Trump says public should see ‘ridiculous’ Mueller report
By JILL COLVIN
Thursday, March 21
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said he believes special counsel Robert Mueller’s report should be released to the public, even as he disparaged its very existence as “ridiculous.”
“Let it come out, let people see it,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “Let’s see whether or not it’s legit.”
Mueller is expected to present a report to the Justice Department any day now outlining the findings of his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election meddling, possible collusion with Trump campaign officials and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
Mueller is required to produce a confidential report that at a minimum explains decisions about who was and was not prosecuted. Attorney General William Barr is then expected to produce his own report for Congress and has said he wants to make public as much of Mueller’s findings as he can under the law.
Trump said he was personally looking forward to reading the findings, even as he scorned the fact that Mueller was empowered to write the report in the first place.
“I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country. … And now I have somebody writing a report that never got a vote?” Trump said. “It’s called the Mueller report. So explain that because my voters don’t get it. And I don’t get it.”
Trump went on to mischaracterize the effort, saying “it’s sort of interesting that a man out of the blue just writes a report.”
The House voted unanimously last week for a resolution calling for any report in Mueller’s investigation to be made public. It was a symbolic action designed to pressure Barr into releasing as much information as possible.
Trump and his outside attorneys have worked for months to undermine Mueller and cast doubt on his eventual findings. Trump continued that effort Wednesday, calling Mueller “conflicted” and criticizing the lawyers who worked on the case.
Though Mueller’s office has said nothing publicly about the timing of a report, several prosecutors detailed to Mueller’s team have left in recent months, suggesting the investigation is winding down.
Trump, for his part, said he had no idea when the report would be released, but maintained his innocence, saying there was “no collusion” and “no obstruction. There was no nothing.”
“With all of that being said,” he added, “I look forward to seeing the report.”
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — As the special counsel investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign winds down, a new poll finds that most Americans are at least moderately confident that Robert Mueller’s probe has been fair and impartial.
The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds that most Americans have some concern that Trump’s campaign had improper connections to Russia, though fewer than half say the president has done something illegal in his ties to Russia.
The survey was conducted as the Justice Department prepares to receive the findings of Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself. Though Mueller’s report will be confidential, Attorney General William Barr has said he wants to make as much public as he can under the law.
Overall, about 6 in 10 Americans have at least some confidence in the fairness of the investigation, with 33 percent very confident. Thirty-seven percent are not very or not at all confident in a fair investigation.
On Wednesday, Trump denounced the probe as “ridiculous” but said, “Let it come out, let people see it.”
Approval of Trump in the new poll stands at 40 percent, up slightly from 34 percent who approved in January. The January poll was conducted during the month-long government shutdown and found a dip in his approval rating. But compared with previous presidents, Americans’ feelings on Trump have been remarkably stable, fluctuating within a narrow band from about the mid-30s to the mid-40s.
The new poll results reflect continued deep partisan divisions about both Trump and the Mueller investigation, with views of the probe — and the president’s actions — largely unchanged over the past year.
In the latest poll, 80 percent of Republicans and just 8 percent of Democrats say they approve of Trump.
Fifty-five percent of Republicans say they have little to no confidence in a fair investigation by Mueller. Just 18 percent of Republicans are very confident, though another 28 percent say they are moderately confident. By contrast, most Democrats — 80 percent — have at least some confidence.
The only criminal case Mueller has brought since the last AP-NORC poll in December involved longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who is accused of obstruction and false statements.
“I have a lot of respect for Mueller, from everything that I’ve heard,” said 76-year-old Paul Seamans, of North Andover, Massachusetts, who is self-employed and said his political views lean conservative. “And if they do find something that he’s done wrong — and I’m talking about Trump — he should have to answer to it.”
But, he added, “I’m not sure if Trump has done anything wrong. There’s been no real proof.”
The poll shows that 45 percent of Americans are extremely or very concerned that Trump’s campaign had inappropriate contacts with Russia, and another 18 percent are moderately concerned.
About a third of Americans say Trump has done something illegal when it comes to his ties with Russia, while roughly an additional third say he has done something unethical.
“I don’t like it at all,” said 85-year-old Arlene Jornlin of New Berlin, Wisconsin. “I think Trump is shady enough without Putin helping him. I’m down on both of them, really.”
Among Democrats, roughly two-thirds think the president’s ties to Russia include criminal behavior. That compares with just about 1 in 10 Republicans. A majority of Republicans think the president has not done anything wrong in his links to Russia, though a modest share — 37 percent — do think he’s done something unethical.
Karen Glidden, 70, a Republican who lives in Champion, Michigan, said she believes Trump has his problems, but he’s “a smarter man than to get involved with the Russians.”
She said that though she has little trust in politicians, she does have some faith in Mueller or is at least reserving final judgment until the end of the investigation.
“The eyes of the world are on him so he’s got to be more straight,” Glidden said.
It’s far from clear that Mueller’s findings, even if damaging for the president, would be likely to lead to impeachment proceedings in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently sought to tamp down that possibility.
The poll shows Americans are divided over whether Congress should take steps to remove Trump from office if the Justice Department finds he did not have inappropriate contact with Russia but nonetheless obstructed the investigation.
Mueller has been investigating whether the president has sought to undermine the Russia probe, including by firing FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 and by asking Comey months earlier to drop his investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
If Mueller does not determine illegal ties with the Kremlin but does find evidence of criminal obstruction, 52 percent of Americans think Congress should move to oust Trump from the White House, while 46 percent say Congress should not take steps to impeach Trump.
An overwhelming majority of Democrats — 90 percent — think Trump has tried to stymie the investigation, and 8 in 10 think Congress should attempt to remove him if the Department of Justice finds evidence of obstruction even if there was no inappropriate contact with Russia. About a quarter of Republicans, 24 percent, say Trump has tried to obstruct the Russia probe and roughly as many think Congress should take steps to remove him if that’s the case.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,063 adults was conducted Mar. 14-18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.
AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/
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NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of pages of court records made public Tuesday revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller quickly zeroed in on Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, in the early stages of his Russia probe.
The heavily blacked-out records, released by a judge at the request of news organizations, show that Mueller was investigating Cohen by July 2017 — much earlier than previously known.
That was two months after Mueller was appointed to investigate Moscow’s election interference and practically a year before an FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office.
The full scope of Mueller’s interest in Cohen is not clear from the documents, which include search warrant applications and other records. More extensive files from the special counsel investigation remain under seal in Washington.
But the documents made public Tuesday show that Mueller’s investigators early on began looking into possible misrepresentations Cohen made to banks to shore up his financially troubled taxi business.
They were also initially interested in money that was flowing into Cohen’s bank accounts from consulting contracts he signed after Trump got elected. Prosecutors were looking into whether Cohen failed to register as a foreign agent.
Some of the payments he received were from companies with strong foreign ties, including a Korean aerospace company, a bank in Kazakhstan and an investment firm affiliated with a Russian billionaire.
By February 2018, though, the records show Mueller had handed off portions of his investigation to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. And by the spring of 2018, those prosecutors had expanded their investigation to include payments Cohen made to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and a Playboy centerfold, both of whom claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
The newly released documents indicate authorities continue to probe campaign violations connected to those hush money payments. Nearly 20 pages related to the matter were blacked out at the direction of a judge who said he wanted to protect an ongoing investigation by New York prosecutors.
Where that investigation is headed is unclear. But prosecutors have said Trump himself directed Cohen to arrange the hush money. The president has denied any wrongdoing.
Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations over those payments. He also pleaded guilty to tax evasion, making false statements to banks and lying to Congress about Trump’s plans to build a skyscraper in Moscow. He was not charged with failing to register as a foreign agent.
He is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in May.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said Tuesday that the release of the search warrants “furthers his interest in continuing to cooperate and providing information and the truth about Donald Trump and the Trump Organization to law enforcement and Congress.”
The FBI raided Cohen’s Manhattan home and office last April — the first public sign of a criminal investigation that has proved an embarrassment for Trump.
The newly released records show that several months earlier, in July 2017, Mueller’s office got a judge to grant him authority to read 18 months’ worth of Cohen’s emails.
In their investigation, Mueller’s prosecutors also obtained Cohen’s telephone records and went so far as to use a high-tech tool known as a Stingray or Triggerfish to pinpoint the location of his cellphones.
FBI agents also scoured Cohen’s hotel room and safe deposit box and seized more than 4 million electronic and paper files, more than a dozen mobile devices and iPads, 20 external hard drives, flash drives and laptops.
Both Cohen and Trump cried foul at the time over the raids, with Cohen’s attorney calling them “completely inappropriate and unnecessary” and the president taking to Twitter to declare that “Attorney-client privilege is dead!”
A court-ordered review ultimately found only a fraction of the seized material to be privileged.
Tuesday’s release of documents came nearly six weeks after U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III partially granted a request by several media organizations, including The Associated Press, that the search warrant be made public because of the high public interest in the case.
But he ordered certain material withheld, acknowledging prosecutors’ concerns that a wholesale release of the documents “would jeopardize an ongoing investigation and prejudice the privacy rights of uncharged third parties.”
“The unsealed records provide significant insight into the investigations of Michael Cohen and serve as an important safeguard for public accountability,” AP’s director of media relations, Lauren Easton, said Tuesday.
David E. McCraw, vice president and deputy general counsel for The New York Times, which initiated the request for the documents, said he is hopeful Pauley will approve the release of additional materials in May after the government updates the judge on its investigation.
For more in-depth information, follow AP coverage at https://apnews.com/TrumpInvestigations