Attorney General William Barr released his much-anticipated summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report today.
Here's everything you need to know about the four-page letter:
- No collusion: Mueller did not find Donald Trump's campaign or associates conspired with Russia, Barr wrote.
- But Mueller did not exonerate Trump: Mueller did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute obstruction of justice, Barr wrote, but he did not exonerate the President.
- Evidence lacking for obstruction of justice: Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the determination that the evidence was "not sufficient" to support a prosecution of the President for obstruction of justice.
- No new indictments: Mueller's team has no plans to issue any new indictments.
- What Trump said: The President went beyond the conclusions of Barr's letter and said the findings exonerated him. "This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody's going to be looking at the other side," Trump said.
The special counsel’s office deliberated at length with Department of Justice officials about issuing a subpoena for President Trump to be interviewed, but ultimately the decision was made not to move forward with such a significant investigative step, according to a source familiar with the matter.
For months, Robert Mueller’s team had requested a sit-down interview with Trump, but the President’s lawyers refused to commit, and negotiations continued. Eventually, last fall, the special counsel submitted written questions to the President concerning the time frame before 2016 election, which Trump answered in late November 2018.
The source said the sensitive discussions between DOJ officials and the special counsel team, and the determination that a subpoena would not be pursued, was based on the perception of the evidence and merits of the issues — separate and apart from the fact that current Justice Department policy dictates that a sitting President cannot be indicted.
While not directly addressing the issue of a presidential interview, Attorney General William Barr’s letter to Congress Sunday offers a further glimpse into how officials at the department didn’t believe they had a prosecutable case against Trump on collusion or on the question of obstruction of justice.
“In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the (Mueller) report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense,” Barr wrote.
The special counsel’s office and the Justice Department declined to comment on internal discussions of a subpoena.
Why this matters: In the end, the decision to not make a formal request for a subpoena was critical because that demand — should it have been rejected — would have been communicated by the attorney general to Congress, as the special counsel regulations mandate. Instead, a formal request from Mueller wasn’t made, allowing the Barr to say in his letter to Congress Friday "there were no such instances during the Special Counsel investigation" where Mueller was turned down.
President Trump was in high spirits at his Mar-a-Lago Club this afternoon after his legal told him that the attorney general was set to release findings from the special counsel’s investigation, which said it did not find that his campaign colluded with Russia, sources tell CNN.
Trump spent the weekend expressing cautious optimism while surrounded by his attorneys and had tweeted only twice, but privately was telling people he did not know what Bill Barr's next move was.
Then Barr’s chief of staff phoned lawyer Emmet Flood to provide a readout of the report. The mood at Mar-a-Lago improved immediately.
“It was a complete and total exoneration,” Trump told reporters before heading back to Washington. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. It’s a shame that your President has had to go through this.”
People close to the President say he has remained fixated on one thing in the last several weeks — that he and his allies were harassed by investigators and that this should not happen to another President. These people believe that Trump could potentially push for an investigation into how the Russia investigation began now that it has ended.
“It began illegally and hopefully somebody’s going to look at the other side,” Trump said Sunday.
The mood on Air Force One back to Washington was jovial, one person told CNN.
But not everyone is celebrating: Trump’s associates who were ensnared in the investigation fumed Sunday as they reflected on how much they spent on legal fees for the investigation, two people tell CNN. Several current and former Trump officials from his campaign and administration retained personal lawyers to help them respond to questions throughout the investigation.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders just tweeted that "the President and his millions of supporters have been completely vindicated" following Attorney General William Barr's findings on the special counsel report.
One thing to note: Robert Mueller's report has not been released to Congress. Barr has only released a letter with his main conclusions from the report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said William Barr's letter "raises as many questions as it answers."
The Democratic leaders said Congress needs "the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work."
Here's the full statement:
“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers. The fact that Special Counsel 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. 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.
And most obviously, for the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr. Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility.
Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise. The American people have a right to know.”
Former FBI director James Comey just tweeted this:
Why Comey matters: Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation began after President Trump's sudden decision to dismiss Comey in May 2017.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called for the full release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
Here's what Hoyer said in a statement:
"I will carefully review attorney general Barr’s summary of the special counsel’s report, but I will not be satisfied until the full report and all underlying evidence is made available. Americans deserve to know all the facts, which is why the report itself should be released — to the fullest extent of the law — in addition to the attorney general’s summary.
He went on to say, "Congress must remain a bulwark of justice and the rule of law, and House Democrats will do our part to ensure that it performs its duties faithfully under our Constitution.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just issued a statement regarding Attorney William Barr's findings on special counsel Robert Mueller's report, calling Russia's efforts to interfere in US democracy "dangerous and disturbing."
McConnell acknowledged that Mueller's findings also concluded that the Trump campaign did not coordinate with Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections. He added that he was looking forward to reviewing more information from Mueller's report.
Read his statement:
“I thank the attorney general for promptly advising the Congress of the special counsel’s principal conclusions in this matter, consistent with his Friday letter to the Congress.
The special counsel’s conclusions confirm the President’s account that there was no effort by his campaign to conspire or coordinate with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
However, Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing, and I welcome the special counsel's contributions to our efforts to understand better Russia's activities in this regard. And I look forward to the continuing work of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the threats posed to our democratic institutions by foreign interference.
I appreciate the attorney general’s commitment to continue to review the record in this matter over the coming days, in conjunction with special counsel Mueller, with the goal of producing as much information as possible, consistent with the law. I look forward to reviewing that information.”
A senior Trump campaign official calls Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller report "total vindication."
The senior official went on to say, "No collusion, no obstruction, and despite the past two years… being filled with people screaming to the high heavens… it’s the same as it was on day one: no collusion."
The official suggested that the news could help persuade moderate voters who may have been undecided on Trump.
The official also pointed to the many Democratic lawmakers who said there was collusion, perhaps previewing a future talking point: “What kind of credibility do they have left?” they asked.