WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney General William Barr could release his first summary as early as Sunday of special counsel Robert Mueller's confidential report on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether Donald Trump, after assuming power, then sought to obstruct the investigation.
Barr and his aides spent hours Saturday poring over the report Mueller handed them late Friday after his 22-month investigation. Barr aides say that he hopes to hand top lawmakers an initial summary after more review on Sunday and could also publicly release the same summary.
Key lawmakers, opposition Democrats and some of Trump's Republican allies, have all called for release of the full report, but it is not clear whether Barr will do so. President Trump said last week he did not object to the full release to the public but also has said it is up to Barr, whom he appointed as the country's top law enforcement official, to decide how much of it is disclosed.
White House aides say Trump has not been briefed on the outcome of Mueller's investigation, a probe that has clouded almost the entirety of his 26-month presidency. The U.S. leader has dozens of times derided Mueller's investigation as unwarranted and a 'witch hunt,' while rejecting accusations that he colluded with Russia or that he tried to thwart the probe.
He is spending the weekend at his Atlantic oceanfront retreat Mar-a-Lago in Florida, playing golf, and uncharacteristically not commenting on Twitter about Mueller. On Sunday, he tweeted, 'Good Morning, Have A Great Day!'
White House aides were relieved to learn one aspect of Mueller's conclusions, that he was not recommending any further indictments that might have ensnared White House officials or Trump family members.
Mueller has already secured guilty pleas or convictions from five key figures in Trump's orbit and indicted a sixth for a variety of offenses, including some for lying about their contacts with Russia during the election campaign or just before Trump took office in January 2017.
Trump's one-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has been ordered to prison to start a three-year term in May for financial crimes and lying to Congress about Trump's efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Former campaign manager Paul Manafort has already been imprisoned for a 7 1/2-year term for financial crimes related to his long-time lobbying efforts for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts just before Trump took office with Russia's then-ambassador to Washington.
Under long-standing Justice Department policy, U.S. presidents cannot be indicted while serving in office, but can face charges once they leave office. Trump's term in the White House ends in January 2021, but he is running for re-election next year for another four-year term.
In addition to the Mueller investigation, Trump is facing numerous investigations brought by Democrats in the House of Representatives, along with federal criminal probes in New York of his business affairs as a real estate mogul before he ran for president and the financing of his inaugural committee as he took power.
If the full Mueller report, and underlying investigative evidence, is not turned over to Congress, Democrats who control the House have vowed to subpoena it and possibly call Mueller to testify about his findings. Some lawmakers have called for Trump's impeachment, but top leaders cautioned that any possible impeachment proceedings should wait until Mueller's conclusions are known.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes that Barr will 'provide as much information as possible'' on the findings, 'with as much openness and transparency as possible.''
Democratic presidential hopefuls also joined the chorus of calls for the reports release.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a frequent critic of the president, requested that Barr disclose the report to the American public. Now.
Kamala Harris, a senator from California, not only demanded total transparency, but said Barr must publicly testify under oath about the investigations findings.
The Democratic heads of six House committees wrote a joint letter to Barr Friday, saying, 'If the Special Counsel has reason to believe that the president has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct, then the Justice Department has an obligation not to conceal such information. The president must be subject to accountability.'
Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has won wide acclaim in Washington for his impartiality, but his report is landing at a time of widespread political division in the United States, with polls showing a sharp split among Americans about Trump's performance in office and whether he should be re-elected.
More than a dozen Democrats are seeking their party's nomination to oppose him in the November 2020 election. Any negative conclusions drawn by Mueller are sure to become a key talking point to voters to oust Trump after a single term in the White House.