U.S. Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congressional leaders on Sunday summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings. While the President described it as “total exoneration,” the AG’s summary is a little more complicated.
On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to conduct the investigation of any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation, and any federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses. (Special Counsel Order:https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967231/download)
During the investigation, Special Counsel Mueller indicted 34 people and three entities on 200 separate criminal charges. In February 2018, 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities were charged with conspiring to defraud the United States and interfere with the 2016 presidential election. One of the entities was the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked company that engages in influence operations. In July 2018, Special Counsel Mueller indicted an additional 12 Russian intelligence officers for their role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Clinton campaign, and leaking of emails and documents. In addition to the Russian nationals and entities, the Special Counsel indicted the President’s campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) and his top deputy (Rick Gates), his campaign adviser and national security adviser (Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn), two other campaign advisers (Roger Stone and George Papadopoulos), his personal lawyer (Michael Cohen), a Dutch attorney (Alex Van Der Zwaan), a California man with no connection to the Trump campaign (Richard Pinedo), and a Russian woman living in the U.S. (Maria Butina).
Special Counsel Mueller delivered his final report to U.S. Attorney General Barr last Friday. AG Barr and Deputy AG Rosenstein spent the weekend reviewing the 300-page report and preparing a summary for Congress.
The Special Counsel’s report was divided into two sections: the first was on Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the second was on the question of obstruction of justice. AG Barr summarized that the Special Counsel did not find evidence of conspiracy to the rigorous standards of the criminal law that anyone associated with the Trump campaign knowingly conspired with Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential campaign.
On obstruction of justice, the Special Counsel did not draw a conclusion one way or the other. Instead, the report set out evidence on both sides and left it up to the AG to determine whether the conduct the Special Counsel described in the report constituted a crime. AG Barr and Deputy AG Rosenstein concluded from the report that there was not sufficient evidence to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense. However, AG Barr noted that the Special Counsel wrote, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
AG Barr indicated that more material from the report is forthcoming as it is his goal to release as much of it as possible. First DOJ must review what material in the report could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to matters occurring before a grand jury. And Special Counsel Mueller referred several matters to other offices, including the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District ofNY, for further action. The AG must identify any information in the report that could impact those matters before releasing it to Congress or the public.
Attorney General Barr Letter to Congress re: Mueller Report