WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump tried to influence Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and his responses to questions submitted by investigators were “inadequate,” said the declassified version of the special counsel’s report released on Thursday.
The report, citing as the source Jody Hunt, the chief of staff of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said that Trump took the news that a special counsel had been appointed badly, telling aides, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency.”
The report says that Trump tried to get Sessions, who had recused himself from the investigation, to fire Mueller, an act that could amount to obstruction.
“On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation of Hillary Clinton? There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President’s conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that could restrict its scope? A reasonable inference from those statements and the President’s action is that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation,” the report said.
Attorney General William Barr, who held a press conference on Thursday morning ahead of the release of the special counsel’s more than 400-page report, said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “concluded the evidence developed that Trump did not commit an obstruction of justice offense.”
Barr said he and Rosenstein “disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law,” adding that “we did not rely solely on that in making our decision.”
The AG said that Trump was dealing with a situation that no newly elected US president had faced before.
“In assessing the president’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates,” said Barr.
“At the same time,” he continued, “there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.”
On the subject of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the original reason for the special counsel’s appointment, Mueller said his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
“So that is the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and 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 schemes,” Barr said.
Trump, for his part, celebrated the Mueller report’s conclusions by sending a tweet apparently inspired by the hit series “Game of Thrones.”
“No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and radical left Democrats--Game Over,” the president tweeted.
In another tweet, Trump said: “I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn’t!”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, on Thursday called Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who had headed the independent investigation into alleged links between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team, to testify before Congress “no later than May 23.”
“As I have already communicated to the Department of Justice, I request your testimony before the Judiciary Committee as soon as possible – but, in any event, no later than May 23, 2019,” Nadler wrote in a letter sent on Thursday morning to Mueller, which the lawmaker posted on his Twitter account.
In his tweet, Nadler said that “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” which – according to Barr – determined that neither Trump nor anyone on his campaign staff collaborated or colluded with the Kremlin in 2016 to try and ensure his election.
Nadler’s official call to Mueller to appear before Congress came just before the Justice Department sent to Congress a redacted version of the special counsel’s report, which took almost two years to prepare.
The redacted version of the report was made public on Thursday and Barr promised in a press conference before sending it to Congress that the “limited ... redactions” were made so as not to release classified intelligence information or to interfere with the legal cases currently under way.
Barr said on Thursday morning that Mueller did not find “any evidence” that Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe and insisted several times that there was “no collusion” with Russia by the president either before or after he was inaugurated.
The attorney general acknowledged that “earlier this week, the president’s personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released.”
However, he said that Trump did not exercise his right to invoke “executive privilege” to censure portions of the report remained secret and nobody outside the Justice Department edited the document or requested that it be edited.
At his press conference, Barr said that he did not have any objection to Mueller testifying before Congress, something that Democrats have been calling for for weeks.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said Thursday that it is “more urgent than ever” for Mueller to offer his testimony before Congress regarding his investigation and conclusions after Barr admitted that Trump’s legal team had been allowed to see the report before it was released to Congress or the public.