After A 2-Year Probe, Redacted Mueller Report Is About To Be Released
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Only a handful of government reports ever claim such intense public interest that they are widely read far outside of government. There is, for example, the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy assassination, another report on an investigation of President Clinton. There's the report by the 9/11 Commission, which became a bestselling book. And this morning, the public receives a redacted version of a special counsel's investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
What we know so far comes from Attorney General William Barr. He says that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, did not charge President Trump's campaign with criminal conspiracy as Russia worked to aid Trump's election. Barr also quotes the report in saying that Mueller examined obstruction of justice and presented evidence but neither charged nor exonerated the president. That's what we know according to the attorney general. Now we learn more. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is here.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.
INSKEEP: How's this report being released?
KEITH: So Attorney General Barr is going to hold a press conference later this morning, where he is expected to describe his process in deciding what should be redacted in the report and what should be visible for everyone to read. Then after that, the Justice department will send the document - the report over to Congress. And sometime after that, it will be posted online for everyone to read and consume.
This process, this order - the syntax - is not - is making Democrats in Congress very upset. They say that Barr is trying to lay the groundwork and sort of set things up in people's minds. Here is Jerry Nadler. He is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JERRY NADLER: The central concern here is that the 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.
INSKEEP: I guess we should just note; the accusation here is we're living in this instant media environment. This will surely be live on television. It will be live-tweeted by everyone. And Barr gets the first swing - or yet another first swing, so to speak...
INSKEEP: ...In saying what the report says, if he wants to go that way, I guess.
KEITH: Right. And it is unusual that there would be a Justice Department press conference before anyone has seen the document that is being discussed. And as you alluded to, this follows - already there's some sensitivity because Barr previously - when the Mueller report was delivered to him - quickly put out a letter, laying out what he said were the principal findings of the Mueller report. And that was highly criticized, especially by Democrats, because it included a lot of language but very little of it actually quoted from the report itself.
INSKEEP: I want to note something, though, that we heard from Democratic pollster Margie Omero elsewhere in today's program, though, Tamara Keith. She noted that even though the White House has insisted, again and again and again, that the president is exonerated by this report, the public has not been persuaded. Large majorities doubt the president's truthfulness. Large numbers of people say they want to just wait for the report, see what the report says. And I guess that's what people can do today. What are some of the big questions that people have on their minds?
KEITH: Well, one of the questions is, just how much of it is going to be redacted? Another question is whether Attorney General Barr's description of the report was accurate or whether the report itself is much more damaging for the president than Barr let on. Also, as relates to obstruction of justice, a lot of the president's actions were public, like the firing of FBI director Jim Comey, his tweets. But we might learn what didn't happen in public. What happened at the White House? Many White House staff and lawyers were interviewed at length by Mueller's team. And what we don't know is how politically damaging any of that might be.
And then there's also the question of collusion or conspiracy with the Russians. We do know that Russia did try to interfere in the presidential election in 2016. We do know that people in President Trump's orbit met with, spoke with people connected to Russia. We don't know whether Mueller ever connected any of those dots. He certainly hasn't in public. And what we know from Barr's letter and summary is that he did not find criminal conspiracy.
INSKEEP: Which is different, perhaps, than collusion, but we'll find that out. And we should also note from Barr's letter - just remember one line. There's a line there, at one point, saying, most of the acts that I'm discussing here are already public. They've been reported. So we'll find out what the other - the minority of acts that are not public might be that he was talking about. Any idea how the president is going to respond to all of this?
KEITH: Well, I mean, I think we can take a guess based on the way he responded to Barr's letter. Over the last few weeks, he has hit one message again and again and again.
(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The special counsel completed its report and found no collusion and no obstruction.
As far as I'm concerned - I don't care about the Mueller report - I've been totally exonerated.
The collusion delusion is over.
KEITH: Now, we should say that Barr's letter, again, did not say no collusion. It said no criminal charges for conspiracy. And also, President Trump was not exonerated explicitly. The Mueller report says, quote, "while this report does not conclude that President Trump committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him as relates to obstruction of justice." President Trump said he may even have a press conference. We don't know. But I'd expect we'd hear from him one way or another today.
INSKEEP: Although, we will also hear from Robert Mueller and his team, in their own words, at some point today. Tamara...
INSKEEP: ...Thanks so much.
KEITH: Thank you.
INSKEEP: NPR's Tamara Keith. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.