Justice Department's findings 'a total and complete exoneration,' White House responds

Justice Department's findings 'a total and complete exoneration,' White House responds
Copyright NBC News
By Allan Smith with NBC News Politics
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"The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'" Barr wrote.


The White House on Sunday called the main findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's report and Attorney General William Barr 'a total and complete exoneration' for President Donald Trump.

"The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "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."

In a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, Attorney General William Barr wrote that Mueller's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it colluded with the Russian government in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

"As the report states: '[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,'" Barr wrote.

Barr wrote that Mueller declined "to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment" on obstruction of justice, leaving it up to the attorney general to choose whether to bring forth obstruction charges against the president for actions such as his firing of then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Barr said he declined to do so based on the evidence presented and not because of Department of Justice guidelines on prosecuting a sitting president.

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Mueller did not "draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction," Barr wrote.

"Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as 'difficult issues' of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction," Barr wrote. "The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'"

On Friday, Mueller submitted his report to Barr, who is not required by the regulations governing the special counsel to notify Congress of more than "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them." Barr released what he called Mueller's "principal conclusions" on Sunday.

Trump's outside counsel, Rudy Giuliani, told NBC News that the report was "better than expected." He added in comments to CNN, "the president did not do anything wrong."

Another one of Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, told NBC News he was "very pleased" with Barr's brief on the Mueller report.

Trump was uncharacteristically quiet in the 36 hours since the report was submitted, posting next to nothing on Twitter aside from wishing followers to "have a great day" Sunday morning. He tepidly called for the report's release last week, telling reporters on the White House South Lawn "let it come out, let people see it." The president routinely called Mueller's probe "a witch hunt."

On Sunday, White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters Trump was feeling "good," but declined to say what the president thought of the conclusion of Mueller's probe.

Mueller was tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials. Mueller's investigation led to the indictment or conviction of 34 people, including major Trump associates like former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. None of those charges, however, included a direct allegation of colluding with Russians to swing the 2016 election. Mueller's probe expanded to include an examination of whether the president obstructed justice.

Still, elements of Mueller's probe are being investigated further in jurisdictions like the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and in Congress, where Democrats have launched new inquiries aimed at the president, his associates and his administration.

Sunday afternoon, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said his committee will call on Barr to testify before Congress.

"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."

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