WASHINGTON — Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find that members of the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election, Attorney General William Barr wrote in a letter to Congress that was made public on Sunday.
In the letter, Barr released the summary of the “principle conclusions” of Mueller’s investigation, after the special counsel delivered his report on Friday.
Mueller made no conclusion on whether Trump’s conduct during the investigation rose to the level of obstruction of justice. “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'”
Instead, it left the obstruction of justice question to Barr, who concluded that the Department of Justice found no actions that, “in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct” on the part of the president.
Shortly after Barr’s letter was made public, Trump tweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”
“It is a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it is a shame our president had to go through this,” Trump told reporters. He called it an “illegal takedown that failed,” and called for a new investigation of why the Russia investigation was launched.
The White House reacted with a sense of vindication.
“The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote on Twitter. “AG Barr and DAG [Rod] Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”
Rudy Giuliani, one of the president’s lawyers, said on CNN that they viewed it as a “complete exoneration.”
Barr wrote that the investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election — a misinformation campaign and a hacking operation to obtain emails from those associated with the Clinton campaign and the Democratic party. Barr wrote that “the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) expressed concerns over Barr’s determination that Trump did not obstruct justice. He tweeted that “Special Counsel Mueller worked for 22 months to determine the extent to which President Trump obstructed justice. Attorney General Barr took 2 days to tell the American people that while the President is not exonerated, there will be no action by DOJ.”
That sentiment was echoed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said in a statement, “Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers. The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”
They said that Barr had a “record of bias” against Mueller’s inquiry and was “not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
Mueller’s investigation, stretching nearly two years, has been the source of ongoing anticipation of whether it would in any way implicate President Trump, particularly when it comes to questions of whether he attempted to stymie the probe or even obstruct justice. Trump had repeatedly insisted that there was “no collusion,” and has characterized Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt.”
On Sunday, broadcast networks and cable news channels covered the release of the summary to Congress and the public with great anticipation, as it gives the first glimpse of Mueller’s report since he delivered a completed copy on Friday. CNN kept a camera at a Justice Department entrance, along with reports from Capitol Hill.
Democrats continue to urge Barr to release the full Mueller report, and Nadler said that he planned to call the attorney general to testify before the House Judiciary Committee “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.”
Trump did not sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, but issued written responses to questions.
Barr wrote that he concluded that the evidence that Mueller gathered was not sufficient to establish an obstruction of justice offense. He noted that Mueller found that the underlying evidence “does not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.”
When it came to the question of obstruction, media attention focused on Trump’s decision to fire James Comey, among other incidents.
“In cataloguing the president’s action, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct had a nexus to a pending or contemplative proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense,” Barr wrote.
Mueller’s investigation led to the indictments of more than three dozen individuals, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime associate Roger Stone. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, plead guilty to lying to Congress.
Trump is likely to use the results of Mueller’s investigation to make further attacks on the media and deride their reporting as “fake news,” while the findings of no collusion removes one possible avenue for Democrats to pursue impeachment proceedings.
But philanthropist Tom Steyer, who has been leading a campaign to impeach Trump, said that “We need to hear from Robert Mueller, not Attorney General Barr. We need to see the facts so we can judge for ourselves.”
Mueller’s investigation led to other investigations that are still ongoing, including by prosecutors in New York and Virginia, while House Judiciary Democrats have launched a wide-ranging inquiry that includes Russian collusion and Trump’s business interests.