US President Donald Trump has seized on the release of a summary of the long-awaited Mueller report on Russian meddling, claiming it completely exonerates him from claims of corruption.
“No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” Mr Trump tweeted after US Attorney-General William Barr released a summary of conclusions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to congressional leaders and the media on Monday morning (Australian time).
Mr Trump’s jubilation came despite the fact that Mr Mueller’s report does not actually explicitly clear him – a fact acknowledged by Mr Barr.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mr Barr quoted Mr Mueller as writing in his report on the issue of possible obstruction of justice.
Mr Trump reinforced his “exoneration” comments when he faced the media in Florida shortly after the summary was released.
The White House also reacted with a sense of vindication on Monday, describing the Mueller summary as a “complete exoneration”.
“The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote on Twitter.
“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.”
Rudy Giuliani, one of the President’s lawyers, also said on CNN that they viewed it as a “complete exoneration”.
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
Mr Mueller said he would leave it to Mr Barr – who was appointed to as US Attorney-General by Mr Trump last year – to decide whether a crime had been committed.
Mr Barr’s summary said Mr Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, despite multiple offers from individuals associated with Russia.
Mr Barr said Mr Mueller’s investigation – which ran for nearly two years – found insufficient evidence that the President had tried to obstruct justice.
He said he and US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offence”.
Mr Barr said their decision was based on the evidence uncovered by Mr Mueller and not on whether a sitting president can be indicted.
Watch Mr Trump’s response below:
Many of the President’s opponents accused him of obstructing the Russia probe when he fired former FBI director James Comey.
But House Judiciary Committee Chairman and Democrat Jerry Nadler tweeted that his panel would call Mr Barr to testify shortly, citing concerns over his conclusions from the report.
“In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision-making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future,” Mr Nadler said.
Special Counsel Mueller worked for 22 months to determine the extent to which President Trump obstructed justice. Attorney General Barr took 2 days to tell the American people that while the President is not exonerated, there will be no action by DOJ.
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) March 24, 2019
Democrats are expected now to push for Mr Barr to release the full report, while Mr Trump has already seized on the findings as vindication of his near daily assertion that he was a victim of a “witch hunt” that has cast a long shadow over his presidency.
Mr Trump has always denied collaborating with Moscow or obstructing justice.
Russia says it did not interfere in the election, although US intelligence agencies concluded that it did.
The Department of Justice announced on Friday that Mr Mueller had ended his investigation after bringing charges against 34 people. They included Russian agents and former key allies of Mr Trump, such as his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Mike Flynn and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
None of those charges, however, directly related to whether Mr Trump’s campaign worked with Moscow.