President Trump faced a hostile press, an investigation pushed by political opponents and “relentless speculation” about his behavior when all along he knew there was no “collusion” with Russia during the 2016 election, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday ahead of the release of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report.
And that’s why 10 “episodes” that Mueller addressed in his 400-page report did not rise to the level of obstruction, Barr concluded.
The attorney general previously stated, in his summary of the report to Congress, that Mueller did not come to a conclusion regarding obstruction. The special counsel said he could not “exonerate” the president but didn’t find evidence to bring charges, leaving it to the Justice Department to make that decision.
He confirmed Mueller’s investigation showed no collusion with Russia on the part of the Trump campaign or any American in the 2016 election.
The allegations of Trump-Russia collusion were fueled by a political-opposition dossier funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign that was used to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.
Barr explained his approach to the obstruction question.
“In assessing the president’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context,” he said. “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. At the same time, 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. And as the special counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”
Barr said that, nonetheless, the White House “fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.”
“And at the same time, the president took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation,” he said.
Barr said that, tasked with the responsibility to address the obstruction issue, he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein found there was not enough evidence for any charge.
“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,” he said.
Barr said there “is not sufficient” evidence of obstruction.