US President Donald Trump declared Sunday that he had been 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 alleged 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 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.”
Gidley said the president watched television, talked to staff and made calls during his flight home from Florida.
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.
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr cited Mueller as saying.
Democrats in Congress are now certain to demand Mueller’s underlying evidence and push to investigate further.
“It is unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the President in under 48 hours,” the Democratic chairs of the House Judiciary, Intelligence and Oversight committees said in a joint statement.
“His unsolicited, open memorandum to the Department of Justice, suggesting that the obstruction investigation was ‘fatally misconceived,’ calls into question his objectivity on this point in particular.”