US probe into Russia poll interference over, no new indictments


Washington, March 23: US Special Counsel Robert Mueller recommended no new indictments in a report he submitted Friday wrapping up his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that President Donald Trump believed had questioned the legitimacy of his presidency.
The contents of the report remain confidential. But Attorney General William Barr, who received a copy Friday afternoon, told lawmakers in a letter he expects to send them the report’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend”, which would then be made public as well.
This summary of conclusions, which Barr is likely to send as early as Saturday, is expected to answer the key question that the Mueller probe was set up to investigate: if the Trump campaign, or its members, colluded in Russian interference, which, US intelligence has concluded, was intended to help Trump.
The report appeared to be a victory for Trump, chiefly on account of no new indictments. Not personally for him, because the Mueller probe was prohibited from indicting him, per justice department guidelines prohibiting indictment or criminal prosecution of sitting presidents.
But for all those in his orbit who were in danger of being charged, such as his eldest son Donald Trump Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
In a probe lasting 22 months, Mueller’s office charged 34 people, including the president’s first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his deputy Rick Gates. He also charged three Russian companies and 25 individuals who are never going to submit themselves to the US judicial system.
Five Trump aides pleaded guilty, including Flynn and Gates, and cooperated with Mueller’s investigator, and long-time confidant Roger Stone, is awaiting trial for allegedly lying and witness tampering.
Mueller’s investigations also spawned other cases, most significantly the one involving hush-money payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. The president’s one-time attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who is cooperating with all government and congressional investigations, arranged those payments and has turned into the most useful source on the president’s businesses and related dealings.
That investigation by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York continues, as do fresh probes launched by New York state authorities. The Cohen case was a direct spin-off of Mueller’s probe, triggered by tips passed on by the special counsel’s office, and will last a long time, subject to the statute of limitation.
President Trump, who had disparaged the probe as a “witch-hunt”, had not reacted to the submission of Mueller’s till the filing of this, but his press secretary said in a statement, “The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course.”
This is not over yet, politically. Democrats made clear they will not be content with only a summary of the report’s main conclusions. They demanded that the full report be made public, and that the underlying documentation and findings be handed over to Congress, setting up a political fight.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, have already launched a slew of probes against Trump, including a the most sweeping of them all in which a congressional body has sought papers and documents relating the president from 81 people and entities. (Courtesy: HT)