Redacted Trump-Russia report now expected on Thursday

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department expects to make a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation public Thursday morning, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The redacted report would be sent to Congress and also made available to the public, spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

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As Washington counted down until the release, President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks in an eleventh-hour effort to undermine the report's findings.

Trump unleashed a series of tweets on Monday — including two just minutes after the Justice Department's announcement — focusing on the favourable toplines in the previously released summary produced by Attorney General William Barr.

Mueller officially concluded his investigation late last month and submitted the confidential report to Barr. Two days later, the attorney general sent Congress a four-page letter that detailed Mueller's "principal conclusions."

In his letter, Barr said the special counsel did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump associates during the campaign, but Mueller did not reach a definitive conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Instead, Mueller presented evidence on both sides of the obstruction question. Barr said he did not believe the evidence was sufficient to prove that Trump had obstructed justice.

"Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings (and great intelligence), have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction," Trump tweeted. "These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!"

In his letter, Barr noted that Mueller's team did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

Democrats immediately called for Mueller to testify and for his report to be released. Portions of the report being released by the Justice Department will be redacted to protect grand jury material, sensitive intelligence, matters that could affect ongoing investigations and damage to the privacy rights of third parties, the attorney general has said.

Trump and his allies are also attacking the origins of the Russia investigation, portraying it as an effort by Democrats and career officials in the Justice Department who wanted to bring down a president.

"The Mueller Report, which was written by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters), should have focused on the people who SPIED on my 2016 Campaign, and others who fabricated the whole Russia Hoaxe. That is, never forget, the crime." Trump tweeted.

Trump's long- asserted accusation — though not supported by evidence — that his campaign was spied upon was given new life last week when Barr, testifying before Congress, said he thinks "spying did occur" in 2016.

Barr may have been referring to a surveillance warrant the FBI obtained in the fall of 2016 to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing. The warrant was obtained after Page had left the campaign and was renewed several times. Critics of the Russia investigation have seized on the fact that the warrant application cited Democratic-funded opposition research, done by a former British spy, into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

Barr later softened his tone, adding "I am not saying improper surveillance occurred."

The attorney general's comments have frustrated Democrats, already anxious for the release of the full, uncensored report and concerned that Barr may withhold pertinent information. The report could provide new information that could prompt further investigations or even consideration of impeachment proceedings, a tricky political calculation since Mueller did not conclude there was collusion or obstruction.

The scores of outstanding questions about the investigation has not stopped the president's allies from declaring victory.

The Russia probe began on July 31, 2016, when the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential campaign and the question of whether anyone on the Trump campaign was involved. That probe was prompted by former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos' contacts with Russian intermediaries, including a Maltese professor who told the young aide that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails.

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Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Balsamo at http://twitter.com/@MikeBalsamo1 .

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