Mueller report says it cannot clear Trump on obstruction of probe

VIDEO: REUTERS
US Attorney-General William Barr speaking at a news conference yesterday, where he noted that he and Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein (at right) disagreed with some of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's "legal theories" about obstruction of justi
US Attorney-General William Barr speaking at a news conference yesterday, where he noted that he and Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein (at right) disagreed with some of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's "legal theories" about obstruction of justice.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia's role in the 2016 United States election says that his team was unable to clear President Donald Trump on the count of obstruction.

"The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred," the report, which was released yesterday, said.

"Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," it added.

This appears to fly in the face of Attorney-General William Barr's summary of the report that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The report is more nuanced. It explains that while the Russian government felt it would benefit from a Trump presidency, the investigation could not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow.

The report also says that Mr Trump told then Attorney-General Jeff Sessions "this is the end of my presidency", when Mr Sessions told him a special counsel was being appointed to investigate links between his campaign and Russia.

Mr Trump also repeatedly asked White House counsel Don McGahn to intervene with the US Justice Department after former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey disclosed the investigation of the Trump campaign to Congress, according to the report.

It said that evidence supports the inference that President Trump intended for Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman convicted as a result of the investigation, to believe that he could get a pardon.

Manafort also told his deputy, Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty in a case related to the Mueller investigation, in January that Mr Trump's personal counsel had told him they were "going to take care of us", according to Mr Mueller's report.

 
 
 
 

The report's disclosure, with portions blacked out by Mr Barr to protect some sensitive information, is certain to launch a new political fight in Congress and on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, as Mr Trump seeks re-election in a deeply divided country.

Mr Barr yesterday defended Mr Trump ahead of the release of the report, emphasising that it found no collusion between Mr Trump's campaign and Moscow.

"The Russian government sought to interfere in our election process, but thanks to the Special Counsel's thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign," Mr Barr said.

He also said that Mr Mueller's report recounts 10 episodes involving President Trump and evaluates whether they qualified as obstruction of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Barr said at the news conference that he and Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein disagreed with some of Mr Mueller's "legal theories" about obstruction of justice and concluded that the Special Counsel did not have "sufficient" evidence to establish that Mr Trump committed an obstruction of justice offence.

There was also no evidence Mr Trump acted with corrupt motives, Mr Barr said.

Mr Trump yesterday said he was a "having a good day" following the release of the report, adding: "It's called no collusion, no obstruction."

"There never was, by the way, and there never will be," Mr Trump told a gathering of wounded troops at the White House. "We do have to get to the bottom of these things, I will say, and this should never happen... to another president again."

Mr Barr said that the US Congress will receive a less redacted version of the report.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Mueller report says it cannot clear Trump on obstruction of probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe