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By Dareh Gregorian
Almost two years in the making, a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 election is expected to be made public Thursday morning.
Mueller’s team of 19 lawyers and 40 investigators interviewed approximately 500 witnesses, issued 2,800 subpoenas, reached out to 13 foreign governments and executed almost 500 search warrants in the probe, which began in May 2017.
Many of those interviewed included those who’ve been at the highest levels of the White House, including former chiefs of staff John Kelly and Reince Preibus, and ex-White House counsel Don McGahn. The probe led to 35 people and three companies being criminally charged, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and the president’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
The nearly 400-page report is expected to shed light on the Russian government’s attempts to boost Trump, and any interactions Moscow’s agents might have had with his campaign, including more details about a Trump Tower meeting involving Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The report also deals with whether President Donald Trump later tried to obstruct Mueller’s investigation.
WHAT’S BEING REDACTED?
A number of categories of information are being removed from the public version of the report, including grand jury information, anything the intelligence community believes would reveal sources and methods, material that could interfere with ongoing prosecutions and details that impinge on “the privacy or reputational interests of peripheral players where there’s a decision not to charge them,” according to Attorney General William Barr.
WHO’S DOING THE EDITING?
Barr said he and members of Mueller’s team have been working on the redactions together since he received the report on March 22. The attorney general said the redactions will be coded with four colors signaling the four categories of deletions so readers will know why the items were edited out of particular sections, even if they are not privy to the info itself.
HOW WILL THE REPORT BE RELEASED?
The Department of Justice says it will submit the redacted report to Congress and the public Thursday morning. NBC News will post a copy of the document on nbcnews.com as soon as it is available.
WILL NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES BE REVEALED?
No. According to a four-page summary of the investigation released by Barr on March 24, Mueller “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” On the question of obstruction of justice, Barr said Mueller wrote that “while this report does not conclude that President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr said that left the decision up to him, and he found the evidence was “not sufficient” to establish an obstruction of justice charge.
THEN WHAT WILL IT SHOW?
While Trump has maintained Mueller’s report is a “complete and total exoneration,” it is expected to include politically damaging disclosures. A senior law enforcement official who has spoken to Mueller’s team told NBC News earlier this month that the report includes detailed accounts of Trump campaign contacts with Russia that paint the campaign team as easily manipulated.
While Barr’s summary said that “most” of Trump’s actions in the obstruction probe have been publicly reported, that suggests some of them may not have been. An official who spoke with members of Mueller team said they believe the evidence that Trump sought to interfere with the probe was stronger than Barr had suggested in his letter last month.
And NBC News reported Tuesday that some of the more than one dozen current and former White House officials who cooperated with Mueller at the request of Trump’s legal team are now concerned they’ll be exposed for providing damaging information about the president to investigators when the report is released. “They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,” one former White House official said.
IS THIS THE END?
Not even close. Congressional Democrats have said they believe Barr is protecting Trump, and are demanding a full unredacted copy of the report. Barr, who has offered to try to work with lawmakers seeking more information than what he is making public, is expected to testify about the report’s findings in May, and Democrats have suggested they’ll call Mueller to testify as well. The House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize a subpoena for the full report earlier this month if Barr doesn’t turn the whole thing over.
“The Constitution charges Congress with holding the president accountable for alleged official misconduct,” Judiciary chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said before the vote. “That job requires us to evaluate the evidence for ourselves — not the attorney general’s summary, not a substantially redacted synopsis, but the full report and the underlying evidence.”
Trump’s legal team, meanwhile, is planning on issuing a “counter-report” on Thursday refuting Mueller’s findings, which the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Politico would be “34 or 35” pages in length. “The more concise the better. 400 pages is a novel,” he said.
‘They have to get the shot’
By Dartunorro Clark
President Donald Trump on Friday urged parents to get their children vaccinated after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week record-high cases of measles since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
“They have to get the shot. The vaccinations are so important,” Trump said outside the White House on his way to Indianapolis to address the NRA. “This is really going around now, they have to get their shot.”
New cases of measles reported in New York, New Jersey and California bring the total number of infections in the U.S. to at least 695 so far in 2019 according to new numbers released by CDC.
Nearly 300 students and employees at two Los Angeles universities were under quarantine Thursday and Friday after possible exposure to measles.
Trump’s comments on Friday differed from his past remarks on vaccinations.
At a 2015 Republican presidential candidate debate hosted by CNN, Trump said that he wanted to change the vaccine schedule for children, erroneously linking autism to vaccines.
“Autism has become an epidemic…I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” he said.
In a March 2014 tweet, Trump questioned why a child “gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines.”
“Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM. Many such cases!” he tweeted.
On Wednesday, New York City and suburban Rockland County confirmed an additional 37 measles cases, and California reported seven new cases. The second-highest number for measles cases in the U.S. was 667 in 2014, according to the CDC.
In New York City and Rockland County, there have been 590 cases since the measles outbreak began in October 2018. Los Angeles reported its first five cases on Monday.
Trump says no money paid to North Korea to have Otto Warmbier returned
By Adam Edelman
President Donald Trump on Friday denied that his administration had paid any money as part of a deal to get North Korea to return Otto Warmbier, whom the regime had detained.
“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else,” Trump tweeted.
The tweet came in response to a Washington Post report on Thursday that North Korea had issued a $2 million bill to the U.S. for the medical care of Warmbier, who was returned to the U.S. in an unconscious state.
The regime, The Post reported, demanded that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay the bill before Warmbier was allowed to be returned to the U.S.
State Department official Joseph Yun, who had traveled to North Korea in 2017 to help retrieve Warmbier, was instructed to sign the agreement by Trump and did so, The Post said. The bill was sent to the U.S. Treasury Department and remained unpaid throughout 2017. The Post said it was not clear whether the bill was later paid.
Responding to questions from NBC News about the report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday, “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”
Warmbier, 22, was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel while on a visit to Pyongyang in January 2016. The University of Virginia student from Ohio was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
The North Korean government released him in June 2017, and when he returned to U.S. soil, doctors found him to be in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. He died days later; the exact cause of death is still not known.
His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, were told he had been in a coma since shortly after being sentenced.
In February, Trump was slammed by politicians on both sides of the aisle after he absolved North Korean Kim Jong Un of blame in the death of Warmbier. Following a summit with Kim, Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, that it “just wasn’t to (Kim’s) advantage to let that happen.” He added: “He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”
The president later tweeted that his comments had been misinterpreted and said, “Of course I hold North Korea responsible.”
If it’s Biden v. Bernie, buckle up
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann
WASHINGTON — They’re both white men in their mid-to-late 70s. And they’re both current/former creatures of the U.S. Senate.
But Joe Biden versus Bernie Sanders — the two 2020 candidates who lead in almost every Democratic poll — represents one heck of an ideological contrast, if the race ultimately comes down to these two men.
So in addition to the not-so-subtle shot that the Sanders campaign took at Biden’s high-roller fundraiser last night, the two candidates disagree on:
- health care (Sanders is for a single-payer system; Biden likely will work to protect/strengthen Obamacare);
- trade (Sanders opposed the TPP trade agreement; Biden backed it as Barack Obama’s VP);
- and their vision for 2020 (Sanders is once again calling for a political revolution; Biden is running on a political restoration project).
Of course, a full-out Biden-versus-Bernie ideological fight — if it comes to that — could create an opening for the other 2020 Dems, whose messages are in between a revolution and a restoration.
And last night, Elizabeth Warren took a swipe at Biden’s entry when she was asked about his record on Wall Street and bankruptcy, per MSNBC’s Shirley Zilberstein.
“At a time when the biggest financial institutions in this country were trying to put the squeeze on millions of hard-working families who were in bankruptcy because of medical problems, job losses, divorce and death in the family, there was nobody to stand up for them,” she said.
“I got in that fight because they just didn’t have anyone. And Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies.”
But also remember that both Biden and Sanders mutually benefit from contrasts with one another.
Biden needs the foil of Sanders to show that his version of democratic socialism goes too far, while Sanders needs the foil of Biden to demonstrate that Obamaism-Bidenism doesn’t go far enough.
So don’t be surprised if this Biden-versus-Bernie debate becomes a staple of the fall before next year’s first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Trump addresses a struggling NRA
When President Trump addresses the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis at 11:35 am ET, he’ll speak to an organization that’s been incredibly weakened over the past year.
“[T]he group is grappling with infighting, bleeding money and facing a series of investigations into its operating practices, including allegations that covert Russian agents seeking to influence the 2016 election courted its officials and funneled money through the group,” the AP writes.
More: “Indeed, as Trump is speaking Friday, Maria Butina, the admitted Russian agent, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Washington.”
Besides its financial and Russian troubles, the NRA also got drubbed in last year’s midterms – a reminder that the NRA’s political fate is tied directly to the Republican Party.
It wasn’t that way 20 years ago…
2020 Vision: Who endorsed Biden and who didn’t
On his first day as a presidential candidate, Biden picked up some key (but not surprising) endorsements:
- Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.
- Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.
- Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.
- Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.
- Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.
- Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa.
- Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y.
But here’s an endorsement Biden didn’t get — Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who backed Pete Buttigieg earlier this week.
Why is Beyer notable here?
“Beyer endorsed Obama in early 2007 and volunteered on his campaign, knocking on doors for weeks in Iowa ahead of the state caucuses,” the Washington Post writes.
Also: “Beyer served two terms as Virginia’s lieutenant governor in the 1990s, was a major fundraiser for Obama and served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein from 2009 to 2013.”
On the campaign trail
Today: Joe Biden appears on The View… Elizabeth Warren stumps in Iowa… Kirsten Gillibrand hits New Hampshire… Cory Booker campaigns in South Carolina… And Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro both swing through Nevada.
Saturday: President Trump holds a rally in Green Bay, Wis… O’Rourke, Castro, Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and John Hickenlooper attend an SEIU forum in Las Vegas… O’Rourke later heads to California… And Gillibrand remains in New Hampshire, while Booker stays in South Carolina.
Sunday: O’Rourke holds a town hall in San Francisco.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 28 years
That’s the time that passed between the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings — for which Joe Biden served as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — and his reported repentant phone call a few weeks ago to Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment.
But, as the New York Times reports, the call didn’t go as he hoped.
Hill told the Times: “I cannot be satisfied by simply saying, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you’ … I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose.”
She also didn’t call Biden’s phone call an apology, and — although she doesn’t see Biden’s conduct during the hearings as totally disqualifying — she said she can’t support him until he further addresses his treatment of her and of corroborating witnesses who were never called to testify in the confirmation fight.
The Lid: Oh, that Joe
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the various ways Joe Biden’s candidacy could play out.
Tweet of the day
ICYMI: This week’s overlooked stories
Biden gets in! The subpoena war! More fallout from the Mueller report! Those were the stories that dominated the week.
But don’t miss these other ones, per NBC’s Kyle Stewart, which would have received more attention in any other political era.
- North Korea issued $2 million bill for comatose Otto Warmbier’s care.
- Watchdogs open 2nd ethics probe of top Interior officials.
- Latino vote surged in 2018, new data shows.
- Putin meets with Kim in hopes he can help resolve nuclear standoff.
And don’t miss these stories today….
The Washington Post has details on how Trump enlisted Corey Lewandowski to try to curtail the Mueller probe.
Rod Rosenstein is hitting back at the Mueller report’s critics.
POLITICO looks at how Mick Mulvaney is trying to boost White House morale.
Joe Biden has hired Symone Sanders.
In other news out there…
Trump agenda: Hack this
The Trump campaign won’t rule out using hacked material in 2020.
The Trump administration has six months to identify migrant children who have been separated from their families, according to a judge’s new ruling.
Trump is meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan on trade.
2020: Betting on fear of Trump
Biden is betting big on fear of Trump, NBC’s Jonathan Allen writes.
And is Trump worried about Biden?
Biden’s first swing is focused on Iowa and South Carolina.
Elizabeth Warren is blasting a new big bank merger.
The AP reports on Cory Booker’s plan to boost the EPA.
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