WASHINGTON — President Trump offered a rave review to the report written by special counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday even though he has not seen the full document. Speaking to reporters while visiting the Capitol, Trump praised the summary of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and suggested that it fully cleared him of any wrongdoing.
“The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said, ‘No obstruction. No collusion.’ It could not have been better,” Trump said.
Mueller delivered a report on his probe, which began in mid-2017, to Attorney General William Barr last Friday. Barr subsequently sent a four-page letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees on Sunday wherein he summarized Mueller’s report.
Barr’s letter said the Mueller investigation had not found evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but it did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice.
About two hours after Trump made his comments about the Mueller report, Department of Justice spokesperson Kerri Kupec said the president had not seen the document. According to Kupec, Barr has not provided a copy of Mueller’s full report to the White House. The White House did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Congressional Democrats and 2020 presidential candidates have criticized Barr’s letter as inadequate, particularly since the attorney general was appointed by Trump and had criticized Mueller’s investigation before taking his current position. Many Democrats are pushing for the Department of Justice to release the full report.
However, Trump clearly feels the Barr letter has vindicated him. At the Capitol on Tuesday, he blamed Democrats for the Mueller investigation, which he has long called a “witch hunt.”
“They and others created a fraud on our country with this ridiculous witch hunt, where it was proven, very strongly, no collusion, no obstruction. No nothing,” Trump said.
Mueller’s investigation was started by the Department of Justice in mid-2017.
Trump’s comments at the Capitol were part of an ongoing victory lap by the president and his allies who have argued that Barr’s letter shows Trump engaged in no wrongdoing during the election. The president and top White House officials have extensively criticized members of the media who covered the investigation and Democrats who questioned Trump’s conduct in the days since the letter was released.
In the letter, Barr quoted Mueller as saying he conducted a “thorough factual investigation” into allegations that Trump obstructed justice. Barr suggested Mueller’s examination of potential obstruction focused on “a number of actions by the President — most of which have been the subject of public reporting.” Critics have argued Trump’s repeated comments attacking Mueller’s probe could constitute obstruction. They have also pointed to actions Trump took behind the scenes at the Department of Justice and his removal of top officials.
According to Barr, Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the issue of obstruction and instead left it up to the attorney general to determine whether the conduct described in the report was criminal. Barr specified that Mueller “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.” The letter specified it was Barr and his deputy attorney general, not Mueller, who found “that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” Barr quoted a single line from Mueller’s original report specifying that it did not vindicate Trump.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller wrote.
Barr’s letter suggested Mueller’s report was more definitive on the question of whether Trump’s campaign cooperated with Russian interference in the election.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Barr declared.
Barr also quoted a single line from Mueller’s original report that said, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Mueller’s investigation did result in charges against multiple individual members of the Trump campaign, including some for lying about their contacts with Russian officials.
None of these ambiguities — or the fact he hasn’t seen Mueller’s report — have stopped Trump from using Barr’s letter to attack his critics and declare himself completely vindicated. At the Capitol, Trump agreed when a reporter noted he was “accusing the people who launched the investigation into your campaign of treasonous acts.”
“I think it went very high up. I think what happened is a disgrace. I don’t believe our country should allow this ever to happen again. This will never happen again. We cannot let it ever happen again,” Trump said, adding, “It went very high up, and it started fairly low, but with instructions from the high up. This should never happen to a President again. We can’t allow that to take place.”
Asked if he thought the push to investigate him “reached the West Wing of the Obama White House,” Trump offered a coy response.
“I don’t want to say that, but I think you know the answer,” Trump said.
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