The release of the special counsel’s “principal conclusions” Sunday prompted swift reaction from presidential candidates, former national security officials, lawmakers and media pundits who seized on the finding that there was no coordination during the 2016 presidential campaign between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Attorney General William Barr sent congressional leaders his summary of the confidential report he received Friday from special counsel Robert Mueller, whose team spent the past 22 months investigating Russian interference in the 2016 White House race.
“While the report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the four-page summary said.
Inside the White House and the Republican Party, President Trump’s allies embraced the findings they said exonerated the president, while Democrats called for the release of the full and unfiltered report.
Democratic presidential contenders demanded that the Justice Department quickly make public Mueller’s entire report and underlying evidence.
“The American public deserves the full report and findings from the Mueller investigation immediately – not just the in-house summary from a Trump Administration official,” Sen. Cory Booker, N.J., said in a tweet.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, N.Y., tweeted: “The Mueller report must be made public. Not just a letter from someone appointed by Trump to protect himself – all of it.”
The special counsel’s work has led to criminal charges against 34 people, including six former Trump associates and advisers. Mueller has not, however, recommended any further indictments and has not charged any Americans with conspiring with Russia to help elect Trump.
Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, tweeted Sunday: “Just because it’s not criminal conspiracy does not make it right. It is wrong to meet with Russian agents to try to obtain kompromat on your political opponent. It is wrong to encourage Russian intelligence agents to steal data from your political opponent.”
McFaul said in an interview that the public needs more than a brief summary to develop policies to stop Russia from interfering in the next U.S. presidential election.
“This letter is definitely not that,” he said.
James R. Clapper, a former director of national intelligence, said Mueller’s investigation reaffirms Russia’s involvement in a disinformation campaign and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
“It’s a shame that the president refuses to call that out or to acknowledge what the Russians did,” he said in an interview on CNN. “That kind of interference is continuing and we can look forward to it again in 2020.”
Historian Michael Beschloss also cautioned in a tweet that it is “important for Americans to know exactly what Mueller says in his report.”
In the attorney general’s summary, Barr told lawmakers that the special counsel “did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction” by the president.
Alan Dershowitz, a law professor, was critical of Mueller for not reaching a definitive conclusion on that front.
“I thought it was a cop-out,” he said in an interview on Fox News Channel. “It sounds like a law school exam. That’s not the job of the prosecutor. The job of the prosecutor is to decide yes or no. Make a decision. If you say ‘yes,’ you indict. If you say ‘no,’ you shut up,” Dershowitz said.
Neal Katyal, a lawyer and former acting solicitor general, rebuffed suggestions from Trump’s allies that the report exonerates the president.
“If I were Trump, I wouldn’t be celebrating,” he tweeted, noting that the report says there are issues of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be considered obstruction.
“Is our bar so low that this is what we want from a Pres? The exoneration here is from Barr (Trump’s guy), not Mueller. Need to see Report.”
Immediately after the summary was made public, the president’s supporters and aides repeated Trump’s mantra that there was “no collusion” with Russia.
Fox News host Sean Hannity promoted his radio and TV shows for Monday as the “Special Report NO COLLUSION EDITION!” and said in a tweet that the “mainstream media have lied to the American [people] for 2 plus years. Now they will be held accountable.”
Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, tweeted, “As we already knew, NO COLLUSION! Nothing different from what President @realDonaldTrump has been saying for the past TWO YEARS!!!”
Michael Reed of the Republican National Committee declared victory in a statement: “For years, Democrats & many in the media promised us there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. They guaranteed us that Special Counsel Mueller would find the proof of it. They were wrong.”
On Fox News Channel, Brett Baier called the report “a complete win for President Trump . . . It’s a vindication,” he said, moments are the summary was released.
“If you’re left or right, you should be happy that there is not somebody in America who conspired with Russia.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who played golf with the president in Florida on Sunday, called it a “good day for the rule of law. Great day for President Trump and his team. No collusion and no obstruction. The cloud hanging over President Trump has been removed by this report.”
Graham added that it was a “bad day for those hoping the Mueller investigation would take President Trump down.” He praised Mueller for a thorough investigation and said, “Now it is time to move on, govern the country, and get ready to combat Russia and other foreign actors ahead of 2020.”
The president’s two adult sons used the occasion as a fresh opportunity to criticize the news media’s coverage of the investigation.
Eric Trump directed his comments at one of the president’s favorite targets: CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta.
“Sad to see that you are upset by the fact that #POTUS and the Trump Campaign did NOT collude with Russia, despite the hoax @CNN has exploited for two years. What part of ‘No American conspired or worked with Russia to influence the 2016 campaign’ is unclear? #CNNSucks”
Donald Trump Jr. said in a statement posted on Instagram that the report “proves what those of us with sane minds have known all along, there was ZERO collusion with Russia . . . It’s my hope that honest journalists within the media have the courage to hold these now fully debunked truthers accountable and treat them with the scorn and ridicule they so deserve.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Ann E. Marimow