Congress

The Mueller report gets a 9:30 Club kind of debut

Key questions as the hype around the Russian interference probe gets release

Attorney General William Barr will command the spotlight as the man who releases the heavily anticipated Mueller report. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Coming to a Justice Department near you: The most highly anticipated investigative report in at least a generation, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, gets some pre-release hype at 9:30 EDT on Thursday in Washington before its wide release later in the day. 

Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be on hand at the Justice Department to deliver the (perhaps heavily redacted) goods. So as one of the few events that could preempt “Today” and “Good Morning America” gets underway, here are some of the key questions surrounding the report. 

Why is Barr holding a press conference?

Democrats already criticized the attorney general for issuing a four-page summary of Mueller’s report weeks before releasing it. And some are asking why Barr would hold a press conference on it Thursday rather then let the report speak for itself.

What kind of response will the White House have, and who will deliver it? 

While President Donald Trump and his senior aides have claimed exoneration by Mueller’s report, at least as divined through Barr’s summary last month of the report’s findings, the White House has been bracing for revelations that no one has anticipated.  

The president is never shy about expressing his feelings, whether it be on Twitter or at a public event or on his way to Marine One for a weekend jaunt to Mar-a-Lago. Most indications point to the boss having his say first, and the staff following suit. But you never know. 

How quickly will House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler issue a subpoena for the full report?

The Judiciary Committee voted earlier this month to give Nadler authority to subpoena an unredacted version of the report and the underlying evidence used to compile it. The chairman has said he plans to use that authority if DOJ provides a heavily redacted report. The question is not if he’ll issue a subpoena, but when.

Will Republicans defend the redactions?

Members of both parties have said they want to see the full report, but Republicans have preemptively defended some categories of redactions that would be acceptable even as Democrats are crying foul. Will the GOP find a way to defend whatever information is redacted in an effort to help put the issue to bed?

How long will it be before the judicial branch is hauled into the fight?

With House Democrats ramping up their demands to see the full Mueller report, Barr showing no inclination to give in and the Justice Department unlikely to enforce any congressional demands, it might just be a matter of time before the courts are asked to settle a classic balance of powers argument between the legislative and executive branches. 

How involved was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in DOJ’s decisions not to prosecute for obstruction of justice?

Livid that Barr jumped to that conclusion, Democrats point to a memo he wrote before being nominated for the job suggesting the special counsel should have never opened an inquiry related to obstruction, but they have not yet raised similar complaints about Rosenstein. Yet Rosenstein will be there at Barr’s side Thursday morning, in a show of (apparent) DOJ unity. 

Will the report clear up questions about surveillance on the 2016 Trump campaign?

Barr caused a stir when he said in testimony before a Senate panel last week that “spying did occur.” He later walked that back, saying, “I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying I am concerned about it and looking into it, that’s all.” But perhaps Barr’s original remark was an inadvertent omission of something in the Mueller report he wasn’t in a position to unveil at the time.

Barr on Mueller memo: ‘The letter speaks for itself’

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