US President Donald Trump’s campaign did not conspire with Russia during the 2016 election, according to a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report submitted to Congress on Sunday.
The report summary did not draw a conclusion as to whether Mr Trump had illegally obstructed justice – not exonerating the president.
The report was summarised for Congress by the Attorney General, William Barr.
President Trump tweeted in response: “No Collusion, No Obstruction.”
Mr Trump, who repeatedly described the inquiry as a witch hunt, said on Sunday “it was a shame that the country had to go through this”, describing the inquiry as an “illegal takedown that failed”.
The report is the culmination of two years of investigation by Mr Mueller which saw some of the president’s closest former aides prosecuted and, in some cases, imprisoned.
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mr Mueller wrote in his report.
What is in the report summary?
The summary letter by Mr Barr outlines the inquiry’s findings relating to Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Barr concluded: “The special counsel did not find that any US person or Trump campaign official conspired or knowingly co-ordinated with Russia.”
The second part of the letter addresses the issue of obstruction of justice. Mr Barr’s summary says the special counsel report “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment”.
“The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” the letter reads.
Mr Barr says the evidence is not sufficient “to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offence”.
Mr Barr ends his letter to Congress by saying he will release more from the full report but that some of the material is subject to restrictions.
“Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the [grand jury] material that by law cannot be made public,” he writes.
“I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all information contained in the report as quickly as possible.”
How have US politicians reacted?
Congressman Jerry Nadler, the Democratic Chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, emphasised the attorney general had not ruled out that Mr Trump might have obstructed justice.
“Barr says that the president may have acted to obstruct justice, but that for an obstruction conviction, ‘the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct’.”
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, said that while there was a lack of evidence to support “a prosecutable criminal conspiracy”, questions remained over whether Mr Trump had been compromised.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement that Mr Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers” and called for access to the full report.
“For the president to say he is completely exonerated directly contradicts the words of Mr Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility,” the statement said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders described the findings of the report as “a total and complete exoneration of the president”.
Mr Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said the report was “better than I expected”. Republican Senator Mitt Romney welcomed the “good news”, tweeting that it was now “time for the country to move forward”.
What happens next?
The release of the report’s key findings on Sunday could mark the start of a lengthy battle to see the entire Mueller report made public.
A number of senior Democrats have called for the full report to be released along with all of the special counsel’s investigative files.
Mr Barr has said he will release more, but indicated it would take some time to determine what materials could be shared.
He did not give a specific time frame, but whenever further details are handed to Congress Democrats may mount legal challenges if it is anything less than the entire report.
As Congress awaits further details, Mr Barr may be called to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler, said on Twitter that he would ask Mr Barr to testify “in the near future” over “very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department”.
Meanwhile, as Mr Trump claimed “total exoneration” on Sunday, about a dozen other investigations were continuing to examine his activities.
They include a federal investigation in New York that is looking into possible election-law violations by the Trump campaign and his businesses and possible misconduct by the Trump inaugural committee.
Congress is also continuing its own inquiries, mostly in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
A very good day for Trump
In his four-page letter to Congress, Attorney General William Barr summarises, mostly in his own words, the conclusions of the special counsel’s investigation. In one key line, however, he directly quotes the report.
“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or co-ordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
There, in Robert Mueller’s own words, is the end result of nearly two years of work, 2,800 subpoenas, hundreds of search warrants and countless hours of interviews. There were “multiple offers” of help from “Russian-affiliated individuals” to the Trump campaign, but they never took the bait.
There was, as Donald Trump might say, “no collusion”. At least, no evidence of it was unearthed.
The obstruction of justice component is a murkier matter. The decision of whether to charge Mr Trump with interference with the various investigations wasn’t Mr Mueller’s. Saying it involved “difficult issues”, the former FBI director punted.
Instead, Mr Barr – in consultation with Department of Justice staff – decided not to prosecute, in part because there was no apparent underlying crime to obstruct.
Make no mistake, today was a very good day for Mr Trump.
While a bevy of inquiries into his presidency will grind on, the shadow of Mr Mueller’s investigation – hovering over the White House since May 2017 – has been lifted.