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Attorney general's letter on Mueller report: No conclusion on justice obstruction

March 24, 2019 - 2:56 pm
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(WASHINGTON) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller's report into the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 presidential election did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia, according to a letter to Congress from Attorney General William Barr.

The letter describes "two main" Russian efforts to influence the election, and said Mueller did not make a conclusion on whether obstruction of justice occurred.

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” according to the report. It goes on to say: “In cataloging the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identities no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct.”

The news comes amid Democrats' continued calls for the full release of the findings.

On the campaign trail and on the Hill, Democrats made clear they are going to want every detail and document about the investigation, and some have said they are willing to use their subpoena power in order to get it.

"It means make the request, if the request is denied subpoena, if the subpoenas are denied, we will hold people before the Congress and, yes, we will prosecute in court as necessary to get this information," House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday on This Week.

Democratic candidates running to unseat President Donald Trump in 2020 reacted quickly to the news that Mueller delivered his report to DOJ with one consistent message: Make it public.

"The Mueller report must be made public -- all of it," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, said in a presidential campaign speech outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City.

She added: "It is not often that I agree with Richard Nixon, but he was right to say that the American people have a right to know whether their president is a crook."

Mueller and his team investigated how far the Kremlin went to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including trying to determine whether any Americans may have helped those efforts.

At the heart of Mueller’s probe were two Russian operations: the spread of disinformation on social media, and the release of thousands of sensitive emails stolen by hackers from the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic targets. Mueller’s team has charged 25 Russian nationals and three foreign companies for their alleged role in those operations.

In appointing a special counsel to investigate, however, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also directed Mueller to look into “allegations” of possible “coordination” between Russian operatives and associates of President Donald Trump.

Trump and his Republican allies have derided the investigation as a “witch hunt.” But Rosenstein, FBI Director Chris Wray and Barr have each explicitly disputed that description.

At least four Trump associates, including Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, have pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents during the Russia-related investigation.

Another Trump associate, the president’s former attorney Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings in Moscow. And former Trump adviser Roger Stone has been charged with lying to Congress about his alleged role in tracking information stolen from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mueller’s investigation grew out of a probe the FBI launched in late July 2016.

By then, the FBI was already scrutinizing Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s business dealings with pro-Russian officials in Ukraine -- dealings that have since landed Manafort in jail. And the FBI was keeping tabs on Trump adviser Carter Page, who was previously targeted for recruitment by Russian spies and had raised eyebrows with a trip to Moscow in mid-July 2016.

But claims by Trump adviser George Papadopoulos -- that the Russians were touting “dirt” on Clinton -- rally set off alarms inside the FBI.

“If any Americans were part of helping the Russians [attack] us, that is a very big deal,” James Comey, who was FBI director at the time, later told lawmakers.

Several weeks after formally launching the Russia probe, counterintelligence agents leading the investigation in Washington received a so-called “dossier,” which had been compiled at the behest of Democrats and detailed uncorroborated allegations of coordination between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

Some of the allegations involved Page, who was already on the FBI’s radar, so agents began secretly intercepting his communications. Page has never been charged with any crimes.

The wide-ranging investigation continued even after Trump took office. After Jeff Sessions became attorney general, he recused himself from oversight of the FBI’s Russia-related probe, citing his previous advocacy for Trump on the campaign trail.

Rosenstein subsequently assumed oversight of the investigation.

And then Trump shocked the federal law enforcement community: He fired Comey.

The move prompted Rosenstein to appoint Mueller to take over the whole matter, including a review of whether Comey's firing and other actions meant Trump improperly tried to obstruct the probe.

Comey later alleged that in a private meeting with Trump before his removal, the president directed Comey to “let [Flynn] go.”

Mueller has not released any evidence suggesting Trump committed a crime related to Russian efforts.

However, Mueller did uncover evidence of other possible crimes and referred those cases to other federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan ended up tying Trump to federal campaign violations, alleging that -- in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign -- Trump personally directed Cohen to silence two woman claiming affairs with Trump by making illegal payments to them. Trump has repeatedly denied the affairs.

Cohen has pleaded guilty for his role in the matter, but no other charges have been filed.

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