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Special Counsel Robert Mueller Steps Down Following Completion Of Russia Probe

May 29, 2019
Originally published on May 29, 2019 4:01 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Robert Mueller is closing up shop at the Justice Department and returning to private life, but his probe has left a trail that stretches far beyond President Trump. Other parts of the Justice Department are picking it up and pursuing those leads.

To talk about that work, we're joined by NPR national security editor Phil Ewing. Welcome to the studio.

PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So, Phil, to be clear, Mueller did not mention any ongoing investigations today. Why do you think that is?

EWING: Well, because he detailed them extensively in his report. And if you're listening at home or you're listening in your car and you want to get home and look it up yourself, it's Appendix D. It details a number of cases that transferred out of the special counsel's office into other aspects of the Justice Department, and they include prosecutions that we already know about - the former business partners of President Trump's ex-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn - they're going to go on trial this summer - and the political consultant Roger Stone. He's been charged with lying to Congress and potentially obstructing its investigation. He's going to go on trial later on this year. And there are many, many more.

CORNISH: What else can you tell us then about these cases that Mueller transferred?

EWING: Some of them are detailed, and some of them are redacted. In fact, there are more than a dozen references completely blacked out in this part of the file at the very end of the Mueller report. All we know is they're not being handled by Mueller or the special counsel's office, obviously, because they're going away, as we learned today. He's probably handed them off mostly to other U.S. attorneys' offices, potentially in New York City, the Eastern District of Virginia, Washington, up and down the East Coast.

But right now, we don't know how far along those investigations are, who's involved and when or even if there are going to be indictments from them - just that those transfers took place out of Mueller's office to those other areas in DOJ.

CORNISH: And are all those - all the Justice Department investigations that follow on Mueller's work?

EWING: No, the Justice Department is doing its own internal investigations. The Attorney General Bill Barr has said that he wants at least two big inquiries to take place. The first is being run by the Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who's looking into the way investigators used surveillance law and surveillance powers early on to collect the communications of at least one person that we know of who was surveilled early on in the Russia investigation. He may have a report about that later on.

And the attorney general has also brought in the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham, who's also going to look at the use of surveillance and confidential human sources, from what we understand, again, from the early part of the Russia investigation in the summer of 2016.

We also don't know whether Horowitz or Durham are going to find any wrongdoing, whether they'll bring any criminal charges or recommend any. But we do know the president has issued an order giving the attorney general the power to declassify intelligence and other findings as he sees fit to make them public. So there could be some more big headlines about that aspect of the story - what these investigators of the investigation are learning about what took place early on.

CORNISH: I want to turn to Congress now. Given what Mueller said, how is it going to go forward and investigate Trump now?

EWING: Well, the investigations are likely going to continue. The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi talked about today - talked about that today. There were a couple of important chairmen in the House who also talked about that today - Jerry Nadler, head of the Judiciary Committee, Adam Schiff, head of the Intelligence Committee.

They're not only going to do their investigations, they haven't closed the door on hearing from the special counsel himself. Adam Schiff, the intelligence committee chairman, says he still wants Mueller to come in, even though the special counsel was not very enthusiastic about that himself when he gave this statement today at the Justice Department.

CORNISH: The president did take credit for not firing Mueller and making documents and witnesses available to him. Will he give that same cooperation to Congress?

EWING: Probably not. The president has said there cannot be two tracks, in his phrase, in which Democrats continue with these investigations into his personal finances, his business practices, the things he did before he became president and try to do a deal with him in which legislation is passed. That was kind of the biggest explosion that took place lately about infrastructure, which took place the other day.

And so even though that door is closed, according to Trump, the broader world that we've been living in involving these investigations and these political wars over them and the evidence - we're probably going to be living in that world for a long time.

CORNISH: That's NPR's national security editor Phil Ewing. Phil, thank you.

EWING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.