The Slatest

Trump Declares Victory as Attorney General Barr Releases Summary of Mueller Report With Sparse Details

U.S. Attorney General William Barr
U.S. Attorney General William Barr leaves his house on Sunday in McLean, Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Attorney General William Barr released a four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation report to members of Congress on Sunday.

Barr confirmed that Mueller had “referred several matters” to other DOJ offices for further action but had “not recommended any further indictments, nor […] obtain[ed] any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.”

One of the report’s principal conclusions, Barr reports, was essentially: “No collusion.” From the letter:

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Another key portion of the letter came on the question of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation into Russian election interference:

After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out 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. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Without a conclusion from Mueller himself, Barr said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had determined 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 said that the decision “was made without regard to, and not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.”

As Daniel Politi reported, the White House and President Trump’s allies were celebrating Barr’s summary as a complete exoneration. The president himself issued the following statement to the press pool, declaring victory and suggesting that the DOJ should now investigate those who had investigated him:

There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction and none whatsoever and it was a complete and total exoneration. It’s a shame that our country had to go through this, to be honest it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this for—before I even got elected it began. And it began illegally, and hopefully somebody’s going to look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed. And hopefully somebody’s going to be looking at the other side. So it’s complete exoneration. No collusion.

The president also sent out the following tweet:

Democrats, meanwhile, were saying they were not satisfied with Barr’s four-page summary that contained little in the way of new information. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said that he would be calling Barr to testify before his committee about his findings.

Before being appointed attorney general, Barr had written a memo stating that he believed that the president could not have been charged with obstruction of justice based on an official action like the firing of FBI Director James Comey, which was one of the central questions of Mueller’s obstruction investigation. The DOJ also has a policy of not indicting a sitting president, which Barr says he and Rosenstein did not work into their calculus to exonerate the president.

Barr said he was working directly with Mueller to determine which parts of the report could be made public given DOJ regulations around the release of grand jury information, while he would also conduct a review to determine what “information that could impact other ongoing matters” in concluding what might be released publicly from the entire report.

On CNN, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said he wanted the full report released. Another of Trump’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, was more circumspect, stating that the decision needed to be made by the attorney general based on department rules regulating the release of grand jury information and national security information. He also suggested that the president might attempt to assert executive privilege for some portions of the report. Giuliani also added that the Watergate special prosecutor’s “report was never made public until 27 years later.”

Given the relative paucity of information in the four-page letter, calls for much more of the Mueller report—and the evidence underlying it—will only grow louder.

Earlier on Sunday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said he had planned on using the committee’s subpoena power to force the release of the full report if necessary. On Saturday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also demanded that Barr release the report.

“We’ll try to negotiate. We’ll try everything else first, but if we have to, yes, we will certainly issue subpoenas to get that information,” Nadler said prior to the report’s release.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the release would likely set up a lengthy legal battle between House Democrats and the Department of Justice to release the full contents of Mueller’s findings and the underlying evidence. From the Times:

The release of the special counsel’s conclusions […] culminate[d] 22 months of work by Mr. Mueller and his handpicked team of prosecutors, but it could be just the beginning of a lengthy constitutional battle between Congress and the Justice Department about whether Mr. Mueller’s full report will be made public. Democrats have also called for the attorney general to turn over the report and all of the special counsel’s investigative files.

This was a developing story and has been updated.