Special Counsel Submits Report On Russia Investigation. What Happens Next?

Mar 23, 2019
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to turn now to our national justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson, who has been following this story from the beginning.

Hello, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi there.

MARTIN: So what can you tell us about what's in the report?

JOHNSON: I wish I could tell you how long it is and what it says. Right now, all we know is the Justice Department says the report is comprehensive. Only a very small number of high-level Justice Department officials have seen and read this report. In fact, we got additional confirmation today the White House doesn't have it. President Trump hasn't seen or read it yet either.

Here's what we do know. The Justice Department never in the course of this nearly two-year investigation vetoed or overruled the special counsel Bob Mueller in any major investigative step he wanted to take. There were no serious disagreements.

MARTIN: So how much should we expect to learn from Attorney General William Barr?

JOHNSON: I was at the Justice Department for a while today, so was the attorney general, Bill Barr. So was the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. I'm told that they were secreted up in their offices higher up in the building, trying to figure out what part of this report to make public to Congress and eventually to people like us. We're told that could happen as soon as this weekend - not today. Tomorrow is still on the table. But they're reviewing it very closely with an eye toward providing what they call principal conclusions reached by the Mueller investigation.

MARTIN: So if there are no more indictments expected out of the special counsel, does this mean that President Trump and his campaign have been cleared of wrongdoing?

JOHNSON: Not so fast. We know dating back four decades or more that the Justice Department interprets the law to mean that a sitting president cannot be criminally charged. You cannot indict a sitting president, according to Justice Department interpretations. That means that even if the special counsel had gathered evidence of wrongdoing, criminal wrongdoing by the president, he would not be charged until he left office.

The other fact that's important here is that multiple investigations are ongoing and that the investigation by the Bob Mueller team has already resulted in criminal charges against six people in President Trump's inner circle, from his national security adviser to his campaign chairman to his longtime fixer, Michael Cohen. So it's not as if the Trump inner circle has not been damaged or dented by this investigation.

MARTIN: And finally, about those other investigations, you know, parts of Mueller's investigation have ended up in the hands of federal prosecutors. So where do those investigations stand?

JOHNSON: There are very, very active investigations in Washington, D.C., in the Eastern District of Virginia, in New York and among state authorities in New York who have already charged Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, with mortgage fraud. Remember that President Trump does not have the power to pardon people for state offenses - only federal offenses. So those state inquiries into Paul Manafort and potentially into The Trump Organization itself could be quite damaging moving forward to this White House and this administration.

MARTIN: That is NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.