Barr Plans News Conference Thursday on Mueller Report's Release

Shannon Pettypiece and Chris Strohm
Barr Plans News Conference Thursday on Mueller Report's Release

(Bloomberg) -- Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Washington time Thursday on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which the Justice Department has said it will release that morning.

The almost 400-page report will be delivered to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon, according to a Justice Department official.

The document will be closely scrutinized for any new disclosures of contacts between President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 election, as well as any evidence that would show whether the president sought to obstruct justice by interfering in the probe.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, also will take part in the news conference.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said Wednesday it appears Barr plans to present the report’s findings “in his own words rather than the words of Special Counsel Mueller.”

"This is wrong,” Nadler told reporters in New York. “It is not the proper role of the attorney general."

He accused Barr of trying to “bake in’’ a narrative about the report and “waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump.”

Mueller submitted his final, confidential report to Barr last month. Its public release -- and Barr’s comments Thursday -- will the put the attorney general’s reputation to the test because of a four-page letter he issued on March 24 that he said summarized its key findings.

Trump has said since then that the Mueller report found no collusion or obstruction and provided “Total EXONERATION.”

On Wednesday, Trump predicted “you’ll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow.” In an interview with WMAL radio in Washington, Trump called Barr a “fantastic attorney general” and said Barr would be holding a press conference before the Justice Department announced that plan.

But Democratic Representative David Cicilline, who serves on the Judiciary panel, called Barr’s planned press conference “an amateur attempt at spin.”

“It’s difficult to understand why the attorney general would hold a press conference tomorrow for any purpose other than to try and portray the findings of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation in a way that’s favorable to the president,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

In the letter he sent to lawmakers, Barr said Mueller didn’t establish that Trump or people associated with his campaign conspired with Russia in its campaign interference “despite multiple efforts by Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

But the special counsel found there was evidence “on both sides of the question” of whether Trump obstructed justice and that his probe didn’t “exonerate” the president, according to Barr’s summary.

Nonetheless, Barr said that he and Rosenstein concluded that the evidence on obstruction didn’t warrant a criminal charge.

The Justice Department has been redacting Mueller’s report to exclude classified information, grand jury proceedings, material about ongoing investigations and material that would damage the reputation of a private citizen “peripheral” to the investigation. Barr has said he’ll color-code redacted material to include why it was withheld.

Democrats in Congress have demanded that Barr provide them with Mueller’s full report along with all the evidence behind it. The release may be the start of a legal clash with subpoenas from committees in the Democratic-led House that could wind up at to the Supreme Court.

Seeking to head off a legal battle, Barr said during hearings last week that he would work with leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on providing them more information after the public version of the report is released.

(Updates with Nadler remarks in fifth and sixth paragraphs.)

--With assistance from Justin Sink and Billy House.

To contact the reporters on this story: Shannon Pettypiece in Washington at spettypiece@bloomberg.net;Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Joe Sobczyk, Justin Blum

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