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Washington awaits results after Mueller wraps Russia probe

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WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller closed his long and contentious Russia investigation with no new charges, ending the probe that has cast a dark shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency. The Justice Department was expected to release the main findings as soon as Saturday.

Even with the details still under wraps, the end Friday of the 22-month probe without additional indictments by Mueller was welcome news to some in Trump’s orbit who had feared a final round of charges could ensnare more Trump associates, including members of the president’s family.

For now, the report is accessible to only a handful of Justice Department officials while Attorney General William Barr prepared to release the “principal findings” soon.

The Justice Department said the report was delivered by a security officer Friday afternoon to the office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and then it went to Barr. Word of the delivery triggered reactions across Washington, including Democrats’ demands that it be quickly released to the public and Republicans’ contentions that it ended two years of wasted time and money.

The next step is up to Barr, who is charged with writing his own account of Mueller’s findings and sending it to Congress. In a letter to lawmakers , he declared he was committed to transparency and speed. He said he could provide details as soon as this weekend.

The White House sought to keep some distance from the report, saying it had not seen or been briefed on the document. Trump, surrounded by advisers and political supporters at his resort in Florida, stayed uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter.

With no details released at this point, it’s not known whether Mueller’s report answers the core questions of his investigation: Did Trump’s campaign collude with the Kremlin to sway the 2016 presidential election in favour of the celebrity businessman? Also, did Trump take steps later, including by firing his FBI director, to obstruct the probe?

But the delivery of the report does mean the investigation has concluded without any public charges of a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and Russia, or of obstruction by the president. A Justice Department official confirmed that Mueller was not recommending any further indictments.

That person, who described the document as “comprehensive,” was not authorized to discuss the probe and asked for anonymity.

That’s good news for a handful of Trump associates and family members dogged by speculation of possible wrongdoing. They include Donald Trump Jr., who had a role in arranging a Trump Tower meeting at the height of the 2016 election campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was interviewed at least twice by Mueller’s prosecutors. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Mueller might have referred additional investigations to the Justice Department.

All told, Mueller charged 34 people, including the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and three Russian companies. Twenty-five Russians were indicted on charges related to election interference, accused either of hacking Democratic email accounts during the campaign or of orchestrating a social media campaign that spread disinformation on the internet. Five Trump aides pleaded guilty and agreed to co-operate with Mueller and a sixth, longtime confidant Roger Stone, is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to Congress and engaged in witness tampering.

It’s unclear what steps Mueller might take if he uncovered what he believes to be criminal wrongdoing by Trump, in light of Justice Department legal opinions that have held that sitting presidents may not be indicted.

In his letter to lawmakers, Barr noted the Justice Department had not denied any request from the special counsel, something Barr would have been required to disclose to ensure there was no political inference. Trump was never interviewed in person, but submitted answers to questions in writing.

The mere delivery of the confidential findings set off swift, full-throated demands from Democrats for full release of Mueller’s report and the supporting evidence collected during the sweeping probe. As Mueller’s probe has wound down, Democrats have increasingly shifted their focus to their own investigations, ensuring the special counsel’s would not be the last word on the matter.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared it “imperative” to make the full report public, a call echoed by several Democrats vying to challenge Trump in 2020.

“The American people have a right to the truth,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement.

Democrats also expressed concern that Trump would try to get a “sneak preview” of the findings.

“The White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public,” they said in a joint statement.

It was not clear whether Trump would have early access to Mueller’s findings. Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders suggested the White House would not interfere, saying “we look forward to the process taking its course.” But Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told The Associated Press Friday that the legal team would seek to get “an early look” before they were made public.

Giuliani said it was “appropriate” for the White House to be able “to review matters of executive privilege.” He said had received no assurances from the Department of Justice on that front. He later softened his stance, saying the decision was “up to DOJ and we are confident it will be handled properly.”

The White House did receive a brief heads-up on the report’s arrival Friday. Barr’s chief of staff called White House Counsel Emmet Flood Friday about 20 minutes before sending the letter went to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary committees.

The chairman of the Senate panel, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was keynote speaker Friday night at a Palm Beach County GOP dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Early in the evening, the president appeared on a balcony to wave at the crowd of more than 600 enjoying cocktails and appetizers by the pool, according to party vice-chairwoman Tami Donnally, who attended the event.

Barr has said he wants to make as much public as possible, but any efforts to withhold details is sure to prompt a tussle between the Justice Department and lawmakers who may subpoena Mueller and his investigators to testify before Congress. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., threatened a subpoena Friday.

Such a move would likely be vigorously contested by the Trump administration.

The conclusion of Mueller’s investigation does not remove legal peril for the president . Trump faces a separate Justice Department investigation in New York into hush money payments during the campaign to two women who say they had sex with him years before the election. He’s also been implicated in a potential campaign finance violation by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who says Trump asked him to arrange the transactions. Federal prosecutors, also in New York, have been investigating foreign contributions made to the president’s inaugural committee.

No matter the findings in Mueller’s report, the investigation has already illuminated Russia’s assault on the American political system, painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.

The special counsel brought a sweeping indictment accusing Russian military intelligence officers of hacking Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other Democratic groups during the 2016 campaign. He charged another group of Russians with carrying out a large-scale social media disinformation campaign against the American political process that also sought to help Trump and hurt Clinton.

Mueller also initiated the investigation into Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, who pleaded guilty in New York to campaign finance violations arising from the hush money payments and in the Mueller probe to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal. Another Trump confidant, Stone, is awaiting trial on charges that he lied about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails ultimately released by WikiLeaks.

Mueller has also been investigating whether the president tried to obstruct the investigation. Since the special counsel’s appointment in May 2017, Trump has increasingly tried to undermine the probe by calling it a “witch hunt” and repeatedly proclaiming there was “NO COLLUSION” with Russia.

But one week before Mueller’s appointment, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, later saying he was thinking of “this Russia thing” at the time.

___

Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo And Chad Day, The Associated Press
















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National

Police name three men arrested after shooting at Raptors victory rally

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Toronto police have released the identities of three men who were arrested after Monday’s shooting at a rally celebrating the Raptors’ historic NBA win.

The men, who are all from Toronto and range in age from 18 to 25, are facing firearms-related charges.

Police have said four people suffered non-life-threatening injuries during the shooting.

Investigators allege that Shaquille Anthony Miller, 25, and Thaino Toussaint, 20, were carrying guns when they were arrested.

The men each face seven charges that include carrying a concealed weapon and — in Miller’s case — assaulting a peace officer while carrying a firearm.

Police say 18-year-old Abdikarim Kerow was arrested on a previous warrant and is facing a total of 20 charges, including two counts of possessing a loaded regulated firearm and possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

Investigators are still looking for a firearm and a fourth suspect, described as a man around five-foot-nine, with a heavy build and short brown hair.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said police were looking for a third suspect.

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Environment

Trans Mountain timeline: A look at key dates in the project’s history

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OTTAWA — The federal cabinet’s long-awaited decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is due Tuesday. Here are some other key dates in the history of the original project and Kinder Morgan Canada’s controversial efforts to expand its capacity:

October 1953: The Trans Mountain pipeline begins shipping oil with an initial capacity of 150,000 barrels per day. The project initially features four pump stations along its 1,150-kilometre route and a marine dock that connects loading facilities on the east side of Edmonton with ocean tankers in Burnaby, B.C. It is expanded in 1957 and 2008 to eventually pump up to 300,000 barrels of oil per day.

Feb. 21, 2012: Kinder Morgan Canada says it wants to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline after receiving support from oil shippers and will begin public consultations.

Dec. 16, 2013: An application is made to the National Energy Board (NEB) to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. Construction is proposed to begin in 2017, with the aim of having oil flow through the expansion by December 2019.

November 2014: More than 100 people are arrested after they camp out in a conservation area on Burnaby Mountain, east of Vancouver, to block crews from conducting drilling and survey work related to the pipeline expansion. Most of the charges are later dropped.

August 2015: The NEB postpones public hearings after striking from the record economic evidence prepared by a Kinder Morgan consultant who was to begin working for the regulator.

Jan. 27, 2016: The federal Liberal government says assessments of pipeline projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion will now take into account the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the extraction and processing of the oil they carry. Proponents will also be required to improve consultations with First Nations.

May 17, 2016: Ottawa appoints a three-member panel to conduct an environmental review of the Trans Mountain expansion project.

May 29, 2016: The NEB recommends approval of the pipeline, subject to 157 conditions, concluding that it is in the public interest.

Nov. 29, 2016: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approves the Trans Mountain expansion, part of a sweeping announcement that also saw approval of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement, but the end of its Northern Gateway project.

Jan. 11, 2017: B.C. Premier Christy Clark announces her support for the project, saying Kinder Morgan has met five government conditions including a revenue-sharing agreement worth up to $1 billion.

May 25, 2017: Kinder Morgan makes its final investment decision to proceed with the development, now estimated to cost $7.4 billion, subject to the successful public offering of Kinder Morgan Canada.

May 29, 2017: The B.C. NDP and Greens agree to form a coalition to topple the Liberal party, which could only manage a minority in the previous month’s provincial election. The parties agree to “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the project. The coalition defeats the B.C. Liberals in a confidence motion a month later, paving the way for John Horgan to become premier.

Aug. 10, 2017: The B.C. NDP government hires former judge Thomas Berger to provide legal advice as it seeks intervener status in the legal challenges against the project filed by municipalities and First Nations.

Dec. 7, 2017: NEB allows Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass Burnaby bylaws.

Jan. 17, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada warns the Trans Mountain expansion project could be a year behind schedule.

Jan. 30, 2018: B.C. government moves to restrict any increase in diluted bitumen shipments until it conducts more spill response studies, a move that increases the uncertainty for Trans Mountain.

March 23, 2018: Green party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP MP Kennedy Stewart are arrested at a protest against the pipeline expansion; Federal Court of Appeal dismisses a B.C. government bid challenging a NEB ruling that allows Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass local bylaws.

April 8, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada suspends non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain expansion project and sets a May 31 deadline to reach agreements with stakeholders.

May 29, 2018: Federal government announces deal to buy the pipeline and expansion project from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5 billion.

Aug. 30, 2018: The Federal Court of Appeal overturns the Trudeau government’s approval of the pipeline expansion. In a unanimous decision by a panel of three judges, the court says the NEB’s review of the project was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion.

Sept. 15, 2018: Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi orders the NEB to undertake a new environmental assessment of the impact additional oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia will have, with a specific focus on the risks to southern resident killer whales. The NEB has until late February to report back.

Sept. 26, 2018: The NEB assigns a new panel to run the hearings and sets deadlines for comments.

Oct. 3, 2018: Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi hires former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci to oversee a new round of Indigenous consultations. No deadline is set for the completion of the process.

Feb. 22, 2019: The NEB recommends to cabinet that it approve the project again, subject to 16 new conditions, and says although an oil spill could be significant, the project provides considerable benefits and there are measures that can be taken to minimize the effects. The federal cabinet has 90 days — until May 22 — to respond with a decision.

Apr. 18, 2019: Sohi announces cabinet has decided to push the pipeline decision back until June 18 citing a need to take more time to complete Indigenous consultations.

June 18, 2019: Federal Liberal government approves the expansion a second time, requiring that all federal revenue it generates be reinvested in clean energy and green technology, including an estimated $500 million a year in new annual corporate tax revenues and the proceeds from the sale of the entire expanded pipeline back to the private sector.

 

The Canadian Press

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