Trump cheers no-conspiracy-with-Russia finding from Mueller probe | Democrats seek Mueller’s obstruction evidence, public disclosure of report

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

President Trump on Sunday embraced a narrative he’s favored for more than two years, this time armed with a verdict he described as entirely in his favor:

“There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction and none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration,” he said as he returned to Washington from Florida.

The Hill: Mueller finds no Trump-Russia conspiracy in 2016 election.

The Hill: Mueller delivers a win for Trump — five takeaways.

Trump received backing on Sunday from his lawyers, the White House communications team, the Republican Party, his reelection campaign and allies in Congress. They amplified the president’s message of vindication, ignoring contradictory information in Mueller’s report while poised for new clashes in Congress and among Democratic presidential candidates in the months ahead.

Trump spoke shortly after Attorney General William Barr sent Congress and the White House his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which included no new indictments at the end of a 22-month investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election (The Hill).

Barr wrote that Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” 

However, Mueller left open the possibility that Trump had obstructed justice in reaction to the Russia probe, according to Barr. But the attorney general said he concluded from the special counsel’s evidence that it was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr quoted Mueller as writing (Reuters).

The Hill: Mueller’s conclusion raises new questions.

The Hill: Read Barr’s four-page summary to Congress.

What happens next?

The partisan battle continues: Democrats seized on the equivocal reference by Mueller about whether there was criminal evidence of obstruction of the Russia probe (The Hill).

The bottom line: Mueller’s findings are a severe blow to the impeach-Trump drive (The Hill). Yet, progressives who want to pursue impeachment now believe it’s imperative to get the full text of Mueller’s report and its discussion of obstruction of justice. Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), for one, continued to call for impeachment on Sunday after Barr’s letter went to lawmakers (The Hill).

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday his panel will soon call Barr to testify.

The New York Times: House and Senate Democrats vow to continue oversight.

The Washington Post: Trump’s actions tied to potential obstruction will be wrestled with in the political arena.

Republican lawmakers, however, accused Democrats of continuing what they see as politically motivated investigations as a weapon to attack Trump into the 2020 election.

“They really don’t have a policy agenda. They have an agenda against the president,” said House Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Doug Collins of Georgia, speaking on “Fox News Sunday.”

Public disclosure: Both parties in Congress say they want the Mueller report to be publicly available to the extent possible under the law. But transparency will have many definitions, and the fight is expected to be intense.

Polls show that a large majority of Americans want the report released, but surveys also show most Americans made up their minds about Trump and his actions before Mueller concluded his investigation.

The president said last week he too wants the report released, and after his enthusiastic response on Sunday to Barr’s summary letter, he will be pressed on all sides to encourage the Justice Department to disclose the report. There was no suggestion on Sunday that Trump seeks to withhold findings or assert executive privilege.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed her party’s clamor for full disclosure  of Mueller’s conclusions and investigative findings with a Twitter hashtag on Sunday: #ReleaseTheReport.


She told 120 Democratic lawmakers on Saturday during a conference call that she will reject any calls for classified briefings to Congress. Pelosi said any information sharing must be unclassified so that lawmakers can discuss the information publicly (The Hill).

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating Russia’s election interference, agrees:

“Congress and the American people deserve to judge the facts for themselves. The Special Counsel’s report must be provided to Congress immediately, and the Attorney General should swiftly prepare a declassified version of the report for the public. Nothing short of that will suffice. It is also critical that all documents related to the Special Counsel’s investigation be preserved and made available to the appropriate Congressional committees,” Warner said.

Is Trump out of the woods, legally?

The president’s business activities are under investigation by New York State Attorney General Letitia James and by Justice Department prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Legal analysts say Trump’s legal troubles are not over (The Washington Post).

What about Russia’s threat to U.S. elections?

How and why Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election and favored Trump’s election is a large part of what Mueller investigated, and his findings are a significant part of his report to the Justice Department.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in a written statement on Sunday, focused on that topic, signaling that other Republicans will follow suit and that Congress could find actionable information in the special counsel’s findings. However, Russia’s role in the election is a topic Trump repeatedly sidelines.

Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing, and I welcome the Special Counsel’s contributions to our efforts to understand better Russia’s activities in this regard. And I look forward to the continuing work of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the threats posed to our democratic institutions by foreign interference.” — McConnell

More than two dozen people charged by Mueller are Russians and are unlikely to be brought to the United States to stand trial.

The special counsel brought criminal charges against a total of 34 people, including six former Trump associates and advisers. Five people close to the president pleaded guilty: Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former personal attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Trump’s, was indicted in January and accused of lying to Congress. Stone has pleaded not guilty.

The Hill: A timeline of Mueller’s investigation from start to finish.

Perspectives and Analysis:

Neal K. Katyal: The many problems with the Barr letter.

Jonathan Turley: A conclusion on collusion, but confusion on obstruction.

The Washington Post editorial board: Trump did not collude with Russia. But he’s wrong to say Mueller exonerated him.

The Washington Examiner editorial board: The collusion delusion.

Blake Hounshell: Trump didn’t collude with Russia. So why does he love Putin so much?

Electronic Privacy Information Center watchdog: Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeks report’s public release.

Peter Baker: A cloud is lifted over Trump’s presidency.

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