Attorney General William Barr told congressional leaders that special counsel Robert Mueller did not find that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia or obstructed justice, and that there are no more indictments planned in the case.
“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Barr, quoting Mueller’s final report, wrote in a letter sent to Congress Sunday afternoon. Mueller had no input in drafting Barr’s summary, a senior Justice Department official told the Associated Press.
The lack of demonstrated coordination came “despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” according to Barr’s letter. Since Trump took office, several members of his 2016 campaign staff were found to have met with Russian officials or individuals — and then either denied or avoided admitting they had. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for example, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about having conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Mueller sent a final report to Barr on Friday detailing the results of his nearly two-year investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, which had already resulted in the criminal indictments of 34 people and three companies.
In a letter to Congress the same day, Barr said he would release the “principal findings” of the report this weekend. Congress, however, received a “very brief letter,” according to Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
The White House — and many Republicans — hailed Barr’s letter as total vindication.
“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 Sanders tweeted.
No obstruction of justice, Barr says
Mueller’s report didn’t draw a conclusion about whether the White House obstructed justice but laid out evidence on both sides of the question, Barr wrote. The report also stated that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr wrote in his letter.
Mueller has reportedly been investigating whether Trump may have attempted to block the investigation into his ties to Russia when he fired FBI Director James Comey in early 2017, and publicly berated former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.
Barr, however, said he’d made a determination, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, that any interference of the probe didn’t rise to the level of obstruction of justice. “The evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” Barr wrote in his letter to Congress Sunday.
Barr’s letter didn’t explain what evidence Mueller had presented about obstruction of justice claims but said that much of it has been “the subject of public reporting.”
No more indictments
Barr’s letter noted that Mueller recommended no further indictments, and that there are no “sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.” Those comments appeared to be a reaction to speculation by legal experts and others watching the investigation closely that the special counsel may have salted away further indictments under seal, despite issuing a final report that didn’t call for further indictments.
“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,” Barr wrote.
When assessing potential conspiracy charges, Barr wrote the special counsel considered whether the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russia’s election interference activities. That coordination was defined as any “agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”
He also said that he would be releasing more information but cautioned that he’d be limited by rules restricting the release of grand jury materials, which “by law cannot be made public.”
“As I have previously stated, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter,” Barr wrote. “For that reason, 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.”
Legal experts have said those caveats will give Barr significant leeway to hold back large chunks of the Mueller report, although he will soon face requests from Congress to disclose Mueller’s full report, which a DOJ official described to VICE News on Saturday as “comprehensive.”
Read Barr's letter below:
The fight for Mueller’s report
Democrats, who took charge of the House of Representatives after last November’s midterm elections, have repeatedly vowed to lead a legal fight for the right to read Mueller’s full findings — and also his underlying evidence.
House Dems are prepared to file subpoenas to get the information and fight the administration in court, Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday morning, hours before Barr’s letter was published.
“Yes, we will prosecute in court as necessary to get this information,” Schiff said on ABC’s "This Week." “If subpoenas are denied, we will haul people before the Congress.”
If that fight begins, “we will win that litigation,” Schiff said.
A non-binding vote in the House of Representatives in favor of publicly releasing the Mueller report passed 420-0 earlier this month. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a vocal Trump ally, blocked a subsequent vote in the Senate.
Mueller, who has kept a notably low profile during the 22 months of his investigation despite being one of the most-discussed figures in American political life, was spotted in a rare public appearance Sunday morning attending church just steps away from the White House with his wife, Ann.
Mueller indicted 34 people and 3 companies during the course of his investigation after being appointed special counsel in May 2017, including Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and longtime attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen.
He also indicted two-dozen Russians for interfering with the 2016 election by hacking into Democratic computers to swipe damaging documents and leak them online and by leading a vast campaign on social media to support Trump and hurt his opponent Hillary Clinton.
Cover image: Special counsel Robert Mueller walks past the White House, after attending St. John's Episcopal Church for morning services, Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)