Tue, Mar 26, 2019 - Page 1 News List

No conspiracy, but obstruction question remains: Mueller


US Attorney General William Barr’s signature is seen at the end of his letter to US congressional leaders on the conclusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election in Washington on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that US President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, but reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, US Attorney General William Barr said.

That brought a hearty claim of vindication from Trump, but set the stage for new rounds of political and legal fighting.

Democrats pointed out that Mueller found evidence for and against obstruction and demanded to see his full report, insisting that even the summary by the attorney general hardly put him in the clear.

Mueller’s conclusions, summarized by Barr in a four-page letter to the US Congress, represented a victory for Trump on a key question that has hung over his presidency from the start: Did his campaign work with Russia to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton?

The resolution could deflate the hopes of Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail next year that incriminating findings from Mueller would hobble the president’s agenda and re-election bid.

However, while Mueller was categorical in ruling out criminal collusion, he was more circumspect on presidential obstruction of justice.

Despite Trump’s claim of total exoneration, Mueller did not draw a conclusion one way or the other on whether he sought to stifle the Russia investigation through his actions including the firing of then-FBI director James Comey.

According to Barr’s summary, Mueller set out “evidence on both sides of the question” and stated that “while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Barr said that he and US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensteinhad determined that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to prove in court that Trump had committed obstruction of justice to hamper the probe.

In the letter, Barr said he concluded that none of Trump’s actions constituted a federal crime that prosecutors could prove in court.

Sunday’s summary — and its suggestion that Mueller might have found evidence in support of obstruction — sets up a fight between Barr and Democrats, who called for the special counsel’s full report to be released and vowed to press on with their own investigations.

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

“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,” they said.

Trump’s own claim of complete exoneration “directly contradicts the words of Mr Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” they added.

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