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The political drama surrounding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month probe enters its next – and perhaps most controversial – phase today.
Attorney General William Barr's release of a redacted version of Mueller's final report may disappoint everyone – President Donald Trump, lawmakers and the public.
The almost 400-page document will provide the fullest portrait yet of Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian collusion with Trump’s 2016 campaign and whether the president sought to obstruct justice. It will give new insights into his findings, analysis and reasons for his conclusions, Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece report.
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plan a news conference on the release at 9:30 a.m. in Washington. The report will go to Congress on compact disc between 11 a.m. and noon, according to the Justice Department.
Democrats want Barr to cancel the news conference and “let the full report speak for itself.”
The attorney general has promised a color-coded system to identify the reasons why certain information in Mueller’s report is being withheld. A limited number of members of Congress will see a “less redacted” version, prosecutors said.
Those omissions may fuel legal challenges and lingering suspicion about the full extent of Mueller’s findings. House Democrats signaled their intention to press on with their own investigations into Trump’s finances and potential money laundering tied to Russia, demanding documents from nine banking giants.
Trump declared he’d received “complete and total exoneration” when Barr issued a summary of Mueller’s assessment last month. Today’s events will test that claim more thoroughly just as he prepares to ramp up his 2020 re-election bid.
Dear readers, Balance of Power is taking a short break and will resume regular publication on Tuesday after the holidays. Tactical weapon | North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched the test of a “new-type tactical guided weapon,” state media reported. The first public test of a major weapon since nuclear talks with Trump collapsed in February sent a loud message to the U.S. that Kim wants a removal of sanctions choking his country’s economy. Still, experts say Kim left the door open for talks as the demonstration likely wasn’t of a nuclear device or intercontinental missile.
Seeing a bluff | Germany’s government is dismissing Trump’s threat to curtail intelligence-sharing if it doesn’t take steps to keep Huawei Technologies equipment out of 5G mobile networks because of security concerns over alleged Chinese spying, Patrick Donahue reports. German officials believe Washington is grandstanding since the two allies rely on each other too much to risk jeopardizing their data-sharing relationship.
Another exit | Energy Secretary Rick Perry is planning to leave the Trump administration and is finalizing the terms and timing of his departure, Jennifer Jacobs, Jennifer A. Slouchy and Ari Natter report. Perry, an Air Force veteran who was also Texas’s longest-serving governor, has enjoyed a good rapport with Trump. He’s been preparing the agency’s deputy, Dan Brouillette, though it’s unclear if Trump would tap Brouillette as his successor.
Famine threat | As the world’s newest nation tries to emerge from five years of civil war, South Sudan’s biggest threat may not be the men with guns, but famine. Almost seven million people – more than half of the population – could face severe food shortages between May and July, according to the United Nations, signaling the huge challenge to efforts to stabilize the oil-producing country.
Personal ratings | Chinese bureaucrats are finding their chances of promotion increasingly tied to what they do outside the office in their free time. Dozens of cities and provinces are using so-called social credit systems to rate civil servants’ personal behavior as President Xi Jinping curbs dissent and tightens his grip on power. China’s already monitoring officials in various ways, including via a mobile app that tests Communist Party members’ loyalty.
What to Watch
Vladimir Putin meets Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid in Moscow today in the first top-level meeting between the Russian leader and the head of a Baltic state in almost a decade. Senior U.S. and Chinese officials are scheduling more face-to-face trade talks in an effort to reach a deal by early May that Trump and Xi could sign later that month, Jenny Leonard reports.
And finally…Inflation that may reach 8 million percent this year helped Venezuela retain its place at the top of Bloomberg’s annual Misery Index of the world’s most unhappy economies, ahead of Argentina and South Africa. The index sums inflation and unemployment outlooks for 62 countries as a measure of how good residents should feel. Thailand, Switzerland and Singapore are the least miserable, while the U.S. ranks 13th.
--With assistance from Karl Maier, Jon Herskovitz, Karen Leigh and Richard Bravo.
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