Justice Department To Release Redacted Version Of Mueller Report On Thursday
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
And now to Washington, where the long wait to see the Mueller report is nearly over here. The Justice Department says it will release the special counsel report about Russian election interference this Thursday, but it's still unclear how much of the document people will get to see. NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been following this story, and she joins us now. Hey, Carrie.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: So can you just take us back for a moment? What do we know about this report and what it will look like when it gets released?
JOHNSON: Remember that special counsel Robert Mueller delivered this report to Justice Department leaders on March 22 - quite a while ago.
CHANG: Right. Yeah.
JOHNSON: It's long. It's about 400 pages, and it's separated into sections that cover things like obstruction of justice and conspiracy, also known as collusion in this White House. The report covers the analysis as well as the conclusions the special counsel reached. Now, a lot of work went into this investigation - nearly two years, 500 search warrants, 2,800 subpoenas.
JOHNSON: But all people have seen is a four-page letter that the attorney general, Bill Barr, sent to Congress last month. Remember, in that letter, Barr says prosecutors did not have enough evidence to establish conspiracy charges against any Americans for conspiring with the Russian government. And Barr says he can determine that President Trump did not obstruct justice, so Trump won't face any criminal charges either.
CHANG: OK. But there's still a lot that we don't know. What are you personally going to be looking for when you get your hands on this report on Thursday?
JOHNSON: I'm curious about a lot of things. The first is the special counsel did not reach a conclusion about whether Trump should be charged with obstructing justice, but the special counsel also wrote he did not exonerate the president. Why not? Was that because the Justice Department guidance says a sitting president can't be charged with a crime while he's in office, or for some other reason?
Another thing I wonder about - what other evidence did investigators gather about obstruction? A lot was done in the open - the firing of former FBI Director Jim Comey, for instance. But what else did this team pry out of this White House?
And then on another front, conspiracy. Was the evidence just not strong enough on conspiracy because Trump campaign officials didn't know what they were doing? Were they being duped by the Russian government or Russian business leaders? Or are they more like what some former intelligence officers call useful idiots?
CHANG: Now, the attorney general told Congress last week that he would be redacting, or blacking out, parts of this report. That prompted a question from Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. Here's what he asked.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRIAN SCHATZ: The basic question, I think, for the public is, are we going to get the gist of this, or is it going to be, you know, on January of 2015, and then you have to flip 15 pages to find the next text?
WILLIAM BARR: You will get more than the gist.
CHANG: OK, more than the gist, but how much more, Carrie? What do you think?
JOHNSON: What we know is the process has been happening in connection with members of the special counsel team as of last week. Barr told Congress he had not overruled that team on any redactions.
And we also know there are categories of material that are going to be hidden - things about ongoing investigations, since there are offshoots ongoing in D.C. and New York and Virginia that are still active. Classified material's not going to be in there. Grand jury material is unlikely to be in there. And also unlikely to be in there - sensitive information that could hurt the privacy of third parties who were not charged.
Now, the attorney general says that category will not apply to the president, but what about Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump or the son-in-law, Jared Kushner? We just don't know yet.
CHANG: So many questions still left to be answered. NPR justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson. Thanks, Carrie.
JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.