Attorney General William G. Barr has delivered to Congress his summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s “principal conclusions” on the Trump-Russia scandal.
Here are some key takeaways from Mueller’s report, as described in Barr’s letter:
■ Mueller did not find collusion with the Russian government. The special counsel “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Barr’s summary said.
■ But Mueller did find “multiple offers” from the Russians. The letter noted that the special counsel found no collusion with the Russian government “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
■ Mueller looked at whether Trump obstructed justice, but did not make a decision on whether to charge him. The special counsel investigated a number of actions by President Trump “as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns.” Yet the special counsel “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” Barr said.
■ Mueller listed evidence on “both sides.” Instead of making a decision for each of the actions investigated, the special counsel’s “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.” That, too, is according to Barr’s letter.
■ At the same time, Mueller noted that he was not clearing Trump of obstruction. The special counsel said that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr said, quoting directly from Mueller’s report.
■ Barr and Rosenstein stepped in to decide not to charge Trump. Because Mueller did not “reach any legal conclusions” about whether Trump obstructed justice, it was up to Barr to determine whether the conduct Mueller found constituted a crime, the attorney general said.
Barr said that after reviewing the special counsel’s report “and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions,” Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided there was not enough evidence to charge the president.
■ It wasn’t because a president can’t be charged. Barr said the decision wasn’t made because of a Justice Department policy that a sitting president can’t be criminally prosecuted.
■ Barr and Rosenstein said the key elements weren’t there. Barr said the special counsel’s report “identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent,” which he said was the combination of things generally required by the Justice Department for an obstruction of justice charge to be brought.
■ Barr promised to release more information in the future. Barr said the special counsel’s report is supposed to be a “confidential report” to the attorney general, but that he was “mindful of public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.”
■ Controversy will continue. Trump on Sunday hailed Barr’s letter as a “complete and total exoneration.” Democrats in Congress, who are pursuing their own investigations of Trump, said the Mueller report and the underlying evidence should be released — and they vowed to call Barr to testify. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer questioned the summary by Barr, a Trump appointee, saying Barr “is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
Martin Finucane can be reached at email@example.com.