Two days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any ties between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Attorney General William Barr delivered a four-page letter to Congress summarizing Mueller’s final report.
Barr’s letter claims that Mueller offers no evidence of conspiracy or collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.
According to Barr — whose letter outlines the “principal conclusions” of the special counsel’s probe — Mueller finds that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Barr also writes that Mueller’s report does not take a position as to whether President Trump obstructed justice with relation to the special counsel’s work. “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime,” Barr quotes the Mueller report as saying, “it also does not exonerate him.” Without reaching a legal conclusion, Barr goes on to write, Mueller essentially left it to the Justice Department to decide whether Trump should be indicted.
Barr reveals that, after reviewing Mueller’s report, both he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence “to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” Barr made the determination not to pursue an obstruction charge, in part, because Mueller had concluded there was no “underlying crime related to Russian election interference” to cover up.
The Democratic chairmen of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight committees have objected to Barr’s quick decision in a joint statement: “It is unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the President in under 48 hours.”
For his part, the president responded to Barr’s letter on Twitter by claiming it represents a “Complete and Total EXONERATION.”
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
Barr’s top-line summary is brief in scope and size. But both Democrats and Republicans have insisted that the full Mueller report and its supporting evidence be made public without delay. In his letter, Barr appears to want to withhold much of Mueller’s final product in the name of protecting “the integrity of grand jury proceedings,” although he’s promised to conduct a review in short order. “As soon as that process is complete,” Barr writes, “I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released.”
The letter describes the sprawling operation that Mueller oversaw during the probe. Assisting the special counsel were 19 lawyers and a team of about 40 FBI agents, forensic accountants and other professional staff. Mueller issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, interviewed roughly 500 witnesses and made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, according to Barr.
Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation secured indictments, convictions or guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies, reaching into the highest levels of President Trump’s political influence.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, will spend up to seven-and-a-half years in prison and forfeit millions of dollars as a result of the special counsel’s work. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and the president’s former lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen are just a few of the figures who found themselves in the crosshairs of the investigation. Mueller also indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents in 2018 for allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee and the personal email account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, providing the clearest picture yet of Russia’s cyber warfare efforts during 2016.
The fact that Mueller was able to bring his investigation to a conclusion was, by itself, a significant victory for the rule of law in the United States. The president and his deputies had routinely threatened to kneecap or prematurely end the Mueller probe. Trump has attacked Mueller and the investigation on a near-daily basis as a “witch hunt,” “hoax,” or both.
On Sunday, Democratic leaders vowed to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to assure the Trump/Russia affair is completed with full transparency. House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) promised to call Barr to testify on his summary of Mueller’s findings, saying, “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, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before House Judiciary in the near future.”
Soon after Barr’s letter was made public, Trump and his allies rushed to celebrate it as something that “clears” the president.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a tweet, “The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. AG Barr and DAG 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.”
The president’s son Eric tweeted, “Sad to see that you are upset by the fact that #POTUS and the Trump Campaign did NOT collude with Russia, despite the hoax CNN has exploited for two years. What part of “No American conspired or worked with Russia to influence the 2016 campaign” is unclear? #CNNSucks
Congressional Republicans also rejoiced. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) tweeted: “After 22 months of a special counsel and 2 years of congressional investigations, it’s over. The clock has finally struck midnight on the ‘Russian collusion’ fantasy. No collusion.”
Democratic presidential candidates made it clear they will call for the full report to be released. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) posted a video of herself in front of the Department of Justice saying, “Justice must be done and the entire Mueller report should be made public.” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) wrote, “The American public deserves the full report and findings from the Mueller investigation immediately—not just the in-house summary from a Trump Administration official.” Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also said that the full report should be released to Congress.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.