Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered

Heavily redacted Mueller report leaves major questions unanswered

More than 900 redactions in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' MORE’s 448-page report left unanswered major questions about President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE’s knowledge of Russian-led efforts to steal and disseminate Democratic documents in the 2016 presidential campaign.

They also indicate that federal investigators and prosecutors still have a way to go before closing the book on Russia’s efforts to help Trump defeat Democratic rival Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Hillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE in the last election.

ADVERTISEMENT
While Mueller has completed his investigation, he has transferred two mystery cases to other divisions of the Department of Justice and referred 14 matters of evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing — of which 12 have been kept secret — to other law enforcement authorities.

But on the central focus of his investigation, Mueller’s probe did not conclude that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.

Of the 953 redactions in Mueller’s report, 427 are instances where the Department of Justice censored the public release of sensitive information to avoid harm to “ongoing” matters, according to an analysis by Reuters.

The bulk of the redacted material was overseen by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' House Democrats must insist that Robert Mueller testifies publicly Why Mueller may be fighting a public hearing on Capitol Hill MORE, whom Democrats are going into overdrive to portray as a partisan figure bent on protecting the president.

Speaking to reporters before the report’s release Thursday morning, Barr described the redactions as “limited.”

He said the redacted material fell into four categories: information the intelligence community believed would disclose sources and methods, details related to grand jury proceedings, information that “would impair the investigation and prosecution of other cases underway” and information “that implicates the privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Barr said most of the redactions were compelled to prevent harm to ongoing matters and comply with court orders prohibiting public disclosure.

He cited specific federal cases against Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDOJ plans to show Senate Intel less-redacted Mueller report, filing shows Roger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI Stone claims unfair prosecution by Mueller MORE, Trump’s former campaign adviser, and the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization funded by Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTrump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Russia's dangerous new ploy: US trading Ukraine for Venezuela Trump's rejection of the Arms Trade Treaty Is based on reality MORE.

The large amount of blacked-out text has emboldened some Democrats to demand more information.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi uses Trump to her advantage Fake Pelosi video sparks fears for campaigns Trump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called for the “rest of the report and the underlying documents” to be made available to Congress.

They also accused Barr of having “deliberately distorted significant portions of Special Counsel Mueller’s report.”

“Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” the two leaders said in a joint statement. “But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading.”

One of the biggest redactions obscures who on the Trump campaign worked with WikiLeaks to disseminate files stolen by Russian military hackers from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). That person is believed by many to be Stone, who has denied any wrongdoing.

The Mueller report states the Trump campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials through the summer and fall of 2016, but the document redacts background information as well as information about “contacts with the campaign about WikiLeaks.”

In one tantalizing anecdote, Mueller writes that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenTrump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Cohen challenges Sekulow to testify about Trump Tower meetings MORE, recalled “an incident” when he was in Trump’s office in Trump Tower, but the details of the episode are blotted out.

“Cohen further told the Office that, after WikiLeaks’s subsequent release of stolen DNC emails in July 2016, candidate Trump said to Cohen something to the effect of…” the report states in a sentence where Trump’s response is redacted.

Another key scene with missing details involves Richard Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, who cooperated with the special counsel.

Gates testified that former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Ex-GOP lawmaker says Trump 'illegitimate president,' should be impeached Government moves to seize Manafort's condo in Trump Tower MORE “expressed excitement” about the release of something, but that something is blacked out. The report also says that Manafort spoke to Trump after WikiLeaks’s July 22, 2016, information dump, in which nearly 20,000 stolen Democratic emails were released, but what Trump supposedly said is redacted.

Citing Gates, the report states the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging offensive “based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks” but key details related to coordination with WikiLeaks, which received the information from Russian intelligence agents, is left out.

An unredacted fragment states that Trump received a call from an unknown person while driving with Gates to LaGuardia Airport, and after the call Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming. The subsequent section of the report is entirely blacked out, leaving several questions dangling.

Many of the omissions relate to Stone, who has been indicted in district court on counts of obstructing an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering. He is awaiting trial.

Even part of Stone’s description in the report’s glossary of referenced persons is partially redacted.

The New York Times reported in January that Stone served as a direct connection between WikiLeaks and Trump’s campaign, but it also reported that Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr. slams Republican committee chairman: 'Too weak to stand up to the Democrats' #TrumpTantrum spreads on Twitter after impromptu press conference Trump family members will join state visit to UK MORE, the president’s eldest son, also communicated with WikiLeaks.

Stone is also referenced in Volume II of the report, which focuses on potential obstruction of justice by Trump and his advisers.

Pages 128 through 130 of Volume II describe Trump’s conduct directed toward an unknown third associate, in addition to Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The identity of the person remains a mystery because part of page 128 and all of pages 129 and 130 are blacked out.

A substantial portion of the special counsel’s subsequent analysis on whether Trump obstructed justice through his conduct toward Flynn, Manafort and the unknown third person is also redacted.

On page 151 of Volume II, the report redacts a reference, citing an ongoing matter, to a Trump tweet from December praising Stone for having “guts” by declaring he will never testify against the president. Stone’s identity is revealed in a footnote citing only the date and time of Trump’s tweet.

Stone declined Thursday to comment on the report or its redactions.

Mueller noted that “certain matters” assigned to him “have not fully concluded” and have been transferred to “other components of the Department of Justice and the FBI.”

Some of the prosecutions are publicly known, such as the cases against Stone and Konstantin Kilimnik, an associate of Manafort suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence.

But Mueller says he has transferred two cases cloaked in secrecy to other investigators, who are still working on them. He explained in his report that at least one stemmed from his authorization to investigate crimes arising from payments Manafort received from the Ukrainian government under pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych.

The special counsel also referred 14 unknown matters of evidence pointing to “potential criminal activity” to other law enforcement authorities. He revealed only two of those referrals, which he said were outside his jurisdiction.

One pertained to potential wire fraud and Federal Election Campaign Act violations related to Cohen and another to Foreign Agents Registration Act violations pertaining to former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig and the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The name of one other person involved in the potential misconduct is redacted.