Attorney General Barr held a presser on Thursday morning alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein where they explained a brief summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report ahead of its public release.
Barr broke down the question of collusion into two parts concerning the 2016 presidential election.
“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 schemes,” Barr said via USA Today. “So that is the bottom line.”
Firstly, the attorney general specified that Russia did seek to hack into U.S. election systems and to change the voter count. Barr clarified that these entities failed in those efforts and said the special counsel affirmed that President Trump was not involved and that no members of his campaign were involved in these attempts.
Secondly, Barr said Russian officials also released damaging information of the Democratic National Committee. He said these Russian entities who hacked DNC emails acted illegally. Barr clarified that further publication of this hacked information, so as long as those individuals were not involved in the hacking is not illegal. Barr said these Russian officials then went to WikiLeaks for publication and said that neither Trump nor any members of his campaign instructed or called for these releases.
Here’s more from a Washington Examiner op-ed:
As it turns out, Attorney General William Barr’s March letter summarizing the principle conclusions of the Mueller report wasn’t an attempt to soften the future blow against Trump of the report’s full release, or spin the story before more damning details later emerged. Instead, Barr affirmed today that Special Counsel Robert Mueller did indeed find “no evidence” whatsoever that President Trump or anyone associated with his campaign conspired with Russian actors to collude or cooperate in attempting to interfere with the 2016 election.
Unless Barr just outright lied to the entire nation, that determination came directly from Mueller himself, not an extrapolation from the Department of Justice.
The op-ed adds: “Twenty-two months, 19 lawyers, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 13 requests to foreign governments, 500 witness interviews, 230 orders for communications records, and 50 orders authorizing uses of pen registers later, there was no evidence of collusion whatsoever.”
After repeating that the report found no collusion between Trump and members of his campaign with Russian entities, the attorney general addressed obstruction of justice claims.
Barr highlighted that Mueller found ten instances that led to some legal theories that could be made to determine the obstruction of justice. Barr said he, alongside Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and other lawyers within the Justice Department, determined there was not sufficient evidence to charge the president with obstruction. Barr was asked later during a Q&A session why he made that assessment and he clarified that is the job of federal prosecutors. He said he acted well within his role as the lead Justice Department official.
During his initial statements, Barr argued the president understandably expressed frustrations regarding the investigation in what Barr called an “unprecedented situation.” These frustrations did not amount to obstruction Barr claimed, a comment he later addressed during the Q&A session. Barr was pressed on why he used the term to describe the president, something the reporter remarked seemed favorable to Trump.
The testy exchange included Barr asking the reporter back if there was a precedent for what Trump was going through. The reporter said no. Barr then asked if the word “unprecedented” was an accurate word to describe the situation, with which the reporter agreed. So Barr confirmed he was not showing alleged favoritism, but was accurately reflecting the situation.
Despite being frustrated by the special counsel investigation, Barr also claimed Trump fully cooperated with the investigation and offered no executive privilege in limiting the investigation or the Justice Department’s attempts to release the final report.
Importantly, Barr said Trump was given the opportunity to use his executive privilege but that he waived the option.
Barr was also asked whether he would object to allowing Mueller to testify before Congress. He said he did not object.