Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE did not uncover evidence to conclude that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a letter sent to Congress on Sunday from Attorney General William Barr.
“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 U.S. presidential election,” states Barr’s letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, which was made public shortly after it was submitted Sunday.
The letter says that Mueller made no conclusion as to whether Trump obstructed justice in the investigation of Russia's election interference. But it also states that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE, after reviewing Mueller's findings, determined that they would not pursue an obstruction of justice charge — a decision likely to be fought along partisan lines in Congress.
The two determined that "the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed as obstruction-of-justice offense," Barr's letter says.
“The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’” Barr wrote.
Barr’s four-page letter is a summary of what officials described as the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s 22-month investigation. The special counsel submitted a confidential report to the attorney general on Friday, concluding an investigation that has dogged President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE for nearly two years.
Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017 to investigate Russia's election interference and any links or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Trump has long derided the investigation as a “witch hunt” and vociferously denied that his campaign colluded with Moscow to interfere in the election.
Trump described Barr’s letter as “total exoneration” in a brief tweet Sunday evening, roughly an hour after it was released by Congress and the Justice Department.
“No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Over the course of the probe, the special counsel unveiled charges against more than two dozen Russians in plots to use social media to serve up divisive content to American audiences before the election and hack the emails of high-level Democrats.
In the letter, Barr says Mueller in his confidential report described those plots as the two primary ways in which Russia sought “to influence the 2016 election."
Mueller also charged six Trump associates with various crimes, including false statements and obstruction; however, none of those charges alleged any conspiracy between Americans and the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 election, leaving the central question of his investigation shrouded in mystery for nearly two years.
Barr’s letter — the first real glimpse of Mueller’s conclusions — sent shock waves through Washington on a warm Sunday afternoon. As of Sunday morning, the White House had not received or been briefed on Mueller’s report, and any information about his closing documentation remained under wraps.
The White House and Trump allies seized on Barr's letter to argue the president had been vindicated by Mueller's report.
“The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“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,” Sanders added.
Meanwhile, Democrats reiterated calls for the entire report to be made public and raised demands for Barr to answer questions about Mueller’s lack of conclusions about obstruction of justice.
Democrats have long pointed to Trump's firing of FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGiuliani told investigators it was OK to 'throw a fake' during campaign DOJ watchdog unable to determine if FBI fed Giuliani information ahead of 2016 election Biden sister has book deal, set to publish in April MORE in early 2017 as possible evidence of obstruction. The firing led to Mueller's appointment.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerAngelina Jolie spotted in Capitol meeting with senators House panel advances immigration language for reconciliation bill Hillicon Valley —Apple is not a monopoly, judge rules MORE (D-N.Y.) on Twitter demanded “full transparency” surrounding what Mueller uncovered “to not exonerate” Trump from wrongdoing.
Nadler, who is spearheading his panel's investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Trump and his associates, also said he would call Barr to testify before his committee “in the near future.”
“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,” Nadler wrote.
“But 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,” he wrote.
Friday evening's announcement that Mueller had wrapped up his sprawling inquiry brought to a close a probe that has attracted immense public attention. But it opened up a new front between the legislative and executive branches over Mueller’s findings that is unlikely to be swiftly or easily resolved.
Nadler and other House chairmen can use their subpoena power to force the Justice Department to provide Mueller’s confidential report to Congress or bring Mueller in testify if they are not satisfied with the information that Barr provides to them.
Barr is expected to more fully brief the House and Senate Judiciary committees on Mueller’s report in the near future.
Barr said in an earlier letter to those committees that he would consult with Mueller and Rosenstein on what other information from Mueller’s final documentation can be released to Congress and the public.
In his letter Sunday, Barr noted that the regulations governing Mueller’s appointment call for his final documentation to be confidential, but he acknowledged the public interest surrounding the special counsel’s probe and said it remains his “intent” to publicly release as much from Mueller’s report as possible.
“My goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies,” Barr wrote.
Barr said he concluded based on his initial review of Mueller’s report that it contains grand jury material, which would need to be redacted from any public version in accordance with federal law.
Barr said he has directed Mueller to help in identifying all information that should be left out of a public report.
While Barr noted that Mueller does not recommend further charges in his investigation, he does indicate in his summary to Congress that there are offshoots of the special counsel’s probe and that Mueller has referred “ongoing matters” to “other offices.”
He signaled that he would need to identify any information related to ongoing investigations and restrict it from a public release of details from Mueller’s report.
“As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies,” Barr wrote.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is conducting an investigation into an alleged campaign finance violation tied to the president. There’s speculation that Mueller may have referred other matters linked to Trump to the Manhattan office or other Justice Department branches.
Updated on March 25 at 8:03 a.m.