Report Says No Evidence of Collusion 03/25 06:30

Report Says No Evidence of Collusion   03/25 06:30

   Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that President Donald 
Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia to influence the 2016 
presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed 
justice, Attorney General William Barr declared Sunday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that 
President Donald Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia to 
influence the 2016 presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether 
Trump obstructed justice, Attorney General William Barr declared Sunday. That 
brought a hearty claim of vindication from Trump but set the stage for new 
rounds of political and legal fighting.

   Trump cheered the outcome but also laid bare his resentment after two years 
of investigations that have shadowed his administration. "It's a shame that our 
country has had to go through this. To be honest, it's a shame that your 
president has had to go through this," he complained.

   Democrats pointed out that Mueller found evidence for and against 
obstruction and demanded to see his full report. They insisted that even the 
summary by the president's attorney general hardly put him in the clear.

   Mueller's conclusions, summarized by Barr in a four-page letter to Congress, 
represented a victory for Trump on a key question that has hung over his 
presidency from the start: Did his campaign work with Russia to defeat Democrat 
Hillary Clinton? That was further good news for the president on top of the 
Justice Department's earlier announcement that Mueller had wrapped his 
investigation without new indictments. The resolution also could deflate the 
hopes of Democrats in Congress and on the 2020 campaign trail that 
incriminating findings from Mueller would hobble the president's agenda and 
re-election bid.

   But while Mueller was categorical in ruling out criminal collusion, he was 
far more circumspect on presidential obstruction of justice. Despite Trump's 
claim of total exoneration, Mueller did not draw a conclusion one way or the 
other on whether he sought to stifle the Russia investigation through his 
actions including the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

   According to Barr's summary, Mueller set out "evidence on both sides of the 
question" and stated that "while this report does not conclude the president 
committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

   Barr, who was nominated by Trump in December, and Deputy Attorney General 
Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May 2017 and oversaw much of his work, 
went further in Trump's favor.

   The attorney general said he and Rosenstein had determined that Mueller's 
evidence was insufficient to prove in court that Trump had committed 
obstruction of justice to hamper the probe. Barr has previously voiced a broad 
view of presidential powers, and in an unsolicited memo last June he cast doubt 
on whether the president could have obstructed justice through acts --- like 
firing his FBI director --- that he was legally empowered to take.

   Barr said their decision was based on the evidence uncovered by Mueller and 
not affected by Justice Department legal opinions that say a sitting president 
cannot be indicted.

   Mueller's team examined a series of actions by the president in the last two 
years to determine if he intended obstruction. Those include his firing of 
Comey one week before Mueller's appointment, his public and private haranguing 
of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia 
investigation because of his work on the campaign, his request of Comey to end 
an investigation into Michael Flynn, the White House's first national security 
adviser, and his drafting of an incomplete explanation about his oldest son's 
meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.

   Mueller's findings absolve Trump on the question of colluding with Russia 
but don't entirely remove the legal threats the president and associates are 
facing. Federal prosecutors in New York, for instance, are investigating 
hush-money payments made to two women during the campaign who say they had sex 
with the president. Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated 
Trump in campaign finance violations when he pleaded guilty last year.

   The special counsel's investigation did not come up empty-handed. It 
ensnared nearly three dozen people, senior Trump campaign operatives among 
them. The probe illuminated Russia's assault on the American political system, 
painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic 
emails to hurt Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at 
covering up their Russia-related contacts.

   Thirty-four people, including six Trump aides and advisers, were charged in 
the investigation. Twenty-five are Russians accused of election interference 
either through hacking into Democratic accounts or orchestrating a social media 
campaign to spread disinformation on the internet.

   Sunday's summary --- and its suggestion that Mueller may have found evidence 
in support of obstruction --- sets up a fight between Barr and Democrats, who 
called for the special counsel's full report to be released and vowed to press 
on with their own investigations.

   "Attorney General Barr's letter raises as many questions as it answers," 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a 
statement.

   "Given Mr. Barr's public record of bias against the special counsel's 
inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make 
objective determinations about the report," they said. Trump's own claim of 
complete exoneration "directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not 
to be taken with any degree of credibility," they added.

   Trump was at his Florida estate when lawmakers received the report. Barr's 
chief of staff called Emmet Flood, the lead White House lawyer on the 
investigation, to brief him on the findings shortly before he sent it to 
Congress. Mueller submitted his report to Barr instead of directly to Congress 
and the public because, unlike independent counsels such as Ken Starr in the 
case of President Bill Clinton, his investigation operated under the close 
supervision of the Justice Department.

   Barr did not speak with the president, Mueller was not consulted on the 
letter, and the White House does not have Mueller's report, according to a 
Justice Department official.

   Though Mueller did not find evidence that anyone associated with the Trump 
campaign coordinated with the Russian government, Barr's summary notes 
"multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump 
campaign."

   That's a likely reference not only to a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting at 
which Donald Trump. Jr. expected to receive damaging information on Clinton 
from a Kremlin-connected lawyer, as well as a conversation in London months 
earlier at which Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was told Russia had 
"dirt" on Clinton in the form of thousands of stolen emails.

   Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, 
said Congress needs to hear from Barr about his decision and see "all the 
underlying evidence." He said on Twitter, "DOJ owes the public more than just a 
brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work."

   Barr said that Mueller "thoroughly" investigated the question of whether the 
Trump campaign coordinated with Russia's election interference, issuing more 
than 2,800 subpoenas, obtaining nearly 500 search warrants and interviewing 500 
witnesses. Trump answered some questions in writing, but Mueller was not able 
to interview him in person.

   Barr said Mueller also catalogued the president's actions including "many" 
that took place in "public view," a possible nod to Trump's public attacks on 
investigators and witnesses.

   In the letter, Barr said he concluded that none of Trump's actions 
constituted a federal crime that prosecutors could prove in court.


(KA)

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