Report Says No Evidence of Collusion 03/25 06:30
Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that President Donald
Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia to influence the 2016
presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed
justice, Attorney General William Barr declared Sunday.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that
President Donald Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia to
influence the 2016 presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether
Trump obstructed justice, Attorney General William Barr declared Sunday. That
brought a hearty claim of vindication from Trump but set the stage for new
rounds of political and legal fighting.
Trump cheered the outcome but also laid bare his resentment after two years
of investigations that have shadowed his administration. "It's a shame that our
country has had to go through this. To be honest, it's a shame that your
president has had to go through this," he complained.
Democrats pointed out that Mueller found evidence for and against
obstruction and demanded to see his full report. They insisted that even the
summary by the president's attorney general hardly put him in the clear.
Mueller's conclusions, summarized by Barr in a four-page letter to Congress,
represented a victory for Trump on a key question that has hung over his
presidency from the start: Did his campaign work with Russia to defeat Democrat
Hillary Clinton? That was further good news for the president on top of the
Justice Department's earlier announcement that Mueller had wrapped his
investigation without new indictments. The resolution also could deflate the
hopes of Democrats in Congress and on the 2020 campaign trail that
incriminating findings from Mueller would hobble the president's agenda and
But while Mueller was categorical in ruling out criminal collusion, he was
far more circumspect on presidential obstruction of justice. Despite Trump's
claim of total exoneration, Mueller did not draw a conclusion one way or the
other on whether he sought to stifle the Russia investigation through his
actions including the firing of former FBI director James Comey.
According to Barr's summary, Mueller set out "evidence on both sides of the
question" and stated that "while this report does not conclude the president
committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
Barr, who was nominated by Trump in December, and Deputy Attorney General
Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May 2017 and oversaw much of his work,
went further in Trump's favor.
The attorney general said he and Rosenstein had determined that Mueller's
evidence was insufficient to prove in court that Trump had committed
obstruction of justice to hamper the probe. Barr has previously voiced a broad
view of presidential powers, and in an unsolicited memo last June he cast doubt
on whether the president could have obstructed justice through acts --- like
firing his FBI director --- that he was legally empowered to take.
Barr said their decision was based on the evidence uncovered by Mueller and
not affected by Justice Department legal opinions that say a sitting president
cannot be indicted.
Mueller's team examined a series of actions by the president in the last two
years to determine if he intended obstruction. Those include his firing of
Comey one week before Mueller's appointment, his public and private haranguing
of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia
investigation because of his work on the campaign, his request of Comey to end
an investigation into Michael Flynn, the White House's first national security
adviser, and his drafting of an incomplete explanation about his oldest son's
meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
Mueller's findings absolve Trump on the question of colluding with Russia
but don't entirely remove the legal threats the president and associates are
facing. Federal prosecutors in New York, for instance, are investigating
hush-money payments made to two women during the campaign who say they had sex
with the president. Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated
Trump in campaign finance violations when he pleaded guilty last year.
The special counsel's investigation did not come up empty-handed. It
ensnared nearly three dozen people, senior Trump campaign operatives among
them. The probe illuminated Russia's assault on the American political system,
painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic
emails to hurt Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at
covering up their Russia-related contacts.
Thirty-four people, including six Trump aides and advisers, were charged in
the investigation. Twenty-five are Russians accused of election interference
either through hacking into Democratic accounts or orchestrating a social media
campaign to spread disinformation on the internet.
Sunday's summary --- and its suggestion that Mueller may have found evidence
in support of obstruction --- sets up a fight between Barr and Democrats, who
called for the special counsel's full report to be released and vowed to press
on with their own investigations.
"Attorney General Barr's letter raises as many questions as it answers,"
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a
"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," they said. Trump's own claim of
complete exoneration "directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not
to be taken with any degree of credibility," they added.
Trump was at his Florida estate when lawmakers received the report. Barr's
chief of staff called Emmet Flood, the lead White House lawyer on the
investigation, to brief him on the findings shortly before he sent it to
Congress. Mueller submitted his report to Barr instead of directly to Congress
and the public because, unlike independent counsels such as Ken Starr in the
case of President Bill Clinton, his investigation operated under the close
supervision of the Justice Department.
Barr did not speak with the president, Mueller was not consulted on the
letter, and the White House does not have Mueller's report, according to a
Justice Department official.
Though Mueller did not find evidence that anyone associated with the Trump
campaign coordinated with the Russian government, Barr's summary notes
"multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump
That's a likely reference not only to a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting at
which Donald Trump. Jr. expected to receive damaging information on Clinton
from a Kremlin-connected lawyer, as well as a conversation in London months
earlier at which Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was told Russia had
"dirt" on Clinton in the form of thousands of stolen emails.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the House Judiciary Committee chairman,
said Congress needs to hear from Barr about his decision and see "all the
underlying evidence." He said on Twitter, "DOJ owes the public more than just a
brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work."
Barr said that Mueller "thoroughly" investigated the question of whether the
Trump campaign coordinated with Russia's election interference, issuing more
than 2,800 subpoenas, obtaining nearly 500 search warrants and interviewing 500
witnesses. Trump answered some questions in writing, but Mueller was not able
to interview him in person.
Barr said Mueller also catalogued the president's actions including "many"
that took place in "public view," a possible nod to Trump's public attacks on
investigators and witnesses.
In the letter, Barr said he concluded that none of Trump's actions
constituted a federal crime that prosecutors could prove in court.