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Attorney General William Barr will decide whether to release special counsel Robert Mueller's findings from the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
"That'll be totally up to the new attorney general," the president told reporters during a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. "He's a tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this country and respects the Justice Department."
Trump's comments follow a CNN report Wednesday saying Barr could announce the end of Mueller's investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election as early as next week. The attorney general, nominated by Trump and sworn in last week, would then send a summary of the special counsel's confidential report to Congress, according to CNN. NBC News previously reported that Mueller could submit a report as early as mid-February.
Americans across the country, as well as congressional Democrats, have awaited answers from the special counsel about whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin, or whether the president himself tried to derail the investigation. But it is unclear how much information will become public.
Justice Department regulations say the attorney general "may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest, to the extent that release would comply with applicable legal restrictions."
Barr took over jurisdiction of the special counsel's investigation, which Trump has repeatedly slammed as a politically charged "witch hunt." Some Trump allies believed the attorney general's confirmation gave the president more power over the probe than he had previously. Trump had raged against former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, allowed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller.
During his confirmation process, Barr tried to ease concerns about how he would handle the Mueller investigation. He noted that he would try to make the special counsel's findings as public as he could. Barr also said he does not "believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt."
A memo Barr sent to the Justice Department in June raised concerns about his confirmation. He argued that Mueller's focus on whether Trump obstructed justice "is fatally misconceived."
Trump will welcome the end of the investigation. It has hung over him since he entered office in January 2017. Behind the scenes, the president has tried to undermine various investigations surrounding his White House, according to a New York Times report Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he called the newspaper's article "false." He prompted a rebuke from the Times' publisher by calling the outlet a "true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!"
Mueller has brought charges against several Russian nationals related to election meddling. His investigation has also led to guilty pleas from several people who used to occupy Trump's inner circle, including his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn.
The probe has also led to charges against Trump's longtime political advisor Roger Stone. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress.
— CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report