No proof that Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence 2016 election: US attorney general
Washington, Mar 25: Robert Mueller's investigation did not find sufficient evidence to establish that US President Donald Trump or any of his aides coordinated with Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 election, Attorney General William Barr has said as he summarised the key findings from the special counsel's historic probe that has cast a dark shadow over the presidency for nearly two years.
In a four-page letter to top lawmakers on Sunday, Barr highlighted two sections of Mueller's report -- Russia's efforts to affect the 2016 presidential election and whether the president obstructed justice.
The long-awaited report was submitted on Friday to Barr, who pored over the document before handing a summary to Congress.
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.
Mueller, who spent nearly two years investigating Moscow's determined effort to sabotage the last presidential election, found no conspiracy “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” Barr wrote in the letter to lawmakers.
Mueller's team drew no conclusions about whether Trump illegally obstructed justice, Barr said, so he made his own decision. The attorney general and his deputy, Rod J Rosenstein, determined that the special counsel's investigators had insufficient evidence to establish that the president committed that offense.
Barr cautioned that "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him" on the obstruction of justice issue.
The investigation had cast a shadow over the Trump presidency for nearly two years with the Democratic leadership alleging that Russian interference helped him in the 2016 polls.
Barr said that Mueller found no proof of such a conspiracy "despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign".
"The special counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election," the attorney general said.
"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," Barr said, adding Mueller "ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment".
The release of the findings was a significant political victory for Trump who described it as a "complete and total exoneration".
Terming the allegation of collusion "the most ridiculous thing ever", Trump said, "It's a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest it's a shame that your president had to go through this."
Trump had been repeatedly claiming that he was a victim of "witch hunt".
"This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at their other side," Trump said.
"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... it was just announced there was no collusion with Russia," he said.
The Democrats were banking heavily on the results of Mueller's investigation to defeat Trump in the 2020 elections. Many were also talking about impeaching the president if the report reveals collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
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 said he planned to call the attorney general to testify.
Barr's letter could be just the beginning of a lengthy constitutional battle between Congress and the Justice Department about whether Mueller's full report will be made public. Democrats have also called for the attorney general to turn over all of the special counsel's investigative files.
Barr's letter said that his "goal and intent" was to release as much of the Mueller report as possible, but warned that some of the report was based on grand jury material that "by law cannot be made public".
Barr planned at a later date to send lawmakers the detailed summary of Mueller's full report that the attorney general is required under law to deliver to Capitol Hill.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the report has justified the president's stand.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said this is a great day for all Americans.
"As we have said all along, there was no collusion and no obstruction. Now that this investigation is over, Democrats need to finally end their baseless investigations and political crusade against President Trump for the good of the country," she said.
Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale said the president has been "completely and fully vindicated" by Mueller's report.
"Nevertheless, Democrats took us on a frantic, chaotic, conspiracy-laden roller coaster for two years, alleging wrongdoing where there was none," he claimed.
"So distraught and blindsided by the results of the 2016 elections, Democrats lied to the American people continually, hoping to undo the legitimate election of President Trump," Parscale said.