By Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Special Counsel Robert Mueller will not deliver his long-awaited report next week on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, said a senior U.S. Justice Department official on Friday, amid expectations that Mueller's report was imminent.
"Any reports that the Special Counsel's report will be delivered to the DOJ (Department of Justice) during the week of Feb. 28 are incorrect," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Mueller investigation has clouded Donald Trump's presidency for many months, with reports of its imminent release appearing frequently in recent weeks.
CNN reported on Wednesday that the Justice Department may announce as early as next week that Mueller had given his report to Attorney General William Barr and that Barr would review the findings and submit a summary to Congress.
The Mueller probe has ensnared many Trump associates. Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly said there was no collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia, and he has called the investigation a witch hunt. Russia has denied interfering in the election.
Congress has authorized funding for Mueller’s team to continue its inquiry until the end of the current federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, although that does not necessarily mean the investigation will go on that long.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s team, said it still employs 12 lawyers. Four lawyers left in recent months, but individually, not in a group, Carr confirmed.
A person close to the administration, referring to a summit meeting set for next week between Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, said: "It’s not surprising that they would not issue a report while the president is in Vietnam engaged in high-stakes international diplomacy."
Speculation about the timing of Mueller report's release has been accompanied by questions about whether it will be made public once it is completed.
Six chairmen of committees in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Friday wrote to Barr saying that the report should be made public “without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law.”
(Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert in Washington and Karen Freifeld in New York; Writing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis)