Last week, the House of Representatives voted 420-0 on a resolution calling for Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s report at the conclusion of his investigation to be released to Congress and the public. According to a former Justice Department lawyer, however, not only may that resolution not be effective, it also may not be the most important report related to Russian election interference and President Donald Trump.
Georgetown Law Professor Martin Lederman, who previously worked for the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post, “Those hoping or expecting to read [Mueller’s]report, however, will likely be disappointed. It probably won’t see the light of day.” Lederman said this isn’t so problematic, because “other reports, which will be submitted to Congress and parts of which may well become public, are likely to be far more revealing and more significant” than the one Mueller submits to Attorney General William Barr.
As Law&Crime has discussed in the past, Mueller’s report is only one step in the process that will take place at the end of the Russia probe, and regulations state that it’s a confidential document meant for the Attorney General. The report that goes to Congress is Barr’s report discussing Mueller’s investigation. Democrats have feared that Barr would not be forthcoming with many details in his report, despite his repeated claim that he believes in transparency and the importance of the public finding out about the investigation.
Concerns over Barr’s report may not matter, though, as Lederman states, “the Mueller report and Barr notification aren’t the whole ballgame — not by a long shot.” He refers to counterintelligence reports—not just from Mueller or Barr, but the FBI as well—that deal specifically with Russian influence on the president, and whether or not Trump has been compromised.
Lederman notes that Mueller’s investigation began as an FBI counterintelligence probe, and as such is not meant simply to determine what crimes have been committed in the past, but what threats exist in the present, or may exist in the future. Their findings when it comes to this will be reported, he says.
“The first and primary audiences for the results of an FBI counterintelligence investigation,” he writes, “are not surprisingly, the components of the intelligence community responsible for disrupting and protecting against the identified threat. In addition, however, the FBI has a legal obligation to ‘keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed’ of the fruits of such an investigation.”
This means that even if Congress doesn’t get details regarding the ins and outs of Mueller’s investigation and prosecutions, they will likely still get more important information.
“Whatever the historical practice has been, it’s virtually certain in this case that Barr, Mueller and the FBI will, at a minimum, inform the intelligence committees about whatever evidence Muller has collected concerning whether Trump is compromised with respect to Russia and, if so, in what way and to what effect,” Lederman believes.
That information could answer several questions that Lederman raises regarding President Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Does Trump have financial obligations to Russian interests? Was he — and does he continue to be — motivated by the prospects of a Moscow Trump Tower? Does Russian intelligence have kompromat on Trump that makes him susceptible to undue influence? Or is there a more benign explanation?
Once House and Senate intelligence committees have that information, their chairmen will determine how much of it gets released to the rest of Congress. Given that the House committee is run by Democrats and the Senate committee is led by Republicans, it seems likely that at least one of them will turn over information, regardless of whether it is favorable or damaging to the president.
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