Attorney General William Barr told congressional Judiciary Committee leaders in a letter today that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not reveal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, but did not exonerate the president nor conclude that he committed obstruction.
Mueller turned his team’s confidential report over to Barr on Friday; the attorney general notified chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary panels that he would review the text and get back to lawmakers as soon as the weekend with an initial summary of findings.
The Mueller probe, which began with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller on May 17, 2017, utilized 19 lawyers with a staff of 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants and other staff. Mueller’s team issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders to view communication records, made 13 requests for evidence to foreign governments, and interviewed about 500 witnesses, Barr noted.
Barr said that no sealed indictments are outstanding in the Mueller probe, which indicted several individuals who served in the Trump campaign. While noting that Mueller “referred several matters to other offices for further action,” Barr did not elaborate on these ongoing tentacles of the investigation.
Mueller assessed whether Americans “joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime,” Barr said — specifically the Internet Research Agency disinformation campaign and Russian government hacking operations — and quoted the report verbatim: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The second part of the Mueller report assesses whether President Trump obstructed justice, and Barr told lawmakers that Mueller “considered whether to evaluate the conduct under department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.”
“The special counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” Barr wrote. “Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The special counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'”
Barr said the judgment is therefore kicked back to his office on whether the president committed obstruction. The recent Trump appointee said he and Rosenstein determined “the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
Barr added that his “goal and intent” is to eventually release “as much of the special counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and departmental policies.”
Before any release, the attorney general, he “must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the special counsel has referred to other offices.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded to topline findings in a statement: “The special counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. AG Barr and DAG Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the president of the United States.”
“Special Counsel Mueller worked for 22 months to determine the extent to which President Trump obstructed justice. Attorney General Barr took 2 days to tell the American people that while the President is not exonerated, there will be no action by DOJ,” tweeted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). “In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was golfing with Trump at Mar-a-Lago today, tweeted, “Bad day for those hoping the Mueller investigation would take President Trump down. Great job by Mr. Mueller and his team to thoroughly examine all things Russia. Now it is time to move on, govern the country, and get ready to combat Russia and other foreign actors ahead of 2020.”