Attorney General William Barr said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation did not find sufficient evidence to establish that President Donald Trump committed an obstruction of justice offense, or that the president’s campaign coordinated with Moscow’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.
In a four-page letter to top lawmakers on Sunday, the top Justice Department official summarized key findings from Mueller’s historic investigation. The probe, which ended as Mueller submitted his final report to Barr on Friday, has dogged the Trump administration and gripped the nation for nearly two years. Barr had the authority to decide what information to share with both Congress and the public, including whether they will see Mueller’s full report.
In his letter, Barr breaks down two sections of Mueller’s report: Russia’s efforts to affect the 2016 election and whether the president obstructed justice. Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and other actions throughout the probe raised concerns about the president trying to end the investigation.
While the president and his allies saw vindication in Barr’s letter, Democrats questioned how Barr came to his conclusions and called for more information from Mueller’s report. Citing “concerning discrepancies,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said he planned to call the attorney general to testify.
The attorney general says Mueller did not conclude whether Trump obstructed justice. He quotes the special counsel as stating, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr concluded that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “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.”
The top Justice Department official also writes that the probe “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated” with Russia. Barr quotes Mueller as writing: ”[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The attorney general writes that Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia’s cyberattacks on Democratic and Clinton campaign figures or the efforts to spread information obtained in the hacking incidents, “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has admitted that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer after being offered dirt on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his father’s 2016 opponent.
The White House and its allies in Congress, which repeatedly slammed the probe as a “witch hunt,” found vindication in Barr’s summary. In a tweet, the president claimed “Complete and Total Exoneration.
In a statement, White House press secretary said Mueller “did not find any” collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice. She highlighted Barr and Rosenstein’s determination that Trump did not obstruct justice.
“The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Barr specifically noted that Mueller did not exonerate Trump.
Democrats, who largely criticized Barr’s appointment as attorney general, immediately questioned the conclusions he drew from Mueller’s report. They questioned why Barr decided the evidence gathered was not sufficient for obstruction charges.
“Special Counsel Mueller clearly and explicitly is not exonerating the President, and we must hear from AG Barr about his decision making and see all the underlying evidence for the American people to know all the facts,” Nadler said in a tweeted statement.
“There must be full transparency in what Special Counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the President from wrongdoing. DOJ owes the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work,” he said in a second tweet.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Barr has a “public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry” and claimed that “he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
Mueller submitted his report and ended the probe on Friday without further indictments. A senior law enforcement official told NBC News that are also no sealed indictments pending release.
The special counsel was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government as well as any other matters arising from the investigation. His probe led to the indictment of members of Trump’s inner circle such as his former lawyer Michael Cohen and ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as well as numerous Russian nationals accused of participating in Moscow’s internet disinformation and cyberattack campaign.
Members of Congress have called on Barr to provide full transparency. In a rare bipartisan vote in an era of deep partisanship, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted 420-0 in favor of a non-binding resolution demanding the public release of Mueller’s full report. The GOP-held Senate blocked the measure.
In a letter to Congress Friday, Barr said he is “committed to as much transparency as possible.”
He was appointed attorney general after Trump forced Jeff Sessions out of the job.
Trump had repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation after the former Alabama senator failed to disclose during testimony to Congress contacts he had with the Russian ambassador in the runup to the 2016 presidential election.
Trump has repeatedly called the special counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt.” But Barr, a Trump appointee, said in his Friday letter that there were no instances in which the special counsel’s actions were “inappropriate or unwarranted.”
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.