Mueller Report Expected to Go to Justice Department Within Weeks

WASHINGTON — The new attorney general, William P. Barr, is preparing for the special counsel to deliver a report in coming weeks on the results of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, two officials briefed on the Justice Department’s preparations said.

President Trump’s legal team and other allies of the administration have incorrectly predicted an imminent end to the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for well over a year. It remains unclear whether Mr. Mueller might take further public action, such as additional indictments, before submitting his report to Mr. Barr.

Once the report is submitted, it is not certain how much of it will become public or when.

The submission of a report by Mr. Mueller would effectively mean his office is closing down. The special counsel would no longer be conducting investigations in conjunction with the F.B.I., and Mr. Mueller would not be opening any new lines of inquiry.

But active cases that have not yet been brought to a conclusion would likely continue. New prosecutors from outside the special counsel’s operation could pick up cases that remain in progress. And some cases that spun off from Mr. Mueller’s investigation — including those being conducted by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan involving Michael D. Cohen and Mr. Trump’s business — would continue unaffected.

No matter what the special counsel concludes, the findings will be sure to send shock waves through Washington, with Mr. Trump’s presidency on the line and both Democrats and Republicans poised to spin the contents to their advantage. The White House is bracing for revelations that could politically damage Mr. Trump, or open him up to the possibility of impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House, even if he is not accused of criminal conduct.

The transmittal of the report to Mr. Barr would also place the attorney general in the spotlight as he decides how much of the findings to share with lawmakers and the public.

Mr. Mueller was appointed as the special counsel on May 17, 2017, in the wake of Mr. Trump’s decision eight days earlier to dismiss James B. Comey as F.B.I. director.

Mr. Mueller was given a mandate to investigate whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election and “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” He was also given the option of referring any other matters that he might come across in doing so to other federal prosecutors, who can further investigate and open new cases.

Once Mr. Mueller’s report is in his hands, Mr. Barr will have to review it for any classified information that would have to be omitted from any summary that Mr. Barr might decide to release, a process that could take days or even weeks.

Former Justice Department and F.B.I. officials said that Mr. Barr could also draw up an unclassified summary to be widely distributed to lawmakers — making leaks all but certain — as well as a classified version to be shared with a smaller group of Congressional leaders.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department and a spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

The country has been riveted by Mr. Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference and whether Trump campaign officials worked with the Russians trying to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.

The special counsel’s office has indicted dozens of people, including a half dozen former Trump campaign advisers who have been indicted or pleaded guilty to past financial crimes, lying to the F.B.I., obstructing the special counsel investigation and failure to properly disclose their work for foreign governments.

The office has also indicted dozens of Russian intelligence officers for stealing and then weaponizing information from Hillary Clinton’s inner circle. And it has indicted Russian propagandists for the misinformation campaigns they spread on social media that sought to dampen support for Mrs. Clinton in her campaign against Mr. Trump.

But Mr. Mueller has not filed explicit public allegations that Mr. Trump, his campaign officials or other members of his inner circle worked with Russian operatives to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

And the special counsel’s office has not divulged any information regarding one of the main strands of its investigation — whether Mr. Trump or his aides could be criminally charged with obstruction of justice.

At his confirmation hearings, Mr. Barr resisted pressure from Democrats to make firm commitments about how transparent he will be in sharing Mr. Mueller’s report with Congress and the public.

The regulations governing the special counsel say only that Mr. Mueller must submit to the attorney general a confidential report detailing his decisions to bring charges in the inquiry. It is then up to Mr. Barr to decide how much of that report should be shared with Congress.

During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Barr said that he believed it best to be transparent about the report, consistent with the special counsel’s rules and the law.

Before he was nominated, Mr. Barr wrote a 19-page memo last summer arguing that Mr. Mueller was on shaky legal ground if he tried to treat Mr. Trump’s decision to fire Mr. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., as an act of obstruction — a memo that has Democrats in Congress worried that the attorney general comes to the investigation with biases that could move him to share very little of the report with lawmakers.

Mr. Barr has also noted that the department does not generally publish derogatory information about individuals who have not been charged with crimes. Given that there is a longstanding Justice Department legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, Mr. Barr may have to weigh whether it is right to share any information from the report that may cast Mr. Trump in unflattering light.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to travel to Vietnam next week for a summit with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. Should the department share any damaging information about the president during his diplomatic trip, it could undermine his meeting.

The president recently called Mr. Barr “a tremendous man, a tremendous person, who really respects this country and respects the Justice Department.”

Even after the Mueller report has been delivered and shared, federal prosecutors in New York, Washington and possibly elsewhere will continue to investigate Mr. Trump, his businesses and other leads uncovered by the special counsel’s office.

Those investigations and the possibility of criminal charges against Mr. Trump or an entity or person close to him are likely to loom over the remainder of the president’s term.


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