Pence claims total vindication in Mueller report

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence says special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions are a “total vindication” of President Donald Trump and “our campaign” and “should be welcomed by every American who cherishes the truth and the integrity of our elections.”Pence calls it a “great day for America,” Trump and the administration.

Attorney General William Barr declared Sunday that Mueller’s long investigation found no evidence that Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller also looked into whether Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry, but did not provide a definitive answer on that point.

Pence called on Democrats, who he says spent “so much time on these discredited allegations,” to join the White House and Republicans to help make the nation more prosperous and secure.

President Donald Trump was in his room at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, when he first learned details of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

That’s according to White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, who briefed reporters aboard Air Force One just before it landed in Washington.

Gidley said the president told him, “This is very good.”

He said that on the flight back from Florida, Trump was in his Air Force One office, talking with White House staff members and watching the news unfold on television and Twitter.

Gidley said the president has only seen Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the report, not the entire report.

President Donald Trump says “America is the greatest place on earth.”

That was Trump’s only comment as he returned to the White House on Sunday, hours after the Justice Department declared that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found no evidence that Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller also investigated whether Trump sought to obstruct the investigation, but did not provide a definitive answer.

Back at the White House, Trump said only: “I just want to tell you that, America is the greatest place on earth, the greatest place on earth.”

Trump tweeted his reaction before leaving Florida. He told reporters there was no collusion with Russia and no obstruction and that “it was a complete and total exoneration.”

Top Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer say Attorney General William Barr is “not a neutral observer” and they urge full release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

Pelosi, the House speaker, and Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said Sunday that Barr’s letter to Congress about Mueller’s report “raises as many questions as it answers.”

In a joint statement, the leaders says that Barr’s past “bias” against the special counsel inquiry shows he is “not in a position to make objective determinations.”

They say that “the fact that Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says President Donald Trump was right about the Russia investigation.

McConnell says Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation confirms Trump’s account that there was “no effort” by his campaign “to conspire or coordinate with Russia” to influence the 2016 election.

The Republican leader said he appreciates Barr’s goal of “producing as much information as possible” from Mueller’s investigation. But McConnell declined to call for the report’s full release, as many Democrats want.

McConnell also warned Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere in U.S. institutions “are dangerous and disturbing.”

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is claiming vindication as it celebrates the end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale says in a statement, “Today marks the day that President Trump has been completely and fully vindicated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, exposing the Russia collusion conspiracy theory for the sham that it always was and catching Democrats in an elaborate web of lies and deceit. “

While the Justice Department says that Muller found no evidence that Trump’s 2016 campaign coordinated with Russian to influence the election, the attorney general quoted Mueller’s report as stating it “does not exonerate” the president on obstruction.

Parscale is also accusing Democrats of taking the country “on a frantic, chaotic, conspiracy-laden roller coaster for two years” because they were “distraught and blindsided” by Trump’s win.

Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, Attorney General William Barr declared Sunday. That brought a hearty claim of vindication from Trump but set the stage for new rounds of political and legal fighting.

Trump cheered the outcome but also laid bare his resentment after two years of investigations that have shadowed his administration. “It’s a shame that our country has had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this,” he complained.

Democrats pointed out that Mueller found evidence for and against obstruction and demanded to see his full report. They insisted that even the summary by the president’s attorney general hardly put him in the clear.

Mueller’s conclusions, summarized by Barr in a four-page letter to Congress, represented a victory for Trump on a key question that has hung over his presidency from the start: Did his campaign work with Russia to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton? That was further good news for the president on top of the Justice Department’s earlier announcement that Mueller had wrapped his investigation without new indictments. The resolution also could deflate the hopes of Democrats in Congress and on the 2020 campaign trail that incriminating findings from Mueller would hobble the president’s agenda and re-election bid.

But while Mueller was categorical in ruling out criminal collusion, he was far more circumspect on presidential obstruction of justice. Despite Trump’s claim of total exoneration, Mueller did not draw a conclusion one way or the other on whether he sought to stifle the Russia investigation through his actions including the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

According to Barr’s summary, Mueller set out “evidence on both sides of the question” and stated that “while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Barr, who was nominated by Trump in December, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May 2017 and oversaw much of his work, went further in Trump’s favor.

The attorney general said he and Rosenstein had determined that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to prove in court that Trump had committed obstruction of justice to hamper the probe. Barr has previously voiced a broad view of presidential powers, and in an unsolicited memo last June he cast doubt on whether the president could have obstructed justice through acts — like firing his FBI director — that he was legally empowered to take.

Barr said their decision was based on the evidence uncovered by Mueller and not affected by Justice Department legal opinions that say a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Mueller’s team examined a series of actions by the president in the last two years to determine if he intended obstruction. Those include his firing of Comey one week before Mueller’s appointment, his public and private haranguing of then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation because of his work on the campaign, his request of Comey to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the White House’s first national security adviser, and his drafting of an incomplete explanation about his oldest son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.

Mueller’s findings absolve Trump on the question of colluding with Russia but don’t entirely remove the legal threats the president and associates are facing. Federal prosecutors in New York, for instance, are investigating hush-money payments made to two women during the campaign who say they had sex with the president. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated Trump in campaign finance violations when he pleaded guilty last year.

The special counsel’s investigation did not come up empty-handed. It ensnared nearly three dozen people, senior Trump campaign operatives among them. The probe illuminated Russia’s assault on the American political system, painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.

Thirty-four people, including six Trump aides and advisers, were charged in the investigation. Twenty-five are Russians accused of election interference either through hacking into Democratic accounts or orchestrating a social media campaign to spread disinformation on the internet.

Sunday’s summary — and its suggestion that Mueller may have found evidence in support of obstruction — sets up a fight between Barr and Democrats, who called for the special counsel’s full report to be released and vowed to press on with their own investigations.

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

“Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the special counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report,” they said. Trump’s own claim of complete exoneration “directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” they added.

Trump was at his Florida estate when lawmakers received the report. Barr’s chief of staff called Emmet Flood, the lead White House lawyer on the investigation, to brief him on the findings shortly before he sent it to Congress. Mueller submitted his report to Barr instead of directly to Congress and the public because, unlike independent counsels such as Ken Starr in the case of President Bill Clinton, his investigation operated under the close supervision of the Justice Department.

Barr did not speak with the president, Mueller was not consulted on the letter, and the White House does not have Mueller’s report, according to a Justice Department official.

Though Mueller did not find evidence that anyone associated with the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government, Barr’s summary notes “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

That’s a likely reference not only to a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Donald Trump. Jr. expected to receive damaging information on Clinton from a Kremlin-connected lawyer, as well as a conversation in London months earlier at which Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was told Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of stolen emails.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, said Congress needs to hear from Barr about his decision and see “all the underlying evidence.” He said on Twitter, “DOJ owes the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work.”

Barr said that Mueller “thoroughly” investigated the question of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia’s election interference, issuing more than 2,800 subpoenas, obtaining nearly 500 search warrants and interviewing 500 witnesses. Trump answered some questions in writing, but Mueller was not able to interview him in person.

Barr said Mueller also catalogued the president’s actions including “many” that took place in “public view,” a possible nod to Trump’s public attacks on investigators and witnesses.

In the letter, Barr said he concluded that none of Trump’s actions constituted a federal crime that prosecutors could prove in court.

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login