Trump claims 'total exoneration' from Mueller summary despite lack of answers on obstruction

Michael Collins and John Fritze and David Jackson

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump claimed vindication from a summary made public Sunday of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, despite unanswered questions about whether the president's actions constituted obstruction of justice. 

“It was a complete and total exoneration,” the president said as he boarded Air Force One in Palm Beach, Florida, en route to Washington.

"It's a shame that our country had to go through this," Trump said. "To be honest, it's a shame that your president has had to go through this. Before I even got elected, it began. And it began illegally.”

Trump, who has attacked Mueller's investigation since he was appointed special counsel in 2017, referred to the investigation as an "illegal takedown that failed."

Mueller's investigation did not find evidence that Trump or members of his campaign conspired with Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election, but it left unresolved whether Trump's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction of justice, Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress.

"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.

Mueller's report opened the door to a politically fraught examination by Congress over whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice. But Trump and White House aides focused heavily on the other part of summary of the Mueller investigation: That there was no evidence that the president or members of his campaign conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election.  

As he returned to the White House on Sunday, Trump offered a short statement to reporters. “I just want to tell you," he said. "America is the greatest place on Earth.”  

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2019.

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

Mueller completed his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election Friday, delivering a report to Barr that signals the end of the long-running inquiry that loomed over Trump's presidency.

The president spent the weekend at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. He relaxed Saturday by golfing with Kid Rock. Sunday, he golfed again – this time with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; former Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.; and White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Trump largely stayed off his favorite communication medium, Twitter, during the weekend. In an unusually lengthy silence, he did not post any tweets for nearly 40 hours.

He broke his silence Sunday, shortly after 8 a.m., with a series of unrelated tweets.

"Good morning," he wrote. "Have A Great Day!"

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump claims 'total exoneration' from Mueller summary despite lack of answers on obstruction