President Donald Trump now says Robert Mueller acted honorably in the Russia investigation – a change of tune from the man who had at one time called the special counsel disgraced and discredited.
Asked during Monday’s White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whether Mueller acted honorably, Trump replied: “Yes, he did.”
The comment follows Friday’s submission of Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General Bill Barr. According to Barr’s summary of the report, Mueller did not establish that Trump campaign associates colluded with Russians to influence the outcome of the election.
Mueller’s investigation of whether the President committed obstruction of justice did not conclude the President committed a crime, but it also “does not exonerate him,” Barr quoted from Mueller’s report.
Mueller would not make the decision on whether to prosecute the President on obstruction. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the determination the evidence was “not sufficient” to support prosecution.
The White House, however, has continued to echo Trump’s tweeted sentiment – that not only was there no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but that Trump has been totally exonerated by Mueller and Barr.
Trump also reiterated Monday that he wouldn’t mind if the report became public, telling the press that it “wouldn’t bother” him “at all” if Barr released the Mueller report, adding that it’s Barr’s decision to make.
Asked whether the investigation was indeed a “witch hunt,” Trump didn’t answer directly.
“It lasted a long time,” he said. “We’re glad it’s over, it’s 100% the way it should have been. I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker.”
“There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things. Very bad things. I would say treasonous things against our country and hopefully people that have done such harm to our country. We’ve gone through a period of really bad things happening. Those people will certainly be looked at,” he said.
“We can never let this happen to another president again. I can tell you that. I say it very strongly. Very few people I know could have handled it,” Trump added.
Asked whether he was thinking about pardoning anyone implicated in the Russia investigation, Trump said no.
“Haven’t thought about it,” he said.
CLARIFICATION: This story was updated to more precisely reflect Attorney General Bill Barr’s letter to Congress. Specifically, Barr quoted from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to say the “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Laura Jarrett and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.