What to Know in Washington: Barr to Release Mueller Report

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Attorney General William Barr is set to release a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report today, and the document could leave everyone unsatisfied — President Donald Trump, lawmakers and the public.

The report will provide the fullest portrait yet of Mueller’s secretive 22-month probe, offering new insights into his findings, analysis and reasons for his conclusions on conspiring with Russia and obstruction of justice, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
William Barr

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are holding a news conference today at 9:30 a.m. in Washington to discuss the release. The report will be delivered to Congress — on compact disc — between 11 a.m. and noon, according to a Justice Department official.
Democrats quickly blasted Barr’s plan to brief reporters ahead of releasing the report, with five House chairmen releasing a joint statement calling on Barr to cancel the news conference and “let the full report speak for itself.”

The report itself will be colorful — literally. Barr plans to hold back parts of the almost 400-page report, promising a color-coded system to identify the multiple reasons that certain information can’t currently be shared with Congress or the public.

Those redactions may fuel frustrations on all sides, as well as additional political fights, legal challenges and lingering suspicion about the full extent of Mueller’s findings. They also could frustrate a public thirsting for answers about Trump, Russia and his 2016 campaign.

For Trump, who is ramping up his 2020 re-election bid, the report may cement Americans’ views of him, either helping to lift the collusion cloud that has shrouded his presidency, or reigniting the push to dig into his affairs and his business.

In an interview Wednesday with WMAL radio in Washington, Trump predicted “you’ll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow.”

Mueller spent nearly two years conducting one of the most consequential investigations in recent U.S. history into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump or any of his associates conspired in the operation. Read Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece’s guide on what to look for in the final report.

A limited number of members of Congress will get to see a “less redacted” version of Mueller’s report, U.S. prosecutors told a federal judge in Washington, Joe Schneider reports.

The Justice Department plans to give those members of Congress a version of the report that will include information related to charges against Roger Stone, Trump’s sometime adviser who’s charged with lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing justice, the prosecutors said.

The copies of the “less redacted report” won’t be disseminated to all members of Congress or their staff “in the first instance,” the prosecutors said.

Dems Seek Mueller Testimony: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement calling for Mueller to testify “as soon as possible,” Anna Molin reports. The leaders said Barr’s handling of the Mueller report has “resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality.” They also said public testimony by Mueller is the “only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

On the Congressional Radar

IRS Probe Could Lead to Trump Tax Return Release: If Democrats in charge of the House Ways and Means Committee ever get their hands on Trump’s tax returns, they could thank their Republican predecessors for providing cover to make the documents public. In 2014, the GOP-controlled panel voted to expose taxpayer information surrounding the IRS’s admission that it delayed some Tea Party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status.

Democrats could use the episode as precedent to make some of Trump’s tax information public, if Democratic Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) ever succeeds in obtaining the returns, said Christopher Rizek, an attorney with Caplin & Drysdale in Washington. Read more from Joe Light.

Democrats Said to Subpoena Nine Banks in Probe of Trump Finances: House Democrats’ investigations into President Donald Trump’s finances and potential money laundering tied to Russia have prompted them to demand documents from nine banking giants, according to people familiar with the matter. The House Financial Services Committee, led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), has issued subpoenas to U.S. lenders JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., and Capital One Financial Corp., said the people. Foreign banks that received information requests included Deutsche Bank AG, Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion Bank, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the subpoenas aren’t public.

The financial services panel’s requests were made in collaboration with Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) House Intelligence Committee, which is focused on probing whether Russia sought to influence the 2016 presidential election. Waters’ investigation is broader, digging into whether banks are illegally helping Russian clients move money out of the country, people familiar with the matter have said. Read more from Austin Weinstein and Billy House.

Johnson Seeks Tighter Asylum Rules: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) says he wants to tighten asylum standards for migrants crossing the border and allow longer detentions, as GOP lawmakers seek their own get-tough response to a surge in people entering the U.S. “We have to speed up that whole process,” Johnson said after a two-day visit to the border. “Where it’s not a valid asylum claim, we have to remove people. That’s the deterrent.” Read more from Laura Litvan.

Jordan’s Letter to Drug CEOs ‘A New Low’: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, reached “a new low” with his April 5 letters to 12 drug company CEOs that criticized a panel investigation into prescription medication prices, said Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in a letter to Jordan, John Hughes reports.

“It is one thing to have an honest disagreement about the Committee’s policy or approach—which would command respect—but it is quite another to actively obstruct an investigation in the service of placing corporate interests over those of the American people,” Cummings wrote.

Stephen Miller Invited to Testify May 1: Cummings also invited White House senior adviser Stephen Miller to testify at a May 1 hearing yesterday, according to a letter and statement released by the committee’s staff. “I am inviting you to testify before the Committee because it appears that you are one of the primary moving forces behind some of the most significant—and in my view, troubling—immigration policies coming out of the Trump White House,” Cummings said in the letter dated.

“I am offering you an opportunity to make your case to the Committee and the American people about why you—and presumably President Trump—believe it is good policy for the Trump Administration to take the actions it has,” he wrote. Read more from Joi Preciphs.

Planned Parenthood Funding Loss ‘Alarming’: Democrats are questioning the quality of care at health facilities that got federal family planning funding this year and said they’re concerned the White House is putting “political ideology” ahead of women’s health. Each year the government doles out funding grants for facilities that offer family planning and related preventive health services to people who are traditionally uninsured or low income.

This year the U.S. offered grants to some staunchly anti-abortion facilities that don’t offer contraceptives, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) wrote in a letter yesterday. Read more from Jacquie Lee.

Democrats Question Auto Safety Agency: Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested a wide-ranging update on safety-related initiatives pending at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Chairman Pallone and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the panel’s consumer protection subcommittee, asked for a breakdown on the agency’s work, from auto safety probes to progress toward implementing inspector general recommendations, the lawmakers said in a letter to NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King. Read more from Ryan Beene.

Warren Questions OCC on Wells Fargo Hiring Plan: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked Office of the Comptroller of the Currency chief Joseph Otting for information about the role his agency will play in the selection of a new Wells Fargo CEO. Warren, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee and is a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said under federal law the OCC has the power to object to candidates for chief executive positions at Wells Fargo, a statement from her office said. Read more from Kim Chipman.

Foreign Affairs and Defense

Latest on North Korea Talks: North Korea demanded that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from direct nuclear negotiations between the countries, turning up pressure after the collapse of a summit between Kim Jong Un and Trump in February. Kwon Jong Gun, a North Korean foreign ministry official, criticized Pompeo for interfering with relations in a report on its official KCNA news agency published Thursday. He accused the top U.S. diplomat of “reckless remarks” and “fabricating stories like a fiction writer.” Read more from Seyoon Kim.
National Security Adviser John Bolton said yesterday the U.S. would need more evidence that Kim Jong Un is ready to give up North Korea’s nuclear weapons before Trump meets him for a third summit. Asked what the U.S. would need to see, he said “a real indication from North Korea that they have made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons.” Read more from Nathan Crooks and Nick Wadhams.

Kim Tests ‘Tactical Weapon’: Kim oversaw the test-firing of a “new-type tactical guided weapon,” state media reported, in a likely signal of displeasure over stalled nuclear talks with Trump. Kim personally supervised the demonstration conducted by the Academy of Defense Science yesterday, state media reported. The report was vague about the nature of the weapon, saying only that the “peculiar mode of guiding flight and the load of a powerful warhead were perfectly verified at the test-fire conducted in various modes of fir ing at different targets.” Justin Sink and Nathan Crooks have more.

U.S. Seeks to Persuade Russia to Drop Maduro Support: The White House is trying to persuade the Kremlin to drop its support for Nicolas Maduro, Bolton said, adding that the Venezuelan leader remains in power only because of Cuban backing. He also warned it’d be a “big mistake to do anything” to harm any of the up to 45,000 Americans in the country or crack down more severely on the political opposition led by the self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido. Read more from Nathan Crooks.

Related: U.S. Tweets on Venezuela Plummet as Leaders Locked in Stalemate

German Spies Said to Dismiss Trump Huawei Threats: German authorities are dismissing Trump’s threat to cut off intelligence if they don’t take steps to keep equipment made by China’s Huawei out of the nation’s fifth-generation mobile network, according to four people with knowledge of the matter. The view in Germany’s intelligence community is that the two nations rely on each other too much to risk jeopardizing crucial data sharing, said the people. Read more from Patrick Donahue.

Pai Moves to Deny Chinese Firm’s Bid to Enter Market: The head of the Federal Communications Commission urged rejection of China Mobile’s application to provide telecommunications services in the American market, opening another front in the trade fight between the world’s biggest economies. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said yesterday that he’s scheduling a vote May 9 on a measure to deny the application of China Mobile USA on national security grounds, Susan Decker reports.

U.S., China Eye More High-Level Trade Talks: Senior U.S. and Chinese officials are scheduling two more rounds of face-to-face trade talks in an effort to reach a deal that Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could possibly sign by next month, a person familiar with those plans said. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to travel to Beijing the week of April 29, the person said. Read more from Jenny Leonard.

Israel Said Won’t Annex Land Before Trump Plan: Israel isn’t likely to take any steps toward annexing West Bank areas before Trump releases a long-promised Middle East peace plan, United Nations envoy Danny Danon said. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed before this month’s elections to expand Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, no moves should be expected soon because Israel wants to honor U.S. peace efforts spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Danon told reporters. The ambassador predicted the plan will come sometime between May and late summer, David Wainer reports.

Trump’s Cuba Reversal on Seized Property Challenged: Trump’s move to let U.S. citizens file lawsuits over property that was confiscated in Cuba in the 1959 revolution angered European allies who said they’d challenge the reversal of over two decades of policy. “Sadly, Cuba’s most prominent export these days is not cigars or rum, it is oppression,” Secretary of State Pompeo said in announcing the turnaround yesterday. “Detente with the regime has failed.” Nick Wadhams and Nikos Chrysoloras have more.

Ivanka Trump Announces Project for Women Farmers: The world’s biggest cocoa processors and chocolate companies pledged to support women farmers in the top producing nation to access finance for developing their communities. White House adviser Ivanka Trump announced the project yesterday on a visit to Ivory Coast during a four-day trip of Africa, saying that the initiative will create 300 lending associations and connect another 500 to financial markets.

In a country where about 1 million small-scale farmers contribute almost two-fifths of global cocoa output, women account for 40 percent of the workforce even though they seldom own land or hold decision-making roles. Read more from Katarina Hoije.

Movers and Shakeups

Perry Planning Departure From Energy: Energy Secretary Rick Perry is planning to leave the Trump administration and is finalizing the terms and timing of his departure, according to two people familiar with his plans. While his exit isn’t happening soon and one person familiar with the matter said the former Texas governor still hasn’t fully made up his mind, three people said he’s been seriously considering his departure for weeks. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs, Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter.

Mnuchin Said Hiring Fox Commentator: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is planning to hire Fox News commentator Monica Crowley as his top spokeswoman, according to people familiar with the matter, as he seeks to tout the GOP’s tax cuts and navigate Democrats’ demands for Trump’s tax returns.

Crowley will be assistant secretary for public affairs, replacing Tony Sayegh, who departs at the end of May after more than two years with Mnuchin, the people said. Trump planned to appoint Crowley to a position at the National Security Council in his White House, but she withdrew from consideration in 2017 after CNN reported that she had plagiarized portions of her 2012 book and Politico reported that she had plagiarized portions of her 2000 Ph.D. thesis. Read more from Saleha Mohsin and Jennifer Jacobs.

Herman Cain Doesn’t Plan to Withdraw: Herman Cain said he has no plans to withdraw from consideration for a seat on the Fed board, even though he might lack enough support for Senate confirmation if Trump nominates him, The Wall Street Journal reports. Cain, who said he is still “very committed” to the vetting process, said the Fed has been “too quick” to raise interest rates in the past and needs “new voices.”

Around the Administration

DeVos Urged to Set Up Special Education Regulation: A civil rights advocacy group has called on the Education Department to implement a 2016 regulation meant to prevent racial discrimination when identifying students for special-ed programs. Secretary Betsy DeVos initially postponed the Obama-era regulation until 2020, saying that her department would rewrite it. But a district court judge in March ruled the delay was unnecessary and required it to put the regulation into effect. Over a month later, it has yet to do so.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund, an advocacy group focused on civil rights in education, accused DeVos of slow walking the process. “It is clear that Secretary DeVos is abdicating her responsibility and violating the district court order to implement this rule,” the group said in a statement yesterday, reports Emily Wilkins.

DeVos told lawmakers in recent weeks that the department was still reviewing the court’s decision and discussing options of how to implement the regulation. Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) questioned why it’s taken the department more than month. “The order isn’t very complicated. It’s only 43 pages. I read it in 20 minutes,” Shalala said. “I could have written the guidance letter for you in a very short period of time.”

Drugmakers Show Prices Amid Trump Pressure: The world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are revealing prices of their prescription drugs on websites for the first time in a bid to stave off pressure from the Trump administration to make even more public disclosures. The move by companies ranging from pharma giant Pfizer Inc. to biotechnology pioneer Amgen Inc.comes almost a year after Trump suggested in a blueprint for lowering medical costs that the government might require drugmakers to put list prices in their TV advertisements. Read more from Riley Griffin and Anna Edney.

Hemp Industry Seeks FDA Stamp to Tap Market: Hemp farmers got a big win in the 2018 farm law that legalized hemp as an agricultural product. Now they’re facing another hurdle, as they await federal regulations on one of the industry’s best-selling items: hemp-derived CBD. Cannabidiol, a cannabis compound that doesn’t give users the “high” associated with marijuana, is best known for pain relief and calming effects. But further impacts aren’t well-known, and concerns have emerged over marketing claims CBD could cure cancer or other ailments , and solid research is scarce due to cannabis’ legal complexities. Teaganne Finn has more on the state of play.

Opportunity Zone Rules Aim to Help Distressed Areas: It’ll be easier to invest in businesses and real estate in low-income communities nationwide now that the Trump administration released rules for a tax break to encourage economic development in distressed areas. Banks, equity firms and real estate developers have been eagerly awaiting the regulations, which the administration says will spur $100 billion of investment into the more than 8,700 areas designated as “opportunity zones” in the 2017 tax overhaul. Read more from Laura Davison.

Endangered-Species Adds Lowest Since Reagan: The Center for Biological Diversity said in a lawsuit that the Trump administration has failed to tackle a backlog of hundreds of requests to add species onto the federal endangered or threatened list, approving the fewest since the Reagan administration. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have added 16 plants and animals to the list under the landmark Endangered Species Act—the lowest figure since 1982, according to a challenge filed yesterday by the environmental advocacy group. Read more from Erik Larson.

Debt Collector Rules May Get Update: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will look at rules in the coming weeks related to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which was enacted in 1977 and hasn’t been updated to reflect many technology advances, Kathy Kraninger, the agency’s chief, said yesterday. The law makes it illegal for debt collectors to use abusive, unfair or deceptive practices. “Under my leadership the CFPB will proceed deliberately and transparently in its rule-making,” Kraninger told the Bipartisan Policy Cente r. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs and John Hughes.

2020 Election

Ex-Virginia Governor McAuliffe Rules Out 2020 Presidential Bid: Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said he won’t join the field of Democrats seeking 2020 presidential nomination, opting instead to help his party make electoral gains in the commonwealth. McAuliffe said he concluded that he would have the most impact aiding his party in Virginia, where the top three Democratic officials have been caught up in controversies over wearing blackface in the past and, in one case, accusations of sexual assault. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

O’Rourke Defends Charity Giving After Donating 0.3 Percent of Income: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke defended the level of charitable donations listed on his recently released tax returns, saying he has donated time and given small amounts to “so many” organizations that it wasn’t worth keeping track for the tax break. O’Rourke is on a campaign swing through Virginia, and one of the first audience questions he faced at a Charlottesville event was about the charitable giving included in tax documents he made public Monday. He suggested that the time he spends on public service, including running for office, is a contribution “to the success of my community, my state and now of my country.” Read more from Laura Davison and Emma Kinery.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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