President Donald Trump touted “total exoneration” after the release of Attorney General William Barr’s summary of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller’s report did not find that Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but it did not exonerate the president on the question of whether he committed obstruction of justice.
Instead, Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” about whether Trump obstructed justice, Barr said in his summary. And the attorney general, a Trump nominee, decided there wasn’t enough evidence to establish the president’s guilt.
Trump, speaking to reporters before traveling to Washington from Florida, where he spent the weekend at his Mar-A-Lago resort, elaborated on his tweet, calling the Mueller investigation “an illegal takedown that failed.”
As he has regularly done, he also insisted actions by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign should have been probed.
“After so many people have been so badly hurt, after not looking at the other side, where a lot of bad things happened, a lot of horrible things happened, a lot of very bad things happened for our country, it was just announced there was no collusion with Russia,,” he said. “The most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. None whatsoever. It was a complete and total exoneration.”
“It’s a shame our country had to go through this,” he continued. “To be honest its a shame your president has had to go through this from before I even got elected,” he added. “Hopefully somebody’s gonna look at the other side.”
Barr shared his summary of Mueller’s investigation with Congress on Sunday after receiving the probe on Friday. Others on Trump’s White House team celebrated Barr’s letter to lawmakers, including Dan Scavino, the director of social media, and press secretary Sarah Sanders.
Members of Trump’s family celebrated Barr’s letter by attacking media outlets. Eric Trump, one of the president’s son, mocked CNN in a tweet. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, released a statement criticizing “Collusion Truthers in the media and the Democrat Party.”
Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, praised the findings for “exposing the Russia collusion conspiracy theory for the sham that it always was and catching Democrats in an elaborate web of lies and deceit.”
Whether the report’s full contents ever see the light of day remains in doubt. After the probe’s completion, Mueller’s team was required to send its report to Barr, who was required to make at least some parts of it available to members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. But Barr is not required to release the whole report to the public.
Nearly two years’ worth of investigation provided plenty of time for the U.S. public to grow restless. Communicating largely through court filings, the special counsel hinted at the details of a Russian plot to tip the election in Trump’s favor, but the full extent of his findings was impossible to tell.
Since his appointment in May of 2017, Mueller’s team charged three companies and 34 people in the course of his investigation. Several were close to Trump, including Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney and fixer; Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman; and Roger Stone, his longtime adviser. A whopping 26 were Russian nationals.
In his first public statement about Mueller following the creation of the special counsel’s team, the president offered a measured response: “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know ― there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”
But as the probe crept quietly along, Trump regularly bashed it and attempted to spin it as a partisan stunt, usually in response to headlines in the news on a given day. Over Twitter and in his comments to the press, the president repeatedly ― and with increasing force ― called the investigation a “hoax,” a “witch hunt” and an example of the “presidential harassment” he claims to have endured since taking office.
This story has been updated with additional reaction from Trump allies.