Updated 9:55 a.m. | The White House lashed out at Democrats and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, accusing them of trying to “overthrow” President Donald Trump.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Mueller being unable to establish Trump 2016 campaign coordination with Russians “a great reminder also of the rule of law … but it’s also a sad reminder of the lack of accountability that started to seep into the media and into Democrats that have gone out for the last two years actually over two years and accused the president the United States of being an agent of a foreign government.
“Take a second and let that sink in, take a minute and realize how outrageous and how serious and how malicious an accusation like that is,” she told CNN. “They literally accused the president of the United States of being an agent for foreign government, that’s equivalent to treason — that is punishable by death in this country.
Mueller “wasted” millions in taxpayer funds and, along with Democrats, essentially tried to “overthrow” a sitting president, Sanders said.
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During an appearance moments later on Fox, Sanders said Democrats should be “embarrassed” and offered some advice, saying they should “be careful” about continuing their own investigations of all things Trump.
She said Trump was a “better candidate” in 2016 than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and simply “outworked her.”
“They didn’t want to believe their own failure,” she said of Democrats.
Sanders does not have a press briefing planned for Monday, but she did take a handful of questions as she headed back into the West Wing.
Notably, she pushed back on the notion pushed by Democrats and Trump critics that Mueller’s decision to state his report does not exonerate the president on obstruction of justice.
“The report found they were unable to make a decision,” she said of Mueller’s team. “That went over to the Department of Justice, where they did make a decision. … And they made a decision that there was no obstruction.”
“So it makes it a complete and total exoneration,” she claimed.
That is the White House-GOP version of what Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded on the matter, which now will become the basis of the political fight over Mueller’s concluded probe.
Barr wrote in a Sunday letter to lawmakers that he and his outgoing deputy, who has been overseeing the investigation, found Mueller did not find evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to prosecute Trump on obstruction — if DOJ even could indict a sitting president, which they did not consider when mulling obstruction questions.
Meantime, another question left unresolved from a dramatic Sunday afternoon and evening is what happens to the special counsel’s report. Under Justice guidelines, it is supposed to be a confidential document between the AG and Mueller. But Barr could opt to release all or parts of it after a review to remove classified or other heavily sensitive material.
Trump said last week he would be okay with a full release. His top spokeswoman Monday morning signaled a partial release could be more likely, with Trump claiming executive privilege to keep some information under wraps.
“One thing we do want to be careful about and be clear about is we want to do the right thing, not just for this president but for all [future] administrations,” Sanders said. “We want to make sure we’re protecting the Office of the Presidency. … You have to look at things like executive privilege. You have to look at protecting sources and methods for the intelligence community.”
Those decisions, she said, will be made by Barr — not the president.
Sanders’ two television interviews and her brief Q&A with reporters on the North Lawn driveway suggest the White House plans to go on the attack, using the Mueller report to hammer congressional Democrats and that party’s 2020 presidential candidates rather than seek unity.
“Our feeling is that this never should have needed to take place,” Sanders said of Mueller’s probe. “Democrats should be embarrassed by their behavior.
But Trump and his top aides are not just targeting Democratic politicians.
“There are a lot of people who should answer questions,” a clearly agitated Sanders said under a warm early spring sun. “If Congress is so gung-ho to call people up to the Hill, the list I would start with [former FBI Director James] Comey, [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper, [former CIA Director John] Brennan and other people in the FBI who perpetuated this absurd lie and this absurd idea that the president of the United States was somehow a foreign agent, colluding with another government.”
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