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With The Conclusion Of The Mueller Investigation, What Happens Next?

18 hours ago
Originally published on March 24, 2019 6:43 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to spend the next few minutes back with our national security editor, Phil Ewing. And we want to talk about where things go from here.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Well the Mueller era is apparently over. But the Russia imbroglio, this larger world of investigations, is probably going to continue for at least a little while. We've heard members of Congress. We heard Carrie and others earlier talk about how they want to hear from the attorney general, William Barr, about how he might go to the House Judiciary Committee, for example, to talk before its chairman, Congressman Jerry Nadler. There may be calls for the special counsel himself, Robert Mueller, to go talk to Congress about this. And Mr. Barr in his letter promises members of Congress that he will begin reviewing the material that Mueller has submitted to see what can be given to Congress and or made public.

It's not going to be everything because it includes grand jury testimony, foreign intelligence and other sensitive information. But there will be a time at some point in the medium term where we'll have another big document dump come out from the Justice Department. And we will see the things that have underpinned these statements that the attorney general Mr. Barr has made to Congress.

The interesting thing politically will be how much room there is to live for Democrats between these conclusions reached by Mr. Barr and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, about not pursuing an obstruction of justice case against the president and whether Democrats are going to try to pursue something like that under their own auspices in the House. You know, impeachment, removing a president, et cetera, that's always been a political decision. And if the underlying facts in the Mueller report, as we've been seeing Democrats talk about all day today, are less than definitive there, then that could make for an interesting political dilemma for Democrats.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, kind of tried to - has tamped down the talk about impeachment in recent weeks. We don't know whether she expected this to be less damaging for the president or not. But they have tried to back away from that. We heard our colleague Sue Davis earlier talk about how Democrats are going to have to move to a world in which they can no longer say they're waiting for Mueller's report. Now we have it, or at least we have the synopsis. The question is what are they going to do next.

MARTIN: Talk a bit if you would - how likely is it that we will actually hear Robert Mueller? I mean, one of the things that's been interesting about this whole period is that his investigation has essentially been a vault, which is, you know, highly unusual. I mean, at some point, one expects to hear just some kind of, you know, dribs and drabs of leaks.

That has not been the case. Obviously, he's a highly seasoned investigator, a longtime head of the FBI, certainly not new to this business at all. But how likely is it that we will hear from him in some public form, like a hearing?

EWING: As we sit here this evening, it seems pretty unlikely. Mueller, as you mentioned, is kind of a by-the-book guy. He was the FBI director for many years. He's a longtime Justice Department veteran before that. And I can think of three occasions off the top of my head when his office has said anything since it was first brought in in the spring of 2017. And those were very minor statements, except for one that was politically important in response to a press report. And he may go up and talk with members of Congress behind closed doors if they ask him to do that.

But I doubt that he would agree to talk in a public hearing. And he may just go back to his former life as an important lawyer. Or he may just retire altogether. But if there is a face for this that comes next, it may be that of the deputy attorney general, who's kind of been the public facing person for the special counsel investigation or maybe the attorney general, Mr. Barr, because he's the one whose name is on this letter to the leaders of the judiciary committees saying this is what Mueller has found. And this is what we've decided to do, or in this case, not do about it.

MARTIN: We only have a couple of minutes left. But I am also curious about how the say, investigative apparatus throughout the Department of Justice is responding to this about their morale, frankly, because their professionalism has been impugned. Their objectivity has been impugned. Their political loyalties have been called into question.

And I do wonder if this is having some long-term effect, or whether the fact that this report has come forward has not found collusion with Russian forces even though they did find that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election but did not find evidence of coordination with the Trump campaign, something that the Trump campaign and the president himself have been saying all along. The fact that they agreed with him in essence will do something to sort of ameliorate this kind of very unfortunate back and forth between people who are sort of professional investigators and the president's orbit.

EWING: Well, you know, our colleague Carrie Johnson, who we heard from earlier in this program, had a great story not long ago about how people in the legal world of Washington D.C. have already been concerned before this milestone about the reputation that that legal establishment would have going forward.

The former FBI Director James Comey said at one point, the president and Republicans response to this investigation was, in his words, to burn down the FBI. And if in fact that remains a problem politically for the FBI and the Justice Department going forward, that will be one of the big consequences of this era. But the investigations themselves are not over. There are others in New York City, in Washington, D.C., and Virginia. And we're going to be living in that world for a long time to come.

MARTIN: That's NPR national security editor Phil Ewing. Phil, thank you so much for spending the hour with us. Thanks to all of our colleagues who contributed to this report. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.