WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted a confidential report to Attorney General William Barr, marking the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, a Justice Department spokeswoman said.
The Justice Department notified Congress late Friday that it had received Mueller's report but did not describe its contents. Barr is expected to summarize the findings for lawmakers in coming days.
In a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Barr wrote that Mueller “has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.”
Barr wrote that Mueller submitted a report to him explaining his prosecution decisions. The attorney general told lawmakers he was "reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend."
The attorney general wrote he would consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller "to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department's long-standing practices and policies."
Barr said there were no instances in the course of the investigation in which any of Mueller's decisions were vetoed by his superiors at the Justice Department."I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review," Barr wrote.
The submission of Mueller's report marks the culmination of his closely held inquiry, a case that has engulfed the Trump administration since its inception and led to multiple guilty pleas from former advisers to the president. With the closing of his investigation, Congress and the newly empowered Democratic House majority will soon assess his findings — and determine what steps to take next.
Well before its completion, Mueller's report was a hotly debated issue. Lawmakers sought to wrest guarantees from the Justice Department that the special counsel would give a complete public accounting of what he found in the two-year inquiry.
According to Justice Department regulations, the special counsel's report should explain Mueller's decisions — who was charged, who was investigated but not charged, and why.
Mueller's work has consumed Washington and at times the country, as the special counsel and his team investigated whether any Trump associates conspired with Russian officials to interfere in the election.
It is unclear how much of what Mueller found will be disclosed in Barr's summary for Congress. Congressional Democrats, anticipating an incomplete accounting, have already sent extensive requests to the Justice Department for documents that would spell out what Mueller discovered.
Mueller's work has led to criminal charges against 34 people, including six former Trump associates and advisers.
Five people close to the president have pleaded guilty: Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates; former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; former personal attorney Michael Cohen; and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
A sixth, Trump's longtime friend Roger Stone, was indicted in January and accused of lying to Congress. He has pleaded not guilty.
More than two dozen of the people charged by Mueller are Russians, and because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, they are unlikely ever to see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.
None of the Americans charged by Mueller is accused of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election — the central question of Mueller's work. Instead, they pleaded guilty to various crimes including lying to the FBI.
The special counsel's investigation was launched May 17, 2017, in a moment of crisis for the FBI, the Justice Department and the country.
Days earlier, President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. The purported reason was Comey's handling of the 2016 investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but Trump said in an interview with NBC News shortly after the firing that he was thinking about the Russia inquiry when he decided to remove Comey.
Because FBI directors are appointed to 10-year terms to ensure their political independence, the Comey firing rattled Washington. It set off alarms in the Justice Department and in Congress, where lawmakers feared the president was determined to end the Russia investigation before it was completed.
After then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Rosenstein chose Mueller as special counsel in part to quell the burgeoning political crisis.
Mueller, a Vietnam War veteran, prosecutor and former FBI director, was highly regarded. Politicians on both sides of the aisle — as well as federal law enforcement and intelligence veterans — had long admired and trusted Mueller, a Republican.
The special counsel's takeover of the Russia investigation left many of the president's biggest critics more confident that Trump would not be able to stop the inquiry before Mueller obtained answers.
While it had been publicly known since the summer of 2016 that the FBI was investigating Russian attempts to interfere with the presidential campaign, officials had largely kept quiet that there was also an investigation, starting that July, to see if Trump campaign advisers might be conspiring with the Russians.
After Trump won the election, that investigation exploded into public view.
By late 2016 and early 2017, the FBI was investigating whether anyone close to Trump had helped Russia in those efforts, even as Trump was sworn into office and began filling senior government positions.
Just days into the new administration, FBI agents interviewed Flynn at the White House, questioning him about his conversations during the transition with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia's ambassador to the United States. Flynn would be forced out of the job a month later amid accusations he had misled senior administration officials about those conversations.
The Mueller investigation pursued a number of investigative tracks, including whether the president's behavior leading up to and after the firing of Comey amounted to an attempt to obstruct justice.
Throughout 2017, Mueller's team, working out of an office building in Washington, pursued Manafort over his finances. That case also was inherited from work done previously by the Justice Department and the FBI, but under Mueller it gained new life. In October 2017, Manafort and Gates, his right-hand man, were charged with a host of financial crimes.
Two months later, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Republican political opposition to his work also grew, encouraged in part by the president's repeated declarations that the investigation was a "witch hunt."
Within a day of Flynn’s plea, the Washington Post reported that the former lead FBI agent on Mueller’s team, Peter Strzok, had been removed from that position over anti-Trump text messages he had exchanged with a senior FBI lawyer, Lisa Page. Both had worked on the Clinton investigation, and their texts to each other during the campaign revealed disdain for Trump.
The texts, Justice Department officials insisted, had not compromised the Russia investigation, but they fueled a political counterattack by Republicans loyal to the president who charged the FBI's handling of the Clinton and Trump matters showed the agency's leadership was letting a political agenda influence the inquiry.
While those fights raged on, Mueller said virtually nothing. In part because of this silence, political factions tended to say almost anything they wanted about his work. Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus called it a money-wasting farce; Democrats touted every new investigative step as further evidence that the probe was so serious that Trump's days as president could be numbered.
As the investigation pushed into its second year, it took direct aim at Moscow. In February 2018, 13 Russians were charged as part of an online "troll farm" accused of sowing political division and distrust among Americans via social media. Five months later, Mueller's office indicted a dozen Russian military intelligence officials, saying they conspired to hack into Democrats' computer accounts and publicize the stolen files.
Last year saw Mueller's time and energy focused on the question of obstruction. Whether Trump or his senior advisers had sought to stop or cripple the Russia inquiry was a key reason that Mueller's job as special counsel existed in the first place. Mueller questioned those closest to Trump about the president's private statements concerning the inquiry, about his tweets attacking law enforcement officials, and about internal White House documents that might shed light on his behavior.
Proving a suspect's intent is an important element of any obstruction case, and there was one witness Mueller was never able to get in a room: Trump. After negotiating for months, the president's lawyers agreed to submit written answers to questions from the special counsel. Ultimately, Mueller and the Justice Department did not serve the president with a subpoena, which could have led to a fight at the Supreme Court.
In August, Mueller's team won a conviction of Manafort in a Virginia courthouse at the same time Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and self-described fixer, was pleading guilty as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in New York. Cohen would ultimately plead guilty twice, and at his sentencing, he angrily blamed Trump for his downfall.
In January, Mueller's team accused Stone of obstructing the special counsel's efforts and lying to Congress about his efforts in 2016 to learn when potentially damaging emails from Clinton's presidential campaign would be released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.