated he will not meet the April 2 deadline set by myself and five other committee chairs, and refused to work with us to provide the full report, without redactions, to Congress.”
The vote comes as Democrats are escalating their battle with the Justice Department over how much of the report they will be able to see — a fight that could eventually end up in court. Democrats have said they will not accept redactions and will almost certainly be unhappy with the amount of information provided by Barr when the department releases the report in the coming weeks.
The panel will also vote Wednesday to authorize subpoenas related to a number of President Donald Trump’s former top advisers, including strategist Steve Bannon, Communications Director Hope Hicks, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, White House Counsel Donald McGahn and counsel Ann Donaldson. Donaldson served as McGahn’s chief of staff before both left the administration.
The five were key witnesses in Mueller’s probe of possible obstruction of justice and were sent document requests by the Judiciary panel last month. Nadler said he is concerned about reports that documents relevant to Mueller’s investigation “were sent outside the White House,” waiving executive privilege rights that would block document production.
“To this end, I have asked the committee to authorize me to issue subpoenas, if necessary, to compel the production of documents and testimony,” Nadler said.
Nadler sent requests to 81 people connected to Trump’s political and personal dealings as he launched a wide-ranging investigation into possible obstruction of justice, public corruption and abuses of power.
Barr said in the letter Friday that he is scrubbing the report to avoid disclosing any grand jury information or classified material, in addition to portions of the report that pertain to ongoing investigations or that “would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”
Democrats say they want all of that information, even if some of it can’t be disclosed to the public. They are citing precedents from previous investigations involving presidents and also information disclosed about the Russia investigation to Republicans last year when they held the House majority.
If the committee does issue subpoenas, the path forward is uncertain. If the administration decides to fight, lawmakers could ask federal courts to step in and enforce a subpoena — a fight that could, in theory, reach the Supreme Court. Generally such disputes are instead resolved through negotiations.
The Democrats could also formally ask Mueller to send the Judiciary committee evidence that could be used in possible impeachment proceedings against Trump. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, backed by the majority of her caucus, has said she’s not currently supportive of impeachment.
Barr wrote in his summary that the special counsel did not find that Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. He said Mueller reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed the federal investigation, instead setting out “evidence on both sides” of the question.
Barr himself went further than Mueller in his summary letter, declaring that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to prove in court that Trump had committed obstruction of justice to hamper the probe.
Democrats say they want to know much more about both conclusions and they want to see the evidence unfiltered by Barr.
Republicans have said the Democratic demands are overreach.
“Judiciary Democrats have escalated from setting arbitrary deadlines to demanding unredacted material that Congress does not, in truth, require and that the law does not allow to be shared outside the Justice Department,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary committee.
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