Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday that the inquiry into alleged cooperation between Russia and US President Donald Trump’s campaign in the 2016 election found there was no collusion between them, although it established Moscow’s interference.
Speaking to reporters in Washington before the release of a redacted version of the inquiry report, he said that “the bottom line” is that “after nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel (Robert Mueller) 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 schemes”.
He added that “all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed” through Mueller’s investigation that the Russian “schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter”.
The report with portions blacked out because they relate to confidential intelligence matters, to testimony that is secret under the law or to innocent individuals would be sent to Congress shortly and made available on the web, he said.
He said that he would show Congressional leaders a fuller version of the report, except for portions redacted to comply with the law.
Democrats were skeptical. House of Representative Judicial Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, said he would order Mueller to appear before his panel before May 23 to explain his findings. “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” he tweeted.
Barr defended his controversial decision to not pursue obstruction of justice charges against Trump after Mueller had not come to a conclusion about it and had left it Barr to decide if a prosecution was warranted. This will be the main focus of the Democrats in following up the Mueller report.
Barr said that Mueller had looked into ten instances where there could have been interference by Trump to impede the investigation but he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that there was not enough evidence to launch a prosecution.
Barr dismissed culpability of the Trump campaign in disseminating emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton that were hacked by Russians and proved embarrassing to the Democratic candidate’s campaign.
He explained that “publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy” and acethe special counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials”.
This is a defence used by news media in publishing material hacked by others like WikiLeaks — that they themselves did not break the law by hacking.
Barr also implied that WikiLeaks had not conspired with the Russians in the hack.
While finding no collusion, Barr said that according to the report, the Russian military intelligence agency GRU had disseminated the hacked emails.
Barr said the report also detailed efforts by “the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.”
Barr said that White House was shown a copy of the redacted report, but Trump did not demand any further cuts he was entitled to under the law because he wanted full transparency. Trump’s personal lawyers did not get the report, he added.
In defending his decision to not follow up the obstruction of justice charges, Barr said that it was “important to bear in mind the context” that “Trump faced an unprecedented situation”.
Barr said , “As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinising his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability”.
This appeared to be a reference to Trump’s campaign in the media and in meetings against the Mueller investigation, often calling it a “witch hunt”. Trump’s opponents have cited these as a pressure campaign to derail the probe
The Democrats will pick up on this statement to question Barr’s impartiality and do their own follow-up.