WASHINGTON – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not find evidence that President Donald Trump or members of his campaign conspired with Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election, delivering a boost to the president in a case that has shadowed his administration since its first days.
But the special counsel’s report leaves “unresolved whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress delivered Sunday.
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on whether he obstructed justice, Mueller said in the report, according to Barr’s four-page summary.
Barr said that he and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, concluded that the evidence Mueller gathered “is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”
Mueller’s investigation also concluded that Trump’s campaign received “multiple offers” of assistance from people linked to Russia.
The delivery of Mueller’s findings ends a weekend of anticipation in Washington, as lawmakers and the White House awaited the findings of an inquiry that shadowed the first two years of Trump’s presidency and could shape its future.
Mueller’s findings seemed destined to fuel a highly political fight unfolding against the backdrop of a presidential campaign – with a crowded field of Democrats vying to unseat a president who has been tailed by criminal investigations almost since he took office.
What Barr delivered on Sunday is not Mueller’s full report. Instead, it’s Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings.
Mueller’s report, delivered Friday to Barr, signaled the end of an investigation secretly launched in the months before Trump was elected, when the FBI began gathering clues that made them suspicious of aides to Trump’s campaign. The probe mushroomed to include whether the campaign coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and whether the president himself attempted to obstruct it. And it produced a cascade of other criminal investigations targeting people around Trump, which have not yet concluded.
The inquiry revealed an extensive Russian intelligence operation that used hacking, stolen documents and phony social media campaigns to sow discord in U.S. politics and support Trump’s campaign for the presidency.
It also disclosed that some of Trump’s aides worked eagerly to benefit from that operation, seeking damaging information from Russians even as Trump was seeking out business in the country. At least a half dozen of Trump’s aides, who were charged in the investigation, then lied to Congress, federal investigators and the public to downplay those connections.
The now-completed probe, however, has not resulted in charges that anyone associated with Trump coordinated with the Russians, and a Justice Department official said Mueller’s report did not recommend that anyone else be indicted.
Investigation Ends: Special counsel Robert Mueller delivers report marking end of investigation into Trump’s campaign, Russia
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In the 22 months since he was appointed, Mueller has brought charges against more than two dozen alleged Russian operatives, and a succession of aides and advisers to Trump, including his personal lawyer, national security adviser and former campaign chairman. Those charges, detailed in hundreds of pages of court filings, offered a public preview of the evidence investigators had uncovered.
Barr has warned that he might withhold some aspects of Mueller’s review, including classified information and material from grand juries. The department also has policies against releasing derogatory information against people who aren’t charged.
But lawmakers in both parties want the bulk of Mueller’s evidence released. Republicans seek to vindicate the president. Democrats want to bolster investigations into the Trump administration and his namesake business. Lawmakers from both parties have said they want to see not just Mueller’s report, but also the evidence he gathered during his investigation.
In all, Mueller’s investigation led to the indictment of 34 people and three companies on scores of charges, including dozens of Russian nationals who were charged with hacking Democratic computers and spreading disinformation during the campaign.
Trump aides were convicted of lying to Congress or federal investigators; campaign-finance violations; tax evasion; and bank fraud. High-profile convicts included Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser and a member of his campaign staff. Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also was convicted in one case and pleaded guilty in another. And longtime political adviser Roger Stone is facing trial in November for allegedly lying to Congress about his interactions with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which prosecutors said served as a conduit for Russia to distribute stolen emails.
But the investigation did not charge anyone on the campaign with cooperating with Russians to influence the election.
For part of the weekend, Trump quietly awaited Mueller’s findings at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, neither commenting nor tweeting for much of Friday and Saturday.
Trump has dismissed the probe as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” led by political opponents in the Justice Department and the FBI. Among its most immediate consequences was a remarkable rift between the president and his appointees inside the Justice Department, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was ousted in November after he recused himself from the probe.
Contributing: Eliza Collins
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