AP NEWS

Robert Mueller clears Donald Trump in Russia probe, William Barr says

March 24, 2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that anyone connected with President Trump or his 2016 campaign conspired with Russia to subvert the 2016 election, according to a summary of his findings released Sunday by Attorney General William Barr.

Yet Mr. Mueller did find actions by Mr. Trump after he was in office that suggested he may have been attempting to obstruct the probe into the election. Mr. Mueller did not recommend prosecution but left the decision up to Mr. Barr, who said he doesn’t see enough evidence of a crime to pursue charges.

“Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have 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,” Mr. Barr wrote in a letter summarizing his findings. It was sent to Congress Sunday afternoon and quickly became public.

Mr. Barr said one main factor is that there was no evidence Mr. Trump or his team did conspire to work with Russia to subvert the election. That meant it was tough to find a corrupt intent behind the president’s actions that might, in another context, have been obstruction.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mr. Mueller said in his report, according to Mr. Barr’s four-page summary.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a tweet, called the Mueller report, a “total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”

Republicans called the report an overall vindication, after years of allegations by Democrats that the president and his team had stolen the election.

“No collusion and no obstruction. The cloud hanging over President Trump has been removed by this report,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democrats, though, seized on Mr. Mueller’s findings that the president did engage in troubling behavior toward the ongoing investigation.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he needs to hear more from Mr. Barr about his decision-making in not bringing charges.

Mr. Barr detailed the gargantuan effort Mr. Mueller’s probe involved: 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, more than 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, nearly 50 wiretaps, and 500 interviews.

A Justice Department official notified the White House this afternoon.

Mr. Barr did not consult with Mr. Mueller about his summary and the special counsel did not appear at the Justice Department headquarters, according to a Justice Department official.

Mr. Mueller will not bring any further indictments, nor are there are any sealed indictments yet to be made public.

The investigation has dogged Mr. Trump, his family and others in his orbit during the campaign, the presidential transition and his time in the White House.

Donald Trump Jr. and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, both had been rumored to be targets for their role in arranging a 2016Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on his Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Mueller ended his probe without a public indictment of them. Indeed, while he brought dozens of charges against others in the Trump orbit, those all stemmed from concealing information and financial crimes of their own making, rather than conspiracy to subvert the election.

Congressional Democrats have demanded Mr. Mueller’s full report to Mr. Barr be made public. Democrats have also told Mr. Mueller to preserve all of his work, signaling that Congress will want to see his raw materials and perhaps pursue its own investigations.

They have already publicly discussed subpoenaing Mr. Mueller to testify before Congress.

Democrats say they fear an attempt to cover up information damaging to the president.

Mr. Nadler said he needs to hear more from Mr. Barr about his decision-making in not bringing charges.

He said he was struck by Mr. Barr taking just two days to review the results of the 22-month investigation and conclude there was no prosecutable crime.

“There must be full transparency in what special counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the president from wrongdoing,” the congressman said. “DOJ owes the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work.”

It is not clear when the public will get to see the report. In his letter Sunday, Mr. Barr said his intent is to release as much of the special counsel’s report “as possible.” But Mr. added that Justice Department regulations that prohibit the release of damaging information about individuals not charged with a crime.

Mr. Mueller’s probe led to indictments, convictions or guilty pleas for 34 people and three companies. Among them were the president’s former campaign adviser Paul Manafort, one-time national security adviser Michael Flynn and Mr. Trump’s ex-attorney, Michael Cohen.

The Cohen case was brought by federal prosecutors in New York based on information Mr. Mueller turned over. Cohen says Mr. Trump is implicated in campaign finance malfeasance, though no charges have been brought against the president.

While none of the Trump associates were charged with conspiracy to subvert the 2016 election, Mr. Mueller did uncover evidence that Russia did interfere.

He charged 25 Russians, accusing them of either hacking email accounts of members of Ms. Clinton’s campaign or organizing a social media campaign to spread lies and misinformation about the candidates on the Internet.