President Donald Trump said Wednesday it will be up to newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr to release special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation.
"That'll be totally up to the new attorney general," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if the report should be released while the president is in Vietnam next week. "He's a tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this country and respects the Justice Department," Trump said of Barr.
Trump is going to Vietnam for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
NBC News previously reported that Mueller is nearing the end of his sprawling investigation into Russian election interference and possible links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government, which began more than two years ago.
Mueller was expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as the middle of this month, NBC News previously reported.
Mueller is also examining whether the president obstructed justice during the probe and is expected to address that matter in his report. Whether the special counsel will accuse Trump of wrongdoing on that score is unclear.
Mueller has not made public any evidence proving such a conspiracy, although he has rebutted in court filings the president's assertion that neither he nor any of his top aides had met or talked with Russians during the 2016 race. They did, according to Mueller; and, in the case of his lawyer's negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, Trump knew about it, court filings say.
Barr suggested during his confirmation hearing last month that the report might not become public in the way many have been expecting.
Barr repeatedly told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he is committed to making as much information public as he can about Mueller's probe, but the material that's eventually released publicly might be a report from the attorney general on what Mueller has concluded.
The rules on the release of the report require Mueller to submit a confidential report to the attorney general explaining prosecution decisions. The attorney general has to notify Congress about the special counsel’s findings, but those reports must be "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them," the rules say.