Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, but left unresolved the issue of whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice by undermining the investigations that have dogged his presidency.
Even though Mr. Mueller’s findings on obstruction of justice were inconclusive, U.S. Attorney-General William Barr said in a summary released on Sunday that Mr. Mueller’s team had not found enough proof to warrant bringing charges against Mr. Trump.
It marked a political victory for Mr. Trump. He quickly claimed complete and total exoneration” while his Democratic opponents expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome and vowed to continue congressional probes into his business and personal dealings.
Mr. Mueller’s 22-month investigation ended with a finding that no one in Mr. Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government,” according to Mr. Barr’s four-page summary of Mr. Mueller’s confidential report.
The long-awaited report into whether Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian efforts to help him defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, marked a major milestone of his presidency as he prepares for his 2020 re-election battle.
‘A takedown that failed’
Mr. Trump describes the Mueller probe as a “witch-hunt”, saying there was no collusion with Russia and denying he obstructed justice.
“This was an illegal takedown that failed,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Sunday. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this.”
Many of Mr. Trump’s opponents had accused the President of obstructing the Russia probe when he fired former FBI Director James Comey in 2017.
Mr. Mueller himself did not reach a conclusion on whether Mr. Trump broke the law, but he presented his evidence to Mr. Barr to make a determination.
“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 the final report on an investigation that led to indictments and convictions of several of Mr. Trump’s senior former aides.
Mr. Barr, a Trump appointee who took office last month, said he and Deputy-Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence did not justify bringing obstruction charges.
Democrats, however, said they wanted to see Mr. Mueller’s report for themselves as they launch congressional investigations of their own into the 2016 election and Mr. Trump’s business and financial dealings.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the fact that Mr. Mueller did not clear Mr. Trump on the obstruction issue “demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”
Mr. Mueller formally ended his investigation on Friday after bringing charges against 34 people, including 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.