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Mueller's Russia Report Released; Democrats Concerned About Obstruction


Trump On Mueller Investigation: 'This Should Never Happen To Another President'
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U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed satisfaction after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigative report into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign but congressional Democrats are pointing to a series of actions by the president that could be considered obstruction of justice.

The lengthy report was distributed to Congress and publicly released online on April 18 after remarks by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

In his first public remarks since the release of the report on April 18, Trump declared at an event in Washington that he was "having a good day."

"It was called no collusion. No obstruction," Trump said. "There never was by the way, and there never will be. We do have to get to the bottom of these things."

"This should never happen to another president again," Trump said, calling the allegations against him that were being investigated by Mueller's team "a hoax."

Trump's first public reaction to Barr's remarks was to post a meme on his Twitter account that showed a photograph of himself with his back turned to the camera and the declaration: "No Collusion, No Obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats -- Game Over."

Shortly before the report's release, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said at a press conference in Washington that Mueller's investigation "confirmed" that the Russian state tried to interfere with the election that brought Trump into office.

But Barr said the investigation did not find evidence that Trump or members of his campaign team colluded with the Russian effort.

"After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts," Barr said.

Barr also said Mueller's report did not present any evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct justice during the investigation into the Russian attempts to interfere in the election.

U.S. Attorney General: No Trump-Russia Collusion, 'Not Sufficient' Evidence Of Obstruction
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A senior congressional Democratic leader said the redacted Mueller report offered proof that Trump obstructed justice.

Jerrold Nadler (Democrat-New York), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the long-awaited report unveiled a two-year campaign of obstruction by Trump.

"Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct," Nadler said shortly after the release of the report.

"The responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions," he added.

Democrats in Washington accused Barr of attempting to shield Trump from negative findings in the report by calling his press conference just before releasing the redacted version.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) said Barr was involved in a "staggering public effort" by the Trump administration to put a positive face on Mueller's report.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) mocked Barr's press conference on Twitter, calling it a "campaign press conference" for Trump and saying "it's time for Congress and the American public to see the #Mueller Report."

Earlier, Schumer had criticized Barr, saying, "The process is poisoned before the report is even released."

"Barr shouldn't be spinning the report at all, but it's doubly outrageous he's doing it before America is given a chance to read it," Schumer added.

Pelosi said earlier that Barr had "thrown out his credibility & the DOJ's independence with his single-minded effort to protect" Trump.

The redacted version of Mueller's report shows that Trump tried to take control of the Russia probe and force Mueller's removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president.

The report says that Trump appeared to perceive Mueller's appointment as special counsel as a serious threat to his ability to govern, according to the chief of staff to the then-acting attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

"Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me," Trump reportedly said.

The Mueller reports says Trump said: "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f***ed."

It says that in June 2017, Trump directed White House lawyer Don McGahn to tell acting Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Mueller had conflicts of interest and must be removed.

It says McGahn refused, deciding that he would rather resign than set into motion what he considered to be a potential "Saturday Night Massacre" of firings -- a reference to the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.

Mueller reported multiple times in which Trump directed staffers or officials to curtail the Russia investigation after the special counsel's appointment in May 2017.

It said those efforts "were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests."

Despite those revelations, Mueller said in his report that he could not conclusively determine that Trump committed criminal obstruction of justice.

"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state," the report said. "Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Possible new indictments against the president by federal prosecutors in New York could overshadow the Mueller report.

The report noted that it had made 14 criminal referrals that were outside the scope of the special counsel's authority -- 12 of them were redacted.

The report said evidence was sent to "appropriate law enforcement authorities," mainly other offices within the Department of Justice and the FBI.

The report also included 12 pages of Trump's written responses to Mueller's questions. Under an agreement with Trump's legal team, they did not include any questions about obstruction of justice.

Though Mueller said the answers were inadequate, he said he decided against issuing a subpoena for the president to meet with investigators to answer questions because his office "had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the president's testimony."

Trump's response said that his comment during a 2016 political rally asking Russian hackers to help find e-mails erased from rival candidate Hillary Clinton's private server was made "in jest and sarcastically."

Trump also wrote that he did not recall being told during the campaign about any Russian effort to infiltrate or hack the computer systems of his Democratic rivals.

Barr's remarks just before the release of the report repeated his conclusions made in a four-page letter to Congress on March 24 in which he summarized the Mueller report.

In explaining the process for redacting the report for its public release later on April 18, Barr said no material was redacted on the basis of Trump invoking "executive privilege," though he said that Trump officials did review the redacted report.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the Mueller investigation as a "witch-hunt," and called the process "an attempted coup" aimed at taking down his presidency.

Mueller investigated whether Trump's campaign coordinated or conspired with Russia to win the election and if Trump or his associates unlawfully attempted to obstruct justice by trying to hinder the investigation.

Mueller's report was completed on March 22, and Barr sent Congress a summary of the findings two days later in which he said the investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

Barr's summary did not detail what Mueller learned about several Trump associates who had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 campaign and postelection transition period.

It also did not explain why several of Trump associates lied to federal investigators or Congress during the investigation.

He did not comment on those issues on April 18 during his press conference ahead of the report's release.

Democratic lawmakers have been pressuring Barr to make Mueller's entire report available to Congress and the public. Barr said on April 18 that he would make a special version with far fewer redactions available to a small group of high-level congressional leaders.

Barr said on April 18 that he withheld grand-jury and classified information along with information related to ongoing investigations and the privacy or reputation of uncharged "peripheral" people.

Democrats say they will fight in court for the disclosure of additional information from the report. They say they are ready to submit subpoenas if the report is heavily redacted.

In Moscow on April 18, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the release of Mueller's report as unimportant.

"This is not an issue for us. It is not a thing that interests us or causes us concern," Peskov said, adding that the Kremlin had "more interesting and important things to do."

But Peskov did admit that "It is first necessary to leaf through [the document] and understand whether it contains something that is worthy of analysis" before informing President Vladimir Putin about the report.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and TASS
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