The White House has claimed vindication after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia.
A four-page summary of the report, delivered in its entirety to the Attorney General at the Justice Department late Friday, was released on Sunday to Congress and found that there was no collusion but that a determination on whether the President obstructed justice during the investigation was left to the Attorney General William Barr.
The head of the Justice Department – a Trump appointee – decided that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.
There’re a number of big takeaways from the summary of the report – it signaled the end of the two-year long probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, confirming in some detail attempts by Moscow to conduct misinformation on social media and hacking operations against the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The other was that no-one in Trump’s orbit conspired or coordinated with Russia in those efforts.
Thirdly, the Barr summary says no legal conclusion was made by the Special Counsel on whether Trump obstructed justice by, for example, firing then FBI Director James Comey, leaving it to the Attorney General who concluded that was not the case. But that has not satisfied Democrats in Congress who have demanded that the report in its entirety be released.
Jerrold Nadler chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “It is imperative that the Attorney General release the full report and the underlying evidence. The entire unfiltered report, as well as the evidence underlying that report must be made available to Congress and to the American people. As much information can be–, as can be made public, should be made public without delay. I intend for fight for that transparency. We will ask the Attorney General to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. We will demand the release of the full report. The American people are entitled to a full accounting of the President’s misconduct referenced by the Special Counsel.”
The White House sees the findings as a huge victory for the President Trump who hailed it as a complete and total exoneration.
“So after a long look, after a long investigation, after so many people have been so badly hurt, after not looking at the other side where a lot of bad things happened — a lot of horrible things happened, a lot of very bad things happened for our country — it was just announced there was no collusion with Russia. The most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction and none whatsoever, and it was a complete and total exoneration.”
While Mueller did not exonerate the President, the White House begs to differ as Press Secretary Sarah Sanders articulated.
“I frankly disagree with you and so does the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. The report found that they were unable to make a decision that went over to the Department of Justice where they did make a decision.”
Legal analysts argue that obstruction of justice cases are always difficult to prove. Legal Affairs journalist Jan Wolfe explains.
“There was no real nexus between obstruction and some underlying crime. And obstruction of justice cases are always kind of tricky. You need to show ‘corrupt intent.’ And in general, it’s a very difficult process to go in somebody’s head, and try to decipher, ‘why did they do what they did.’ If Trump fired James Comey because he thought the guy was a showboat, valid reason, he can do that. If Trump fired James Comey because he trying to protect himself and his family, not so valid, potentially obstruction of justice. But that’s a really difficult determination to make.”
The Special Counsel interviewed about 500 witnesses, issued more than 2800 subpoenas and executed nearly 500 search warrants during its two-year probe. Democrats are threatening subpoenas while the Attorney General may be called to testify before Congress. And while some 37 individuals and entities were indicted or convicted of crimes during the investigation, including six Trump associates, the cloud hanging over this White House, has for now surely been lifted.