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Journalist Marcy Wheeler On What's Next In Mueller Report Saga

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The special counsel Robert Mueller has delivered his report on Russian interference and the Trump campaign. This giant drop of news contains little actual information for the moment, in proportion to the sensation it set off. Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist and national security expert who's going to try and help us quell the frenzy, I'm sure. Thanks so much for being with us, Marcy.

MARCY WHEELER: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Have a lot of us been looking so much at the question of collusion or, a legal term, conspiracy possibly between the Trump campaign and Russia that we have overlooked the depth of Russian involvement in the campaign that might be disclosed in this report?

WHEELER: Right. I think one of the things that both sides, Republicans and Democrats, should think of after they get the report is to come together and say Robert Mueller said there's not going to be any further indictments. He has investigated it fully. He was not thwarted in his efforts to do so. And that said, we still know that Russia did tremendous damage to the country in 2016. And we need to - I mean, now Trump doesn't need to scream no collusion every 15 minutes and Democrats can move on to looking at his inauguration deal, right? But if we put Russia behind us and say...

SIMON: You mean inauguration deal as some of the money that was raised for the inauguration committee and...

WHEELER: Which continues to be investigated by prosecutors in New York, and there's a bunch of investigations that kind of got spun off by Mueller and those are all active. But the thing is that Russia did do damage to the United States in 2016 and we need to start responding to it. How do we keep the next election safe? How do we keep Russia from conducting other hacks in the United States? How do we keep Russian-tainted money from infiltrating our real estate business? - things like that. And it seems like that's one of the directions where both sides should agree to move on to.

SIMON: What are you going to be looking for in the report, in addition to any political implications that, believe you me, the news industry will look at?

WHEELER: Well, I think we - I mean, we don't know why Mueller has decided there aren't going to be charges. It could be that Trump obstructed the investigation, or it could be that because Trump ran on these policies - Trump ran by saying I'm going to give Russia sanctions relief - it didn't amount to a crime that he then turned around and gave them sanctions relief. But what we will see in the report is that a bunch of Trump's aides lied and those lies covered up things like the Trump Tower Moscow deal, a $300 million real estate deal; like Roger Stone's efforts to optimize the WikiLeaks release, like the campaign's knowledge that those emails were coming, like the fact that they took a meeting with Russians and did offer to revisit sanctions relief at the end of the meeting. So all of those things we already know. They'll be covered in the report. But I think what the report will tell us is what that means for Trump going forward.

SIMON: Well let me get you to finish the sentence. What do you think the tests are going to...

WHEELER: I actually - I mean...

SIMON: Yeah?

WHEELER: I don't know. And I really do think people should wait. You know, Barr has said that he's going to brief the Judiciary Committee leaders this weekend and will issue some public report. And so I think that public report will say enough to say - he'll either say there was absolutely no criminal involvement or he'll say there was - you know, there was obstruction that we need to deal with. And we'll get, I think, that level of a read by Monday and then, you know, we can have the big news frenzy that you talked about.

SIMON: Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist and she blogs at Emptywheel.net. Thank you so much for being with us.

WHEELER: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.