Congress

Barr: Mueller ‘did not establish’ Trump-Russia collusion, but obstruction questions remain

White House says AG’s summary of special counsel report exonerates president

Special counsel Robert Mueller walks with his wife Ann Mueller on March 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. Special counsel Robert Mueller has delivered his report on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to Attorney General William Barr. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III “did not establish” that members of Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to affect the outcome of the 2016 election, but left it up to Attorney General William Barr to determine whether the president obstructed justice to stymie the investigation, the AG wrote in a letter to Congress on Sunday.

Barr has declined to pursue the obstruction thread, he wrote to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in a four-page letter summarizing the key findings from Mueller’s report.

[Mueller probe could spark historic balance of powers debate]

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the day-to-day operation of the special counsel, “concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” the AG wrote in his letter.

The White House immediately proclaimed victory after the letter indicating that Mueller’s team could not prove collusion became public on Sunday, though that proclamation could be premature.

The special counsel’s investigation was “an illegal takedown that failed,” Trump said Sunday speaking to reporters after the release of Barr’s letter before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. None whatsoever,” he said. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. It’s a shame that your president had to go through this.”

Trump also tweeted Sunday that Barr’s letter was "Complete and Total EXONERATION."

That assertion is, of course, the opposite of what Mueller wrote in his report, according to Barr’s summary.

“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” from obstruction of justice charges, Mueller wrote.

Mueller left it to Barr to determine whether the president’s actions constituted obstruction of justice. His report “sets out evidence on both sides of the question” of presidential obstruction of the investigation, Barr wrote.

[Robert Mueller submits Russia report to Justice Department]

While congressional Republicans said Sunday that Barr’s letter should end the debate about whether the president’s campaign colluded with the Russians and whether Trump obstructed justice, their Democratic counterparts said the letter did not adequately allay their concerns and demanded that the attorney general hand over the full Mueller report and its underlying evidence.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler indicated Sunday that he will call Barr to testify before the committee in the “near future” to explain the “very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department” concerning its handling of the Mueller report.

Mueller’s long-awaited final report was delivered to the Justice Department on Friday after a nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Mueller’s team of 19 lawyers — along with help from roughly 40 other experts and FBI agents — issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses, according to Barr’s letter.

Mueller’s report is broken into two sections, the first outlining the details and decision-making of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and the second dealing with his probe into whether the president had attempted to obstruct justice.

Barr indicated in his letter that although “Russian-affiliated individuals” made “multiple offers” to the Trump campaign and affiliated people to assist Trump’s campaign, the special counsel “did not find” that anyone accepted such an offer.

Two of the president’s fiercest defenders in Congress, conservative House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and House Oversight Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, joined Trump on his victory lap Sunday.

“No collusion! No obstruction! It’s time to move on,” Jordan tweeted.

Republican leaders urged their Democratic colleagues to drop the issue, a request that is likely to be ignored as Nadler’s Judiciary Committee plans to push ahead with its probe into allegations of obstruction and corruption among Trump and his business and political associates.

The special counsel announced his office would issue no more indictments  from its investigation Barr wrote, indicating that there are none pending.

Lawmakers from both parties have urged Barr to make the report public as soon as possible.

[McConnell, Graham leave room for Barr to withhold parts of Mueller report]

Rep. Adam Schiff, on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” said Barr has the discretion to make it completely public but vowed to issue a subpoena if it is not.

“If the subpoenas are denied we will hold people before the Congress and yes, we will prosecute in court as necessary to get this information,” the California Democrat said. 

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on CBS’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he supported disclosing the report. 

“Absolutely, I want to see all of it,” he said.

John Bennett contributed to this report

Watch: Burgess: The only thing Trump did wrong was ‘Win an election [no one] expected him to win’

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