Criminal investigation becomes political in Congress

WASHINGTON – After Attorney General William Barr gave Congress his summary of the nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lawmakers planned Sunday to pick up the baton with multiple investigations of President Donald Trump, his administration and his business.

Lawmakers of both parties parsed Barr’s four-page summary for statements that supported their positions. Barr said special counsel Robert Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia,” which Republicans said vindicated Trump.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called it a “good day for the rule of law” and a “great day for President Trump and his team.”

“No collusion and no obstruction. The cloud hanging over President Trump has been removed by this report,” Graham said. “Bad day for those hoping the Mueller investigation would take President Trump down.” 

But Barr’s summary also said Mueller didn’t draw any conclusions about whether Trump obstructed justice. “The special counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'” Barr said. 

Democrats said dozens of indictments and convictions against some of Trump’s top aides pointed to the need for a variety of expanded investigations.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the panel will call on Barr to testify “in the near future” about discrepancies in the decisions about Trump and the underlying evidence that Mueller collected.

“But special counsel Mueller clearly and explicitly is not exonerating the president, and we must hear from AG Barr about his decision making and see all the underlying evidence for the American people to know all the facts,” Nadler said in a tweet.

The first fight could be over documents themselves, as lawmakers of both parties seek more than the summary Barr provided of Mueller’s report. Then House Democratic chairmen have said they will build on Mueller’s foundation with investigations of possible foreign influence on Trump, obstruction of justice or public corruption.

Barr reiterated in his four-page summary that his goal is “to release as much of the special counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations and departmental policies.”

Federal law prohibits the release of grand-jury evidence to protect the integrity of that system and Barr said he asked for Mueller’s assistance in identifying that material before releasing more of Mueller’s full report. 

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Mueller focused on criminal issues and may not shed light on counterintelligence findings that his panel will explore about “whether the president or others around him have been compromised by a foreign power.” He listed meetings of Trump campaign aides with Russians and negotiations during the 2016 campaign for a Trump Tower in Moscow.

“I think there’s plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight,” Schiff told “Face the Nation” Sunday on CBS. “Now that’s a different statement than saying that there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal conspiracy.”

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Russia is a bad actor with dark intentions, but there is no evidence that Trump was compromised.

“The special counsel’s investigation was long, thorough and conclusive: There was no collusion,” Collins said. “There is no constitutional crisis.”

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, accused Democrats of going on a fishing expedition to hurt Trump.

“No collusion! No obstruction!” Jordan said in a tweet. “It’s time to move on.”

Mueller gave Barr his confidential report Friday, completing his criminal investigation that led to charges against some of Trump’s top aides, detailed a Russian intelligence campaign aimed at part at installing him in office, and transformed the first two years of his presidency. Barr summarized the findings for Congress on Sunday.

Lawmakers of both parties have called for a full release of Mueller’s report – other than national-security secrets or grand-jury evidence – so people can draw their own conclusions.

“Want don’t want to see crib notes. We don’t want to see an outline. We don’t want to see an executive summary,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, head of the House Democratic Caucus, told “Face the Nation.” “We need to see everything so that the American people can draw conclusions of their own.”

House Democrats plan to build on Mueller’s findings with investigations in the Judiciary Committee into possible obstruction of justice, in the Intelligence Committee into possible foreign influence on Trump, and in the Oversight and Reform Committee to possible public corruption in the administration and the Trump Organization.

The Judiciary Committee recently requested documents from 81 people and organizations.

“The special counsel was looking and can only look for crimes,” Nadler told Fox “News Sunday.” “We have a much broader mandate and we have to exercise that mandate to protect the integrity of government and protect the integrity of liberty and the country.”

Collins said he hopes Nadler rethinks his sprawling investigation.

“I hope he recognizes that what may be political fodder for Democrats may not be good for our country,” Collins said.

Congress was in recess last week and the majority of lawmakers won’t return to Washington until Monday. Aides to both Democratic and Republican leaders said over the weekend they were not urging members to return early.

House Republican leaders and the top members of committees held a call Friday to discuss the report being finished, a senior Republican aide confirmed. Democratic leaders and committee chairman held a 3 p.m. call Saturday to coordinate their response.

“While we do not know the substance of the report, we will have the relevant Committees of jurisdiction on the call today to update members on where we go from here,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter Saturday to lawmakers.

More on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report:

Special counsel Robert Mueller delivers report marking end of investigation into Trump’s campaign, Russia

Mueller report: Here’s what we know and still don’t know (and may never know)

Robert Mueller has spent two years investigating Trump, and he hasn’t said a word. It’s possible he never will.

 

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