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The Mueller report no one?s talking about


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The New York Times
SOURCE: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/06/mueller-report-special-counsel-1206147
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Summary

No matter what the memo says, it’s expected to be one of the few items on a fast track for being made public that will be closely scrutinized for insights into the inner workings of the special counsel’s tight-lipped investigation.Barr’s report could very well end up being blank, which itself would be a telling reveal that gives President Donald Trump and the leaders of the Justice Department he appointed tangible proof that the special counsel was allowed to carry out his investigation without interference.By contrast, a report that includes explosive revelations detailing instances in which Mueller clashed with his department supervisors — say, over a subpoena for the president or an indictment against a top Trump aide or family member — would open a road map for Democratic lawmakers who have already begun their own investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, as well as the president’s conduct since taking office.Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning — in your inbox.By signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. By CAITLIN OPRYSKOOn Capitol Hill, many lawmakers said they had no idea that they were set to receive such a report from the Justice Department — but not for lack of interest in its findings.Democrats said they were particularly curious to see whether there’s anything in the other Mueller report that homes in on presidential interference in the special counsel’s work — considering Trump’s repeated criticisms of the Justice Department leadership, call to fire Mueller and decision to appoint Whitaker, who was a vocal critic of the investigation, after he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November.“My sense is that Rosenstein and the Department of Justice have given Mueller wide latitude,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a senior Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.According to several legal experts and lawmakers, the requirement that Barr disclose any disagreements between Mueller and his department supervisors may have helped to keep Trump and Justice leaders from meddling with the special counsel or rejecting his moves outright.“If you know that on the back end you’re going to have to justify yourself to Congress, it has a good deterrent effect of preventing anyone from maybe squashing something the special counsel wanted to do,” said Matthew Axelrod, a former senior official at the Justice Department during the Obama administration. He added that he didn’t think Rosenstein was “litigating this subpoena versus that subpoena, or this interview versus that interview.”James Trusty, a former Justice official who is friends with Rosenstein, said he thinks that the Mueller-Rosenstein relationship has always been on solid footing and that any disagreements were probably resolved without triggering the reporting requirements.“There may be differences between the special counsel and DOJ management from time to time, but unless it became a line in the sand on behalf of Mueller, I don’t think it’s going to make its way into this report,” Trusty said.The Mueller inquiry and all of its different reporting requirements are on track to land amid a deeply partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill, in which all sides are expected to interpret the results in whatever way benefits their political interests.It will also set up an institutional clash between two branches of government: a Trump-led Justice Department that’s trying to adhere to its own internal regulations and oversight-hungry lawmakers.“This isn’t the first time those two institutional forces end up in tension with one another,” Axelrod, the Obama-era official, said.

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