By Ken Schwartz
Special counsel Robert Mueller says neither President Donald Trump, his campaign, nor anyone associated with it conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, according to a summary by Attorney General William Barr released Sunday.
But on the question of whether Trump tried to obstruct justice by interfering with or trying to derail the Mueller probe, Barr said, “The report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Barr released a summary of the long-awaited report on a 22-month-long probe into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election in Trump’s favor.
Barr sent his summary to Congress and released it to the public Sunday. Mueller delivered his report to the Department of Justice on Friday.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that he Trump campaign or anyone associated with it coordinated … with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Barr’s summary said.
Barr said this is what the report concluded despite what he says were “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
According to Barr, Mueller did not conclude whether Trump obstructed justice, turning that question over to Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Barr writes that there is not enough evidence to conclude whether Trump committed the crime of obstructing justice. He said this was not based on any belief that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
“To obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acting with corrupt intent engaged in obstructive conduct,” Barr wrote.
Despite Barr saying the Mueller report does not totally clear him, Trump tweeted, “No collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration. Keep America Great!”
He later told reporters that the probe was “the most ridiculous thing I ever heard … it’s a shame our country had to go through this … it’s a shame the president had to go through this before I even got elected — this was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody is going to look at the other side.”
Numerous court decisions upheld the legality of the Mueller probe.
Barr’s summary noted that during the nearly two-year-long investigation, Mueller had 19 lawyers and 40 FBI agents working with him, issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, talked to about 500 witnesses, and carried out nearly 500 search warrants.
The House voted unanimously earlier this month on a measure demanding the full Mueller report be released to the public. Many lawmakers also want to see any evidence Mueller used to reach his conclusions, especially now that Barr wrote the Mueller report “does not exonerate” Trump, even if the president says it does.
“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement. “Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the special counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry
Nadler says his panel will call Barr to testify in the near future “in
light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at
the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where
Mueller did not exonerate the president.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates – Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren – also said Sunday that a summary of the Mueller report filtered through the president’s “hand-picked attorney general” is unsatisfactory.
But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, says Barr’s letter makes it “abundantly clear, without a shadow of a doubt, there was no collusion” and says the country welcomes the findings.
One of Trump closest congressional allies, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, says Mueller did a “great job” and called Sunday a “good day for the rule of law” and a “bad day for those hoping the Mueller investigation would take President Trump down.”
“Now it is time to move on, govern the country, and get ready to combat Russia and other foreign actors ahead of 2020,” he wrote Sunday.