Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Donald Trump crows over Mueller report as Democrats seek more details

Special counsel found no collusion with Russia but questions remain about possible obstruction of justice

The cloud cast over the first two years of Donald Trump's presidency is now dissipating as the probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election by special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that there was no evidence of collusion or conspiracy with the president’s election campaign.

A summary of Mr Mueller's findings released by Attorney General William Barr said the report “does not conclude that the president committed a crime” but that “it also does not exonerate him” of allegations of the obstruction of justice in the case. However, Mr Trump has claimed full exoneration and is taking a victory lap over the findings.

“No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”, Mr Trump said in a tweet vindicating himself.

The mood inside the White House was victorious in a way not seen since Mr Trump’s surprise win in 2016, according to CNN. The president’s supporters and fan base took to social media to celebrate the news and to accuse the Democrats of politicising the investigation over the past two years. Mr Trump’s ally in the Senate, Lindsay Graham, was due to hold a press conference on Monday to build on the current momentum. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, called the report a “turning point” for the country and asked Democrats to admit their mistakes in order to move forward.

But Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail for the 2020 election refused to concede, raising questions about what Mr Barr opted to reveal and calling for the release of the full report. It was Mr Mueller’s open question on the “obstruction of justice” charge that Democrats are now seeking to amplify as they consider their next steps.

The chair of the House judiciary committee Jerry Nadler said he would summon Mr Barr to testify. “In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision-making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate – Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer – issued a statement saying that Mr Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers”.

The two leaders said it was “urgent that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay”.

If the report is not released to the public, House Democrats are weighing a request for Mr Mueller to testify before Congress.

Democratic candidates campaigning for their party's nomination to challenge Mr Trump for the presidency next year also called for the release of the report.

“I don’t want a summary of the Mueller report. I want the whole damn report,” tweeted Senator Bernie Sanders.

Senator Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, said “a short letter from Trump's hand-picked Attorney General is not sufficient”.

Mr Trump is widely expected to use Mr Mueller's findings, even if the full report is released, to boost his campaign message that the whole investigation was a “hoax” and that there was “no collusion” with Russia – a message that could help him unify the Republican party and avoid a primary challenge in 2020.

But the judicial proceedings arising from the Mueller investigation are nowhere near over. Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort is now a convicted felon, as is Mr Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. Former aide Rick Gates and adviser Roger Stone are due to appear in court soon. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal related to the Mueller investigation from a mystery company that is trying to avoid turning over information to a grand jury.

As Mr Mueller returned to his office on Monday, turning the page on his Russia investigation, there was no sign from the administration or its opponents that this chapter will be closed anytime soon, or that a deeply polarised country will come together following its conclusion.

Updated: March 26, 2019 12:54 AM