Donald Trump declines to commit to releasing Robert Mueller's findings to the American public

The president says the decision is "totally up to to the attorney general" in a new interview with Margaret Brennan

Published February 4, 2019 11:23AM (EST)

"Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan interviews President Donald Trump (YouTube/Face the Nation)
"Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan interviews President Donald Trump (YouTube/Face the Nation)

President Donald Trump declined to say in a new interview if he would make special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and allegations of collusion or obstruction of justice by the commander-in-chief, his presidential campaign or administration public, claiming that such a decision was "totally" up to the attorney general.

Trump's remarks came in an interview with CBS News' Margaret Brennan that aired Sunday on "Face the Nation" prior to the annual Super Bowl. In the interview, Brennan pressed Trump on whether or not he would release the highly-anticipated report.

"Totally up to to the attorney general," Trump told Brennan.

"You wouldn't have a problem if it became public?" she asked of the report.

"That's up to the attorney general. I don't know. It depends. I have no idea what it's going to say," Trump replied, adding that the investigation has been a "total witch hunt."

Trump's nominee to be attorney general, William Barr, vowed during his confirmation hearings last month to allow Mueller, to complete the probe and make as many of the findings findings public as he is able.

Last week, Trump told the Daily Caller, a conservative website, that the decision to release the results of the investigation would be made "within the Justice Department."

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who was appointed by the president to temporarily replace Jeff Sessions after the commander-in-chief fired him from his job as the nation's top law enforcement official, said last week that Mueller's probe is "close to being completed." Whitaker's comments were the first time a top government official with knowledge of the investigation has publicly said it is in the final stages, although there have been signs that the investigation is nearing its end. Trump told the Daily Caller he has not spoken to Whitaker about whether the investigation is nearing its conclusion.

Whitaker's comments rattled some congressional Democrats, who expressed concern that Trump's administration may try to undercut the investigation.

"I don't have full confidence that acting Attorney General Whitaker intends to respect the independence of the special counsel and simply support and sustain the decisions he's made and simply release the report in full," Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) unveiled legislation on Monday that would require Mueller to summarize his findings in a report to Congress and the public.

Trump has vehemently denied all allegations of collusion with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign and has repeatedly railed against Mueller's investigation into the matter as a politically-motivated "witch hunt" and a "hoax." He has also accused Mueller's team of "viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts," comparing the probe to the McCarthy period, named for former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), who accused hundreds of Americans of being communists or communist sympathizers in the 1950s.

Mueller's office most recently indicted Roger Stone, a longtime associate and informal adviser to Trump, on charges of making false statements, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. He pleaded not guilty.

Stone became the 34th person charged by Mueller. Of those people, Mueller had secured guilty pleas from six Trump associates or advisers, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafortformer deputy campaign manager Rick Gatesformer national security adviser Michael Flynnformer Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign aide George Papadopoulos.

By Shira Tarlo

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