The highly-anticipated findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's report are set to be finally released on Thursday. The Justice Department is expected to publicly issue a redacted version of the report on possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential elections in Trump's favor.
US Attorney General William Barr announced a press conference at 9.30 am on Thursday to discuss the report before its official release. Mueller and his team produced the final report to Barr last month, marking an end to the two-year-long extensive investigation. The AG, in turn, released a four-page-long summary of the 400-pages report, emphasizing that the special counsel found no evidence of collusion. Barr’s summary, however, left the Congress dissatisfied with the little information produced in it as they demanded a public release of the full document.
Multiple people on the Special Counsel’s investigative team have since come out — on conditions of anonymity — to suggest that Mueller's final report has a lot more damning content than was revealed in the Trump-appointed AG's cursory summary presented to the Congress.
Barr stated that the Mueller report consisted of two parts: one detailing the Russia interference efforts, which included a rundown of Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials; and the other part consisted of evidence of alleged obstruction of justice by the president. The AG had also said that some information from the report — which is officially titled Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election — will be redacted for security reasons.
With the release of the report just hours away, here are the top five things to watch for in the document and what it could mean for the country and the president:
Obstruction of justice
Attorney General Barr quoted a line from the document in his summary, stating: "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
Mueller's report "catalogu[es] the President's actions" and mentions evidence of potential obstruction of justice by Trump. The Special Counsel left the decision on Barr to criminally charge the president, who decided against it. This suggests that Mueller, a lifelong prosecutor, believed that there was substantial evidence present against the president for him to be potentially charged with a crime.
The Washington Post, earlier this month, cited anonymous sources close to the special counsel's probe, stating that the investigative team unearthed evidence of obstruction of justice which was "alarming and significant," with one team member telling the outlet: "It was much more acute than Barr suggested."
The NYT's report on the issue stated that "Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry" and that the findings of the probe were "more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated."
Contacts with Russia
“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," Barr quoted the report in his summary.
Although the report did not find any concrete evidence of collusion, there are signs that the report holds new information on the Trump campaign's contact with Russia. A source close to Mueller's team told NBC News that the report "paint[s] a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation."
President Trump, on multiple occasions, declared that there were no attempts made by his campaign to contact Russian officials. However, the special counsel has brought charges against 34 people and three companies linked with Trump throughout the probe. There is an indication that the report could throw more light on the Russian contact and if the president knew of any of it.
Redactions in the Report
One major thing to look out for in the report would be how much of the information would be redacted from the Mueller team’s document. Barr is set to release the document after immense pressure from the Congress, which was not satisfied with the Attorney General’s succinct summary of the extensive report, however, he has since emphasized that the report to be released will be redacted.
The AG is set to redact four categories of material, and the redactions would be color-coded by category. The first category reportedly contains grand jury information, including witness interviews. The second consists of classified information. The third includes information linked to continuing investigations, while the fourth pertains to the so-called derogatory information about people who were interviewed or scrutinized during the probe but were not formally charged, which could include President Trump.
Barr is considered a Trump loyalist who thinks little of the Mueller probe. Barr would possibly be asked to explain why he thought certain material in the report was unfit for public consumption. Democrats in the House have already said they will subpoena the full report.
Summaries Created by Mueller Team
The Special Counsel's team had included multiple summary paragraphs for quick public release in the document, however, it is reported that Barr was displeased with the summary and released his own interpretation. Multiple news outlets cited sources close to Mueller report's authors stating that they had included detailed and extensive summaries of the findings suitable for public consumption, and are were perturbed that Barr did not release them.
The report was prepared "so that the front matter from each section could have been released immediately – or very quickly" a member of the Mueller team told The Washington Post. "It was done in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself."
It remains to be seen whether the summaries written by the Mueller team will be redacted, and if not what information does it contain which led Barr to be displeased with it.
Clarity on unresolved cases
Media reports, ever since the 2016 presidential elections, have been reporting of Russian operatives and possible devious schemes linked to the Trump campaign, whether it is the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting or the links of the campaign to WikiLeaks. Mueller's report would provide clear details on such cases as whether President Trump was involved in the Trump Tower meeting or knew of the meet up with a Russian official.
The details would be backed up with evidence such as surveilled communications and seized evidence, which will shed more light on what was really going on in these cases. It is also expected to extensively mention the circumstances which led to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's arrest and whether the president told Cohen to lie to Congress as alleged by the attorney.
The report could also contain some new information about the Trump family which could be damaging to members like the president's eldest son Donald Trump Jr and his son-in-law and senior White House official Jared Kushner.
The report could also throw some light on the exact circumstances which led to former FBI chief James Comey's firing or whether he had attempted to fire him at least twice before being stopped by former White House counsel Don McGahn.