'An illegal takedown that failed' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 26, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:57 PM, March 25, 2019

'An illegal takedown that failed'

Says US president on Russia probe after Robert Mueller finds no collusion; Democrats on back foot, demand release of full report, documents

US President Donald Trump has declared himself completely exonerated after his campaign was cleared of colluding with Russia in the 2016 election, in a major boost for his re-election hopes.

The long-awaited final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Moscow's election meddling concluded that no member or associate of the campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia in its plot to boost Trump in the vote more than two years ago.

While the Mueller report did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice, Attorney General Bill Barr's letter to Congress summarizing the still-secret document cleared a dark cloud that had hung over the Trump's legitimacy since he took office in January 2017.

"There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. It was a complete and total exoneration," Trump said Sunday of Mueller's conclusions.

"It's a shame that the country had to go through this," he added. "This was an illegal takedown that failed."

Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Trump was "in a really good mood" and "very happy with how it all turned out."

Following the release of the report, the Kremlin again said that Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 presidential vote that brought Trump to office -- a denial at odds with the conclusion of the US intelligence community.

Summarizing Mueller's findings, Barr said no Trump campaign official was involved in Russian conspiracies in 2016 to hack Democratic computers and flood social media with disinformation to harm Trump's Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.

He also said there were no new surprises coming from the Mueller team, which is disbanding -- no further indictments being referred, and no sealed indictments outstanding.

On the other hand, according to Barr's letter, Mueller clearly had some evidence to support an obstruction case, but was uncertain whether it was enough to support criminal charges.

Democrats in Congress are now certain to demand Mueller's underlying evidence and push to investigate further.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr's summary of the Mueller findings "raises as many questions as it answers."

Democrats in Congress are already conducting some 17 investigations of the administration, spreading their net far more broadly than Mueller's relatively narrow mandate.

KEY FINDINGS

RUSSIA COLLUSION: Mueller found that there was conclusive evidence that Russia did interfere in the election, both through a coordinated campaign of disinformation and by hacking emails from Hillary Clinton's election team. But quoting directly from Mueller's report, Barr said that the special counsel's investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE: Many observers had predicted the biggest danger to Trump came from a possible accusation of obstruction of justice, particularly over his decision to sack the FBI director James Comey, who headed the investigation before Mueller. But Barr said that the evidence outlined in Mueller's report "is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offence." "The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," he added. 

NO MORE INDICTMENTS: Trump's former national security advisor Mike Flynn, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and his campaign chairman Paul Manafort are among the 34 individuals already indicted by Mueller but they will be the last, according to Barr. "The report does not recommend any further indictments nor did the special counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public," Barr said in his letter to the heads of the Senate and House judiciary committees.

--AFP

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