Justice Department To Release 400 Pages Of Redacted Mueller Report

Apr 18, 2019
Originally published on April 18, 2019 9:56 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, after a nearly two-year-long investigation and nearly a month more of waiting, people will soon be able to read some of the findings of the Russia investigation in investigators' own words. The Justice Department is getting ready this morning to release a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report about 2016 election interference. Publishing houses are getting ready to release the report in book form. Washington, D.C., bars are touting drink specials. And our national justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson, has been practicing her speed-reading skills so she can read this report and report on it throughout the day. She has agreed to take a few minutes to join us this morning.

Carrie, thanks a lot.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So we seem to know the bottom line here. No Americans have been charged with conspiring with the Russian government over the last presidential election. And President Trump himself is not going to be charged with obstruction of justice. So with all of that in mind, what is today and this report all about? What are we going to learn?

JOHNSON: Well, there's a lot more to this report than those two endpoints you mentioned. We think the report's about 400 pages. That does not include tables or appendices. And we know it contains not only conclusions but how investigators have analyzed the evidence. And there's a lot of it. We know there have been 500 search warrants, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witness interviews. There's a lot more meat on this bone. And remember; all we've seen so far is just that four-page letter from the attorney general, Bill Barr. His letter just contained some partial quotes from this report, nothing else from the investigators themselves.

GREENE: All right. So 400 pages - I mean, I know some of it's going to be redacted, but it's a lot of material. As you get ready to dig into whatever we get, what exactly are you going to be looking for? What's at the top of your list?

JOHNSON: First of all, most people in the U.S. seem to agree with the Justice Department and the intelligence community that Russia did interfere in the election. It wanted to help Donald Trump and hurt his opponent, Hillary Clinton. I wonder if this report is going to detail how high up that scheme went and whether there are any surprises in store for us.

We do know that Russians have been charged with hacking the Democratic National Committee and some Clinton aides and with blasting propaganda on social media in 2016. But the charges that have come out so far have left a lot of open questions about why no Americans were charged with conspiracy. David, how does that Trump Tower meeting in 2016 come in, when Trump aides met with Russians? And what about Donald Trump's praise for WikiLeaks during the campaign and for his call to Russia? - if you're listening, maybe find the Clinton emails for these reporters.

GREENE: I guess it's a reminder. Even though the Attorney General Barr said in his letter that that no one within Trump's inner circle conspired with Russia, I mean, it could be a lot of nuance here, a lot of those contacts in what exactly Mueller was looking at.

JOHNSON: Absolutely. And I think that's going to be one of the most closely read portions of this report, if we get to see it.

GREENE: So there's been all this back and forth since Attorney General Barr's letter last month about obstruction. The attorney general wrote that prosecutors did not conclude that the president committed a crime. But I mean, Mueller's team, he said, also did not exonerate the president. How have you interpreted that? And how big a role will that play today?

JOHNSON: Well, I've been told there's a big section of this report on obstruction of justice. It's going to include some things we already know, things the president did in public, like firing the former FBI director, Jim Comey, and also the president's tweets about Justice Department leadership. But remember; dozens of current and former White House aides sat for interviews with these investigators. There should be some new details here and new evidence about obstruction.

I'm hearing from sources the special counsel does explain why he didn't make a call one way or another on obstruction. That will be very interesting to read and learn, in part because in the absence of information, some conspiracy theories have flourished. A lot of other theories have flourished. It's important to know what these investigators found and why, from their own words.

GREENE: But I guess, as we get ready for this, we should just note the fact that we're not going to read all the words from Robert Mueller and get everything. There's going to be a lot redacted here, you know, blacked out text. And I just want to play some tape. This is Attorney General Barr talking about that recently to Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM BARR: I identified four areas that I feel should be redacted. And I think most people would agree. The first is grand jury information, 6e material. The second is information that the intelligence community believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods. The third are information in the report that could interfere with ongoing prosecutions. And finally, we intend to redact information that implicates the privacy or reputational interests of peripheral players, where there's a decision not to charge them.

GREENE: So it sounds like a lot, Carrie Johnson. I mean, how significant is what we will not see?

JOHNSON: Well, remember the attorney general, in his confirmation hearing this year, pledged transparency within the bounds of the rules and the law. If he does not fulfill that promise, he is going to hear about it from members of the press and from Democrats in Congress. It's not clear how peripheral figures, like Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, will fit in here. Are we going to read anything about them? Or are they considered people whose privacy need to be protected because they have not yet been charged with crimes? That's going to be hot area.

GREENE: So as I mentioned, this investigation - it took almost two years. And the whole way, President Trump has attacked it as, you know, what he has called a witch hunt. He's been trying to discredit the investigators. Do you feel like that campaign and what he has said repeatedly has had an effect on the credibility of this report, and the report - and how the public will receive it?

JOHNSON: You know, I'd like to wait and read this report before I make judgments. I will say Democrats in Congress are mistrustful of the attorney general. Just this morning, David, Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House are demanding that Robert Mueller, the special counsel himself, testify in public because they feel there's a crisis in confidence in the Attorney General Bill Barr, given what they call some of his partisan actions surrounding this report.

GREENE: OK. Of course, Carrie is going to be working all day on the reporting on this. We'll also bring the attorney general's press conference to you live later this morning. And once we have the redacted report, we'll have special coverage from NPR News with a lot of detailed analysis.

NPR national justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson, thank you so much.

JOHNSON: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.