NEW YORK, Mar 25 (APP):Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation did not find evidence that US President Donald Trump or members of his campaign conspired with Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election, delivering a boost to the president in a case that has shadowed his administration since its first days.
But the special counsel’s report leaves “unresolved whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress delivered Sunday.
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on whether he obstructed justice, Mueller said in the report, according to Barr’s four-page summary.
Because the special counsel did not reach a conclusion on obstruction, Barr wrote that the ultimate decision was left to him, adding that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that Trump’s conduct did not constitute a crime.
Trump declared the findings a “complete and total exoneration” of him.
The anticlimactic end of Mueller’s Russia probe allows Trump to relaunch his beleaguered presidency with new swagger ahead of the 2020 election.
Trump’s supporters called it a turning point, saying that with lurid questions about election-rigging out of the way, he will have a fresh chance to connect with Americans, according to analysts.
In reacting to the report, Trump added: “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this for — before I even got elected, it began.”
“And it began illegally. And hopefully, somebody is going to look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed. And hopefully, somebody is going to be looking at the other side.”
Trump’s remarks came shortly after he tweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that Sunday marked a “great day for America and for President Trump.
“After two years of wild anti-Trump hysteria, the President and his millions of supporters have been completely vindicated,” she added.
Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, issued a statement saying that Mueller’s findings had exposed “the Russia collusion conspiracy theory for the sham that it always was” and caught Trump’s Democratic opponents “in an elaborate web of lies and deceit.”
Many Democrats had been hoping for blockbuster allegations against the president in Mueller’s report, especially in the wake of last year’s election results that saw Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives.
Barr sent his letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees around 4 p.m. after working both days of the weekend at “Main Justice” headquarters in Washington, DC.
Barr noted the intense “public interest in this matter” and repeated his intention to “release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.”
But he said Mueller’s report apparently contains information related to secret grand jury proceedings that is generally prohibited from being made public, as well as “information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices.”
Barr said he would need to identify all that material before deciding “what can be released.”
Earlier Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, told ABC’s news programme “This Week” that he wanted the entire report and vowed to subpoena it and ”prosecute in court as necessary to get this information.”
In his letter, Barr said Mueller’s report identifies “two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election,” with one involving online disinformation and social-media manipulation by the Internet Research Association.
But Mueller — who secured indictments against the IRA (individual retirement account) and 13 Russians — “did not find that any US person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts,” Barr wrote.
The second aspect of Russian meddling involved hacking the emails of key figures in Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic organizations, which led Mueller to file charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers.
But while there were “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” Mueller did not find that anyone from the campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” with regard to the hacked emails, Barr wrote.
Barr’s letter doesn’t specify any of those Russian outreach efforts, but President Trump’s son, Donald Junior, released emails last year — ahead of a planned New York Times expose — that show him arranging a meeting in Trump Tower with a “Russian government attorney” to get damaging information on Clinton.
Muller’s probe of potential obstruction charges against Trump included a “thorough factual investigation,” but Muller opted against making “a traditional prosecutorial judgment” and he “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” Barr wrote.
Instead, Mueller “sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact,” Barr wrote.
“The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’” Barr wrote.
Trump’s lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, characterized the findings as “total vindication of the president.”