The wait is finally over – only not really, because as noted on Saturday, whatever Congress and the public learn about the Mueller report over the next 24 to 48 hours will likely be just the beginning of what’s expected to be a long battle over disclosure.
Ultimately, Democrats will insist that the full report be made public and that all of the underlying evidence be delivered to Congress, setting the stage for a protracted fight that could well end up in the Supreme Court.
Mueller of course concluded his investigation and submitted his final report to Attorney General William Barr on Friday. Barr quickly indicated that he would submit the required summary (the so-called “principal conclusions”) to Congress “as soon as this weekend”.
After 36 tantalizing hours, Jerry Nadler received a letter from Barr and it is embedded in full below.
Long story short, Mueller did not find evidence of collusion – or at least that’s the early read. Here is the passage from Barr’s summary:
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 US presidential election.
And here is the actual quote from Mueller:
The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
Notably, according to Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report, Trump’s team received “multiple” assistance offers “from Russian-affiliated individuals”, but apparently the campaign either didn’t accept them, or at least not to an extent and/or in a way that would constitute a conspiracy.
On the obstruction investigation Mueller elected not to deliver a conclusion one way or another.
Instead, “for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out the 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.” This is the key passage (or so it would appear):
…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
It is thus left to Barr to determine whether the obstruction-related conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. He has, somewhat unsurprisingly, determined that it does not. To wit:
After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.
That determination, Barr swears, “was made without regard” to whether a sitting president can in fact be indicted and prosecuted.
Congress will want the full report in order to make that determination for themselves, although now that Barr (and, apparently, Rosenstein) have cleared him, making the case will be much more difficult.
“Special Counsel Mueller worked for 22 months to determine the extent to which President Trump obstructed justice [while] Attorney General Barr took two days to tell the American people that while the President is not exonerated, there will be no action by DOJ”, Jerry Nadler remarked, adding that “there must be full transparency in what Special Counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the President from wrongdoing.”
Nadler will in fact call Barr to testify.
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.
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) March 24, 2019
The Justice Department also said Mueller did not recommend any further indictments and does not have any indictments under seal.
Mueller was not consulted on Barr’s letter.
Rudy Giuliani called it “better than I expected.” And here’s Trump’s “official” statement:
Again, this is far from over, but on an initial read this will doubtlessly bolster the President’s narrative and will surely be disappointing to his most ardent detractors.
Trump and his family still face myriad legal troubles, but the Mueller probe itself is no longer one of them.
The White House is calling this a “complete exoneration” of the president.
You can read the full Barr letter below.AG March 24 2019 Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees