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Mueller Concludes Investigation


Maybe you heard. Special counsel Robert Mueller has turned in his report to Attorney General William Barr. Mr. Barr will now decide how much of it will be seen by the public. Democrats and Republicans alike have said they want the public to know what's in there. NPR's national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has covered the special counsel since the beginning. Carrie, thanks so much for being with us.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: And I know you know what's in this report, right?

JOHNSON: Oh, I wish. What we do know is that it's comprehensive, although we don't know quite how long it is. We also know it's close hold, Scott. Only a very small number of people inside the Justice Department have read this. In fact, the White House doesn't have it. The White House has not yet read it. We also know the attorney general, Bill Barr, told Congress the Justice Department never vetoed or overrode any decision the special counsel wanted to make. And that's significant. There was no big disagreement about investigations or indictments.

SIMON: Well, you have reported there will not be any further indictments from the special counsel. A lot of the people around the president are taking this as an exoneration, as you know. Does that mean nothing else forthcoming?

JOHNSON: I wouldn't go that far, Scott. I don't think these people should stop holding their breath. In fact, there are ongoing investigations among U.S. attorney's offices in New York, Virginia, in Washington, D.C., over parts of the Trump circle, The Trump Organization and other people close to the president. We know in New York state prosecutors have decided to charge Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, with state crimes, which are not pardonable. And there are also big open questions about what is going to happen with that campaign finance investigation, the federal one in New York, that Trump's personal lawyer - former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen has been cooperating with.

SIMON: So there's this report. Mr. Barr has it. What happens now?

JOHNSON: Well, we know now that the attorney general, Bill Barr, is likely to tell Congress perhaps as early as this weekend in the next several hours or days the top-line conclusions, the principal conclusions by the special counsel. The fight, Scott, is going to be over how much of the underlying material gets shared with members of Congress. Democrats really want to see that information.

SIMON: William Barr is not somebody who owes his political fortunes to Donald Trump. He has a career, a distinguished career, before this. What can you tell us about him now?

JOHNSON: Bill Barr is one of the few people, maybe one of two people, who has served as U.S. attorney general twice. Barr served as AG under President George H.W. Bush. He's 68 years old. He told senators as part of his confirmation hearings that he does not really need this job, and he's happy to walk away from it if the White House or anybody else tries to interfere with his work. And I believe he's a man of his word on that score. He is there to protect traditions and independence at DOJ.

SIMON: And maybe we should remind ourselves, this began as a report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, not just a report on President Trump's involvement or lack thereof. What are you going to be looking for in this report? What questions would you like to have answered?

JOHNSON: You know, Scott, we have not seen a conspiracy charge against any of the Americans who have gone down in the course of this probe, a conspiracy charge that explicitly accuses them of conspiring with the Russians. Although there have been hints, you know, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who's been charged with lying, the indictment against him says he was in touch with people in the Trump campaign, in the Trump circle.

SIMON: And let me point out, you're saying conspiring, not collusion, right?

JOHNSON: That's exactly right. There's no federal crime of collusion, so we're talking about conspiracy here. I want to know more about that and why investigators decided not to charge anybody with that crime. I also want to know what Mueller has amassed regarding alleged obstruction by President Trump himself. Trump, remember, fired the FBI director, James Comey, which really intensified and kickstarted this whole investigation. We know the Justice Department does not believe you can charge a sitting president with a crime, but do they believe, have they gathered evidence, that Trump did anything wrong on the obstruction front along the way here?

SIMON: And that could be indictable after the president leaves office in two years or six.

JOHNSON: That's exactly right. It could be indictable down the road, Scott. It also could be determined by Democrats in Congress that it's an impeachable offense, too.

SIMON: NPR's Carrie Johnson, thanks so much for being back with us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.