Monday, July 22, 2019

Trump claims complete exoneration of collusion, obstruction

Washington, Mar 24 (EFE).- The president of the United States said that a special investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller provided “complete and total exoneration” for him in terms of colluding with Russia with an eye toward influencing the election result.

At Palm Beach International Airport, Donaldo Trump spoke to reporters briefly but took no questions, saying that “To be honest it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this,” referring to the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who provided his report to Attorney General William Barr last Friday and which Barr commented on Sunday afternoon in a four-page letter directed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Trump said the Mueller probe was an “illegal takedown that failed,” adding that “hopefully somebody’s going to be looking at the other side,” presumably the activities of the Democrats and/or 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“It was just announced there was no collusion with Russia, the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction, none whatsoever,” Trump said, speaking on the airport tarmac before climbing the mobile stairway to board the presidential jet to return to Washington.

“It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame your president had to go through since before I was even elected,” he said, adding that now investigators should probe Democrats’ activities, although he did not say what he thought should be investigated.

“It began illegally, and hopefully somebody’s going to look at the other side,” he said, perhaps intending to imply that the assembly of Mueller’s probe itself might now be scrutinized.

Although Trump claimed in his remarks, and in an earlier tweet, that he had been completely exonerated on the issue of obstruction of justice, Mueller’s report did not state that.

Barr wrote in his letter to Congress that Mueller did not have enough evidence to prosecute Trump on obstruction charges, but he noted that the report did not exonerate the president.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon, once Barr’s letter had been made public, Trump had tweeted: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

The report Mueller and his team prepared over the past two years and provided to Barr on Friday concluded that nobody on Trump’s 2016 campaign, including the then-candidate, colluded with Russian authorities as the latter worked to influence the election.

Barr wrote in his letter that “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

“As the report states, ‘The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,'” Barr continued, quoting directly from Mueller’s report.

Barr also wrote that “The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.”

According to Barr, although Mueller’s report stated that the “report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” and the attorney general added that this decision by Mueller had placed the decision on whether Trump committed criminal obstruction of justice in his (Barr’s) hands.

However, Barr said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence that Mueller gathered during his extensive investigation is not sufficient to establish whether the president committed obstruction of justice.

The publication of Mueller’s findings puts an end to days of speculation in the media and elsewhere after he turned over his report to the Justice Department last Friday.

Neither Trump nor anyone else in the White House received an advance look at the report and they were not informed of its contents prior to Barr’s letter, according to presidential spokesman Hogan Gidley, who was with the president at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Twitter on Sunday shortly after Barr’s letter was made public that “The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. 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.”

Since the announcement of the close of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin on Friday, the president has remained silent, although he was huddling with his attorneys and advisers at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend before returning to Washington late Sunday afternoon.

Members of Congress, mainly Democrats but also a few Republicans, have called for the release of the full report, although it remains to be seen whether Barr – who has the authority to release or not to release the report, or portions of it – will do so.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said that his committee wants the full report to be made public – and will fight to ensure that happens – arguing against the potential assertion of executive privilege by Trump to block its release.

“It’s so crucial that the entire report and the evidence underlying it be released to the public,” Nadler told CNN on Sunday. “Transparency is key here.”

The chairman said his committee would take the matter to the US Supreme Court, if necessary, to obtain the full report if Trump claims executive privilege to block it.

During the course of the investigation, 34 people were indicted, including six of Trump’s close advisers – Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone – and 26 Russians who probably will never be placed on trial because the US has no extradition treaty with Moscow.

Over the past two years, Trump has repeatedly called Mueller’s investigation a “witchhunt” mounted by the Democratic opposition and has consistently denied that his 2016 campaign was involved in any plot with Russia to harm the election chances of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.