Attorney General Sends Congressional Leaders Letter Summarizing Special Counsel Mueller’s Report

U.S. Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congressional leaders on Sunday summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings. While the President described it as “total exoneration,” the AG’s summary is a little more complicated.

On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to conduct the investigation of any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation, and any federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses. (Special Counsel Order:

During the investigation, Special Counsel Mueller indicted 34 people and three entities on 200 separate criminal charges. In February 2018, 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities were charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and interfere with the 2016 presidential election. One of the entities was the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked company that engages in influence operations. In July 2018, Special Counsel Mueller indicted an additional 12 Russian intelligence officers for their role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Clinton campaign, and leaking of emails and documents. In addition to the Russian nationals and entities, the Special Counsel indicted the President’s campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) and his top deputy (Rick Gates), his campaign adviser and national security adviser (Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn), two other campaign advisers (Roger Stone and George Papadopoulos), his personal lawyer (Michael Cohen), a Dutch attorney (Alex Van Der Zwaan), a California man with no connection to the Trump campaign (Richard Pinedo), and a Russian woman living in the U.S. (Maria Butina).

Special Counsel Mueller delivered his final report to U.S. Attorney General Barr last Friday. AG Barr and Deputy AG Rosenstein spent the weekend reviewing the 300-page report and preparing a summary for Congress. 

The Special Counsel’s report was divided into two sections: the first was on Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the second was on the question of obstruction of justice. AG Barr summarized that the Special Counsel did not find evidence of conspiracy to the rigorous standards of the criminal law that anyone associated with the Trump campaign knowingly conspired with Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. 

On obstruction of justice, the Special Counsel did not draw a conclusion one way or the other. Instead, the report set out evidence on both sides and left it up to the AG to determine whether the conduct the Special Counsel described in the report constituted a crime. AG Barr and Deputy AG Rosenstein concluded from the report that there was not sufficient evidence to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense. However, AG Barr noted that the Special Counsel wrote, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” 

AG Barr indicated that more material from the report is forthcoming as it is his goal to release as much of it as possible. First DOJ must review what material in the report could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to matters occurring before a grand jury. And Special Counsel Mueller referred several matters to other offices, including the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District ofNY, for further action. The AG must identify any information in the report that could impact those matters before releasing it to Congress or the public.

Attorney General Barr Letter to Congress re: Mueller Report

President Delivers FY20 Budget to Congress

The President delivered the overview of his FY20 budget to Congress this week. The budget justification details for each agency will be made available next week. The President requested $750B in defense funding with $174B of that from Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and $543B in nondefense funding with an additional $24B in OCO for nondefense emergency spending. Assuming the very rosy economic scenarios of a 3.2% growth rate this year that are included in the budget request (CBO projects a 2.3% growth rate), deficits will gradually decline but will not be eliminated for 15 years. And the budget request assumes much steeper cuts in later years.

Now that the President’s FY20 budget request has been delivered to Congress, the House and Senate can begin the budget resolution process. House Democrats may forgo a vote on a budget resolution this year rather than divide their caucus over whether to push for an increase or decrease in military spending. The Progressive Caucus members may vote against a budget resolution with an increase in defense spending. House Budget Committee John Yarmuth (D-KY) said that if his committee marks up a budget resolution, then he expects it to go to the House floor for a vote. On the Senate side, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) said he has not received a commitment that the FY20 budget resolution he is writing will go to the Senate floor for a vote. Enzi is expected to write the Senate budget resolution to the stator caps proposed in the President’s budget request.

In the event that the House and Senate don’t pass FY20 budget resolutions, House and Senate leadership are discussing potentially agreeing on spending limits to allow the FY20 appropriations process to go forward. Senate Republicans will be under pressure from the White House to increase the overall defense spending while holding nondefense to the budgetary cap. Senate Appropriators may use FY19 toplines for defense and nondefense programs as a fallback for FY20 if an agreement isn’t reached before they begin consideration of their 12 annual spending bills.

The FY19 enacted levels for defense and nondefense spending (including OCO) were $716B and $620.6B, respectively.

 FY20 (cap)FY20 PresidentFY21 (cap)
OCO Defense $174.0B 
Non-Defense$578.0B $590.0B
OCO Nondefense   


The 2020 Budget requests $20.8 billion for USDA, a $3.6 billion or 15-percent decrease from the 2019 estimate (including changes in mandatory programs and receipts). 


The Budget requests $12.2 billion for DOC, a $1.0 billion or a 9.3-percent increase from the 2019 estimate. 


The Budget requests $718 billion for DOD, a $33 billion or 5-percent increase from the 2019 enacted level. 


The Budget requests $62.0 billion for the Department of Education, an $8.5 billion or 12.0-percent decrease compared to the 2019 enacted level (including cancellations of Pell Grant unobligated balances). Excluding cancellations, the Budget requests a program level of $64.0 billion for the Department of Education, a $7.1 billion or 10.0-percent decrease compared to the 2019 enacted level. 


The 2020 Budget requests $31.7 billion for DOE, an 11-percent decrease from the 2019 enacted level. 

Health and Human Services

The 2020 Budget requests $87.1 billion for HHS, a 12-percent decrease from the 2019 estimated level. The Budget proposes $1,248.8 billion in net mandatory health savings, reducing longer-term deficits. 

Homeland Security

The 2020 Budget requests $51.7 billion in discretionary appropriations for DHS, a $3.7 billion or 7.8-percent increase from the 2019 estimate (excluding 2019 amounts for Overseas Contingency Operations). 

Housing and Urban Development

The Budget requests $44.1 billion in gross discretionary funding for HUD, an $8.7 billion or 16.4-percent decrease from the 2019 estimate. 


The Budget requests $12.5 billion for DOI, a $2 billion or 14-percent decrease from the 2019 estimate (including 2019 changes in mandatory programs). 


The Budget requests $29.2 billion for the Department of Justice, a $698 million or 2-percent decrease from the 2019 estimate. The Budget targets funding increases to support public safety and national security while reducing or eliminating lower priority spending. 


The Budget requests $10.9 billion for DOL, a $1.2 billion or 9.7-percent decrease from the 2019 enacted level. 


The Budget requests $40.0 billion for the Department of State and USAID, a $12.3 billion or 23-percent decrease from the 2019 estimate. The Budget also requests $1.6 billion for Department of the Treasury international programs, approximately equal to the 2019 estimate. 


The Budget requests $21.4 billion in discretionary budget authority for 2020, a $5.9 billion or 22-percent decrease from the 2019 discretionary estimate. The Budget also provides $62.2 billion in mandatory funds and obligation limitations. 


The Budget also proposes a program integrity initiative to narrow the gap between taxes owed and taxes paid that is estimated to reduce the deficit by $33 billion over 10 years. 

Veterans Affairs

The Budget requests $93.1 billion for VA, a $6.5 billion or 7.5-percent increase from the 2019 enacted level. In addition, the Budget requests $87.6 billion in advance appropriations for VA medical care programs in 2021 to ensure the Department has sufficient resources to continue providing the premier services that veterans have earned. The request also includes new legislative authorities and $123.1 billion in mandatory budget authority, including $129.5 billion in 2021 advance appropriations for other critical veteran and survivor benefits. 


The Budget requests $21 billion for NASA, a $283 million or 1.4-percent increase from the 2019 estimate. 

House Passes Joint Resolution Terminating President’s Emergency Declaration

The House passed H.J. Res. 46, a joint resolution that would terminate a national emergency regarding border security that was declared by the President on February 15, 2019.The resolution passed by a vote of 245 to 182 with thirteen Republicans (Amash-MI, Fitzpatrick-PA, Gallagher-WI, Herrera Beutler-WA, Hurd-TX, Johnson-SD, Massie-KY, Rodgers-WA, Rooney-FL, Sensenbrenner-WI, Stefanik-NY, Upton-MI, Walden-OR) joining all Democrats in voting for the measure. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said that while he hoped the Senate would block disapproval Trump’s national emergency regarding border security, he thought it would have no chance of a veto override in the House.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced companion legislation to H.J. Res 46 in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said it would be reasonable to expect the Senate would vote on S.J. Res. 10before the next recess week, which is the week of March 18. Democrats need at least four Republicans to vote in support of the resolution. Once again, even it passes the Senate, it almost certainly won’t become law as the President will veto it and the House and Senate won’t have the two-thirds majority votes to override his veto.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has said that Congress should consider amending the National Emergencies Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-412), the law that gives the President the power to declare emergencies of unlimited duration, so that emergency declarations expire after a certain period of time unless Congress ratifies them by law. The time period could be as short as 10 days.

White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.J. Res. 46