US Attorney-General William P Barr has reconfirmed his finding that special counsel Robert Mueller “found no collusion” or evidence that any member of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in its effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Barr addressed media in Washington DC at 9.30am on Thursday (11.30pm, AEDT) – 90 minutes before releasing the redacted report on compact disc to Congress – outlining whether executive privilege was invoked, any interactions about the report’s contents between the Justice Department and the White House; and how the department redacted the document.
Revealing that lawyers for President Trump had been given access to the report earlier this week and had not requested any redactions, Mr Barr also defended his decision to clear the US President Donald Trump on obstruction of justice, even though the report said it was neither charging nor exonerating Mr Trump.
The New York Times reported Mr Barr said the president had no corrupt intent and was understandably “frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fuelled by illegal leaks”.
Mr Mueller’s high-profile investigation over 22 months examined if there was any Russian interference in the 2016 election, any ties to the Trump campaign, and possible presidential obstruction.
Mr Barr, who was appointed by Mr Trump as the top US law enforcement official, said Mr Trump had “faced an unprecedented situation”.
“As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinising his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates,” Mr Barr said.
“At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.”
Mr Barr’s account of the report conclusions has been under fire since he sent a four-page letter to Congress last month.
In his letter, Mr Barr quoted Mr Mueller’s report saying that the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or co-ordinated with the Russian government” and that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.
A colour-coded system was expected to be used to identify the multiple reasons that certain information in the 400-page report cannot be shared with Congress or the public.
Earlier, Mr Barr’s report summary drew criticism from the Democrats, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer calling for Mr Mueller to testify in the House and Senate “as soon as possible”.
“Attorney-General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning – hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it – have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” the statement read.
“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth.”
But he had no doubt what the report would find, as his Twitter posts outlined before Mr Barr’s appearance on Thursday.
No Collusion – No Obstruction! pic.twitter.com/diggF8V3hl
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2019
Before Mr Barr’s media conference, social media was abuzz with speculation about what would be revealed.
But expectations were not high as to how much information would be released to the public, as shown by the tweets.
— blonde as a 🦇 (@blondasabat) April 18, 2019
— Randi Leeds (@rhleeds) April 18, 2019