Trump campaign didn't conspire with Russia in 2016: US Justice Dept

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published 24.03.2019 23:09
Updated 25.03.2019 15:00

The Justice Department said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation did not find evidence that President Donald Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller also investigated whether Trump obstructed justice but did not come to a definitive answer, Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress summarizing Mueller's report.

The special counsel "does not exonerate" Trump of obstructing justice, Barr said, and his report "sets out evidence on both sides of the question."

After consulting with other Justice Department officials, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined the evidence "is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense."

Barr released a four-page summary of Mueller's report Sunday afternoon. Mueller wrapped up his investigation on Friday with no new indictments, bringing to a close a probe that has shadowed Trump for nearly two years.

Barr's chief of staff called White House counsel Emmet Flood at 3 p.m. Sunday to brief him on the report to Congress. Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, about to return to Washington after spending the weekend there.

In its first reaction to details released from the politically explosive report, the White House said Sunday that the president had been completely cleared.

"The special counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

"The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the president of the United States."

President Trump responded by tweeting: "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!"

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said on Sunday his panel would call Barr to testify shortly, citing concerns over Barr's conclusions from the probe report.

"In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future," Nadler said on Twitter.

Barr's letter said Mueller's team issued more than 2,800 subpoenas and executed nearly 500 search warrants in its probe. The special counsel employed 19 lawyers and was assisted by a team of 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants and other professional staff. The team interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.

Mueller's investigation ensnared nearly three dozen people, senior Trump campaign operatives among them. The probe illuminated Russia's assault on the American political system, painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.

Mueller submitted his report to Barr instead of directly to Congress and the public because, unlike independent counsels such as Ken Starr in the case of President Bill Clinton, his investigation operated under the close supervision of the Justice Department, which appointed him.

Mueller was assigned to the job in May 2017 by Rosenstein, who oversaw much of his work. Barr and Rosenstein analyzed Mueller's report on Saturday, laboring to condense it into a summary letter of main conclusions.

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