Oct 16, 2018, 3:04 PM ET

American public might never see final Mueller report on Russian election interference

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What will special counsel Robert Mueller find when his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election is finally complete?

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The American public might never get to see the full picture.

Under the current special counsel regulation, Mueller is required to provide the attorney general with a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel,” but it will be up to the attorney general — or, at the moment, his deputy — whether to release that report to the public.

But President Donald Trump has publicly considered removing both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who inherited supervision of the investigation after Sessions’ recusal, at various points in the first two years of his administration, stoking concerns from Democrats that their potential replacements could order an end to the investigation or attempt to bury its findings.

Any attempt to withhold Mueller’s report from public view would surely spark a fierce partisan battle, particularly if Democrats take control of the House in the midterms, putting themselves in position to subpoena documents from the Justice Department pertaining to Mueller’s investigation even if its findings aren’t publicly released.

“We expect—and the rule of law demands—that the Special Counsel be permitted to complete his investigation, wherever it may lead, free from political interference, and that the facts be presented for public review so that the American people can know the full truth,” said New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler during a press conference earlier this year. Nadler would serve as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if Democrats retake the House.

PHOTO: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein listens as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce efforts to reduce transnational crime, at the U.S. District Attorneys office, in Washington D.C., Oct. 15, 2018.Al Drago/Reuters
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein listens as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference to announce efforts to reduce transnational crime, at the U.S. District Attorney's office, in Washington D.C., Oct. 15, 2018.

The Department of Justice declined to comment for this report. President Trump has vehemently denied any coordination between his campaign and Russian agents working to influence the election.

Under the current regulations, which were written to shift power to the Justice Department, giving the agency more oversight of future special counsels, in the wake of Kenneth Starr’s years-long investigation of President Bill Clinton, Mueller would be required to provide his final report to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, the acting attorney general for this matter.

Rosenstein is required by regulation to notify the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of the investigation and provide them with an explanation of any instance where he blocked a proposed action by Mueller’s team.

He could also release Mueller’s report to the public if he determines that the release “would be in the public interest,” according to the regulation, but considering Trump’s tumultuous relationship with the Justice Department and its leaders, Rosenstein might not be in a position to make those decisions when Mueller finishes his work.

While Trump recently appeared to reach a détente with Rosenstein, the embattled deputy attorney general traveled to the White House late last month with the expectation that he would be fired, following reports that Rosenstein had suggested recording conversations with the president in connection to possibly invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. Rosenstein said in a statement at the time that he had never "pursued or authorized recording" Trump or advocated for Trump's removal.

And Trump has repeatedly criticized Sessions, stemming from his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe — “I don’t have an attorney general,” Trump told Hill.TV in September — and has reportedly discussed replacing Sessions with his chief of staff Matt Whitaker, according to the Washington Post.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again rally at the Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., Oct. 13, 2018.Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump speaks during a "Make America Great Again" rally at the Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., Oct. 13, 2018.

In a recent interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Trump said he had “no intention” of shutting down the investigation but stopped well short of a guarantee.

“I don’t pledge anything,” he said. “But I will tell you, I have no intention of doing that.”

Democrats and some Republicans have called for the passage of legislation to protect Mueller’s investigation from political interference. Lawmakers have introduced proposals to limit the attorney general’s ability to remove a special counsel and preserve staff, documents and materials if an investigation is shuttered, and have also suggested proposals that would allow Mueller to appeal his removal.

And Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general of the United States during the Obama administration who also served in the Clinton administration and helped draft the regulations, has also called for Rosenstein to transmit “interim reports” to Congress to memorialize Mueller’s investigation and inoculate it from any potential interference in the future.

“Rosenstein could, right now, tell Congress (or even a small group of members, with appropriate safeguards, including secrecy) what has happened — what Mueller has learned so far, whether Rosenstein has ever said “no” to Mueller and where the investigation is headed now,” he wrote in the Washington Post. “Such a move would be unusual, to say the least. But it is a way for Rosenstein to safeguard his legacy. And it could also safeguard the very principle that no one is above the law. Not even the president — and not even this president.”

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  • travis Dejesus

    And this is surprising how? The Republican party and other supporters of the President have done nothing but attack and attempt to weaken the system of checks and balances. This Constitutional assault makes the Nixon years appear to be shear buffoonery!

  • The Outlier

    As we are all very well aware, our 'government' is geared to protect the rich and powerful no matter how shamelessly corrupt and morally bankrupt they are while coming down like a 10 ton weight on misdemeanor offenders, even going so far as to steal their children. I don't think that changing control of Congress is enough to fix anything.

  • Bob

    If the GOP and Sessions buries the Mueller report, there will be a revolt among the Democrats. We the people need to know all the dirt that Mueller uncovered so that charges can be brought. We will not let Trump and his family get off scot free. This nation has already been damaged and ridiculed. The only way to stop Trump is to get rid of him

  • cephalo

    The only reason to question whether this report would be buried is because Trump is guilty of a crime. If its buried, we will all know why.

  • ShawnLetwin

    The name of this company should be changed from ABC News to ABC Speculation...shame on me for getting fooled to actually expect specifics that would warrant real news.

    Looks like ABC is taking a page out of the Russians playbook.

  • The Outlier

    FAT lot of good that does anybody. If there's one thing we have learned in this debacle is that when it comes to defending our democracy, the FBI is entirely corrupt and inept. The Keystone Cops would have been able to find chargeable offenses by now. We've seen the "president" commit crimes live on TV! We've seen the heads of Russian intelligence partying with Trump in the oval office after his victory.

    We've seen Trump bulldoze the entire federal government while Mueller takes his sweet time, indicts some Russians and an irrelevant European lawyer-- gets full cooperation agreements from all the most damaging witnesses-- AND DOES NOTHING. That's a 'protector of our democracy" too inept and indecisive to act to save this country. Too mired in DC subterfuge to ENFORCE THE LAW.

    We've seen the FBI SABOTAGE Hillary Clinton's presidential run, no worries about 'seeming unfair' in THAT case- Comey made it his life's mission to interfere in the election without apology. Now, we get Mueller telling us that he doesn't want to impact the midterms. What a load of BS. They have no problem throwing wrenches into our free elections when it suits them.

    Take your time, Mueller- it hardly matters now. Probably your intention all along. I think we all need to carefully reconsider our assumptions that the Mueller probe is not tainted-- I think it has been subverted. The FBI has proven repeatedly that it cannot be trusted to do its job, and it will always act in the best interests of conservatives. I don't want to hear another word about how 'honorable' Mueller is, HE HAS FAILED US. And it was probably by design.

  • Thomas

    It will be only a matter of time before we get an administration that will decide to release it.

    They might be able to pressures it for a short time, but not forever.

  • logical

    LOL don't want to release it and show that it was all for naught (unless you were one to think tax evasion from manafort was the goal of the huge investigation)

  • Arc_Fault_One

    No recent leaks means the investigation is over. Mueller can't find anything at all.

  • Expert

    The elephant in the room here is the republican party. If this report is made public without redaction it will literally criminalize the entire party. Treason charges would be plentiful. Which, is why the report will be, without a doubt, burried. To do otherwise would appear to 1/3 of our population as an attack. This is because conservative supporters are so compromised by the strategy used against them that they will seek to protect that which is responsible for it.

    The measure of intelligence is the ability to change and when one cannot change they polarize and demonize the facts to avoid reconciliation.

  • Henrik Moller

    Yeah. Mueller can find no connection between Trump and any Russians because no such connection exists. By now, Mueller knows that--which is why he'll never voluntarily release the report.

  • John Mooney

    The report might NOT show definitive proof that Trump was involved. However, the report will show his incredible fraud with regards to money laundering, tax evasion, etc. What then?? Will that be enough for the GOP leadership to do what's right?
    I doubt it. I've lost faith in our systems of checks and balances, with the deeply flawed Kavanaugh appointment tipping our democracy even further.

  • Walter

    I can see that given all the time and money thrown at the thing that it could be very embarrassing to release a report that shows they found nothing.

  • Frank Roberts

    Trump/GOP aren't afraid of anything. Make it public - bring it on!

  • äskew

    Not surprised if it is kept from the public, but it should be shown and the results accepted by everyone.

  • Citizenatlarge1

    I agree with the Democrats. The full report on the findings of possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump camlpaign MUST be released to the public. However, it is already clear that if no collusion is found there will be all kinds of conspiracy stories by the Democrats and more of the same by the rabid extreme left storm troopers. This very story appears to be setting the stage for such a scenario. I say let the truth, whatever it may be, come out and let the chips fall where they will. We all know that nothing but a conviction of Trump, guilty or not, is the only thing that will apease the left.

  • kcmookie

    It doesn't really matter. It will simply be the latest conflict between the left and the right. People will see their own narrative regardless, and in the end it will be the latest distraction that gets us nowhere. Our system is horribly broke, and as long as the people in Congress have to spend 85% of their time running for office, nothing will change. Term limits would be a good starting point, and stop voting for the same person that has become a part of the system/problem.

  • Jim Botto

    The idea that this report won't be released is laughable. Even if people try to suppress it, it will be leaked.

  • tet1953

    If it exonerates Trump, it will be released. If it doesn't, it won't. Simple as that.

  • RettasVegas

    ''I don't pledge to anything!'' Trump said.

    Really?
    Because I saw you put your tiny hand on Lincolns bible & pledged to serve, honor & protect American's, ALL American's.
    Trump has NO moral, or spiritual connections to other humans, he's all about himself, always has been, always will be.
    Next watch him throw his children under the Mueller bus if their legal fees start draining that GOP slush fund (crooks's legal aid).
    #GodSpeedMueller!

  • Ima Knut

    I keep telling people that but a lot don’t believe it. They are all republicans people. It’s their football.

  • Bill Toone

    Of course not. We are just the lowly citizens.
    We are told to shut up and vote blindly.

  • Billie Bob Norton

    Inquiring minds want to know...Where have they been hiding Rudy G lately? Was he "detained" by the Saudi's????

  • mollydtt

    I’ve always thought that the report would stay with the AG or with the GOP senate.

    That said, there would be an outcry over withholding the report. Which wouldn’t have any power to release it.

  • CaptnBlynd

    Could, maybe, if. There is no indication in any manner of what will be done. Pure speculation.

    I expect it will be released when it is finally concluded that there is no evidence of collusion. I also expect the Dems to condemn the report as corrupted, limited and politically influenced.

  • WhosVoice

    Even this incredibly inept administration knows they can't keep the report secret. It will become public but any information that is damaging to this administration will be redacted for National Security reasons. Thus making the report public but with holding any evidence against Trump.

  • S1AMER

    No news here, folks.

    And what's missing from this article is the strong possibility that Trump or Congressional Republicans might just send every document and byte from Mueller's work down the memory hole before anyone outside the administration gets to see a thing.

  • THEFred

    Remember back when Paul Ryan and Mitch McTurtle cared so much about Transparency?

    Paul Ryan said: "But I think disclosure is the way to go. It's the best disinfectant. And I think we need to disclose, that brings us accountability, that brings us transparency."

    But he was talking ONLY about the GOP's Nunes propaganda memo. When it comes to the truth about Trump, and Kavanaugh etc., those hypocrites are always dead set against allowing the public to see the truth.

  • John Michael Davis

    I'm confident it will be leaked. They want us to see it, they know we need to see it, we'll see it someway. Remember there are "adults" in the room trying to hold things together for America.

  • JesterMarcus

    If you keep it secret, things will only get worse.

  • Prophet With Honor

    We paid for it, we get to see it.

  • Rubber Banned

    Withholding that report would be a disastrously stupid idea for this country. Good or bad, the people are entitled to know the outcome and the conspiracy theories and assumptions that would result from withholding it would tear the country apart.

  • WhosVoice

    Why would the most transparent administration in American history 😂 keep Mueller report from becoming public?