The Mueller investigation into possible Russia - Trump campaign connection
A redacted version of a report on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been released to Congress and the public by the U.S. Justice Department.
The report “found no collusion by any Americans,” including President Donald Trump’s campaign, with the Russian efforts, Attorney General William Barr said. He spoke to the press Thursday morning shortly before the release of the redacted report.
Trump hailed the report as a vindication, as he has since Mueller completed his investigation, at an event later Thursday for wounded warriors.
“This should never happen to another president again, this hoax,” Trump said.
The text of the report, however, paints “a far less flattering picture for Trump than the attorney general has offered,” The Washington Post reported, citing numerous cases of contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian interests that did not rise to the legal definition of coordination or collusion.
But Barr said the “bottom line” was that Mueller’s team found no evidence of illegal collusion or conspiracy between Americans and the Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
He said he reviewed the team’s findings on allegations that Trump tried to obstruct or impede the investigation into the allegations of collusion, saying Mueller examined 10 instances of potential obstruction.
“The White House fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation,” Barr said. He said Trump faced an “unprecedented situation” at the start of his presidency.
“As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr said. “At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. “
Mueller’s report shows “substantial evidence” that Trump “was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr said.
Trump called Mueller’s appointment “the end of my Presidency,” according to the report.
Barr said that Trump nonetheless took no actions to hinder the investigation, saying the “evidence of non-corrupt motives” weighed heavily against allegations Trump had tried to illegally block the probe.
But the text of the report suggests that Trump may have been saved from greater peril by his own advisers.
“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the report said.
The report also says investigators had trouble determining whether Trump’s actions rose to the level of illegality, noting they could not conclusively determine that no illegal actions took place.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report says. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
The 448-page report released Thursday has been redacted by the Justice Department to remove four categories of information, including grand jury testimony, intelligence-gathering methods, ongoing investigations and details that could harm the privacy of peripheral figures, The Washington Post reported.
Democrats in Congress, however, have urged Barr to release the full report, including underlying evidence, and have authorized a subpoena for the complete document, though none has been issued, according to the publication.
Deriding Barr’s remarks as a “campaign press conference” on Trump’s behalf, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Twitter said it was “time for Congress and Americans” to see the report.
The highly-anticipated redacted report was delivered to members of Congress on CDs, according to Reuters. A version of the report with redactions only for grand jury evidence will be submitted to “a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees” as well, Barr said.
“I’m committed to the greatest degree of transparency possible,” Barr said, noting he was not obligated by law to release even a redacted version. “These reports are not supposed to be made public.”
He said he had no objection to Mueller testifying before Congress on the report. Minutes later, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., head of the House Judiciary Committee, posted a letter to Mueller on Twitter requesting his testimony no later than May 23.
“We cannot take Attorney General Barr’s word for it,” Nadler wrote on Twitter. “We must read the full Mueller report, and the underlying evidence. This is about transparency and ensuring accountability.”
“AG Barr has confirmed the staggering partisan effort by the Trump Admin to spin public’s view of the #MuellerReport – complete with acknowledgment that the Trump team received a sneak preview,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Twitter. “It’s more urgent than ever that Special Counsel Mueller testify before Congress.”
Barr said in a letter to Congress that he would be available May 1 and May 2 to testifty on the investigation and report.
He said no redactions were proposed or made by anyone outside the Justice Department, and no one outside the department has seen the full report outside the intelligence community.
Trump’s attorneys did review the redacted version of the report before its release Thursday, but requested no changes, Barr said.
Trump on Thursday posted on Twitter a “Game of Thrones” style meme declaring “game over” on allegations of collusion and obstruction.
Mueller’s report, which was first delivered to the attorney general March 24, detailed his team’s two-year investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible White House obstruction of earlier probes.
On March 26, Barr released a four-page letter summarizing the findings in the 400-page report. Mueller found that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia, but reached no conclusion on whether he obstructed justice, the summary said.
Trump and his supporters hailed the summary as an exoneration of the president, but Democratic leaders in Congress immediately demanded that Barr release the full report.
“I have nothing to hide,” Trump said earlier. “This was a hoax. This was a witch hunt. I have absolutely nothing to hide.”
The Mueller probe has resulted in the indictment and, in many cases, conviction of at least 34 people and three companies associated with Trump or his campaign.
They include adviser Roger Stone, former personal attorney Michael Cohen, former campaign chair Paul Manafort, former campaign official Rick Gates and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, along with a number of Russian nationals and firms.
Some, such as Manafort, have faced charges for dealings other than those directly involving Trump or his presidential campaign. Several have pleaded guilty and cooperated with the Mueller probe. A number of those cases were handed off to U.S. attorneys in New York and elsewhere for prosecution, and those investigations will continue.
In addition, Mueller’s investigation, focusing chiefly on allegations of Russian interference and White House obstruction, is only one of multiple probes into the 2016 election by Congress and other federal agencies.
Along with various Congressional investigations, numerous state investigations into Trump, his dealings and his associates also continue across the United States, particularly in New York, The New York Times reported.