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Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report says the special counsel found no evidence that the president or his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. In response, the White House is claiming victory, while Democrats insist the full report be made public. Judy Woodruff talks to Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins and NPR’s Carrie Johnson for more.
The Russia report by special counsel Robert Mueller remains confidential tonight, but a brief summary has sent ripple effects spreading across Washington.
On one hand, the president is claiming victory. On the other, Democrats are demanding the full report.
President Donald Trump:
It's lasted a long time. We're glad it's over. It's 100 percent the way it should have been.
President Trump today still reveling in the results of the Mueller investigation. In a four-page letter to Congress on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr reported that the special counsel found no evidence that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Barr also concluded there is no basis to find the president obstructed the investigation after the special counsel reached no conclusion on that point.
The White House, from the president on down, claimed full vindication. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders:
The whole purpose of this investigation was to determine whether or not there was collusion. And there wasn't. They were incredibly clear in the report that there was no collusion. That's a great thing for our country and it's a great thing for this administration.
Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Barr's findings may be a hasty, partisan interpretation. He demanded the attorney general release the full Mueller report, not just his own analysis.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.:
His conclusions raise more questions than they answer, given the fact that Mueller uncovered evidence that, in his own words, doesn't exonerate the president.
Nadler said he will ask Barr to testify before his committee.
On the Republican side, Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the same. But Graham also wants to look into the Justice Department and the FBI and their initial investigation of the Trump campaign.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:
A counterintelligence investigation is to protect the entity being targeted by a foreign power. How did it fail and break down here? Was it a ruse to get into the Trump campaign? I don't know, but I'm going to try to find out.
Mueller's investigation lasted nearly two years, sought information from nearly 500 witnesses, issued more than 2,800 subpoenas and resulted in 34 indictments, including Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and longtime confidant Roger Stone.
The president said today that he is fine with releasing the entire report. He also warned that unnamed critics may face a reckoning.
There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things, against our country. Those people will certainly be looked at. I have been looking at them for a long time, and I'm saying, why haven't they been looked at?
Meanwhile, on the 2020 presidential campaign trail:
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:
We are going to invest in affordable housing.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.:
It is time we pay our teachers their value.
Most Democratic presidential candidates omitted any mention of Mueller during weekend campaign events.
Let's turn now to our Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, Lisa Desjardins — she's on Capitol Hill — and NPR's Justice correspondent, Carrie Johnson. She's here with me in the studio.
Carrie, to you first.
So, what more are we learning? Where do things stand right now at the Department of Justice, what's known about the Mueller report, when and where and how we're going to learn more?
Judy, of course, we just have this four pages, which is basically a synthesis from the attorney general, very few quotes from the special counsel, Bob Mueller, himself in this letter that Bill Barr sent to the Congress over the weekend.
What we do know is that Barr determined there is insufficient evidence, not no evidence, but insufficient evidence to charge any American with conspiring with the Russians to attack the 2016 election.
We also know that Bob Mueller has concluded that, with respect to obstruction of justice, the president's firing of the FBI Director James Comey and other steps, it wasn't exoneration of the president, as the White House is saying, but it wasn't an indictment either.
We also know that the Justice Department decided to answer the question for itself. The A.G. and the deputy A.G. have decided there was insufficient evidence to indict President Trump now or later for obstructing justice in the course of this investigation.
But no — quickly, no early sense of when we're going to know more or how?
Barr is now reviewing this report to scrub it for grand jury material and to scrub it for information about ongoing investigations, the many things, the many offshoots of the special counsel probe that have been farmed out to other U.S. attorney's offices around the country.
They expect to be releasing a lot more information. There's no timetable for — yet for when that will happen.
All right, Yamiche, let me turn to you.
President Trump has been celebrating this. He's been calling it a vindication. What more is the White House saying about this?
Well, the president and White House aides are really taking a separate victory lap today. They were so excited about the findings of the Mueller report and that summary by Attorney General Bill Barr.
And the one thing that they're talking about is the fact that the reporting — and "NewsHour" confirmed through both reporting by me and Lisa — that Attorney General Bill Barr was told three weeks before the Mueller report was finally finished that there wasn't going to be a finding of obstruction.
So the A.G. had three weeks to think about whether or not there was going to be enough evidence to prove that President Trump obstructed justice. And he decided that there wasn't enough evidence there.
So allies of the president are pointing to that and saying, Democrats are saying that the A.G. is not a neutral person and that he came to that hastily. But, instead, they're saying, actually, he had a lot of time to think this through.
They're also pointing to the fact that it was a good decision for the president not to sit down with the special counsel's office. The lawyer for the president, Rudy Giuliani — that's his personal lawyer — he said that the president would have walked into a perjury trap and that it was good for the president not to do that.
It's also important to note that the president is slamming Democrats and people around Democrats. Today, the Trump campaign sent out a list of Democrats who had commented on the president, saying that it — that there was evidence that he colluded with Russia. Now they're making the case through both the president and the White House that those Democrats shouldn't be on TV.
So what we see right now is the president really using both the wing of the — the arm of the White House and the arm of his campaign to really say, not only was I cleared, but we should move on, and people should be held accountable for lying to me.
And, just quickly, Yamiche, what are they saying at the White House about when this is going to be made public, and anything about pardoning any of the people around the president who were indicted or convicted?
White House — White House sources tell me that the White House has not actually received the Mueller report.
So what they're talking about is a report that they haven't been able to go through. But the president says that he's still happy to have the report be made public. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said there might be executive privilege issues, and they might be protecting the presidency by keeping the report from going public.
On pardons, there's a big question of whether or not the president is going to pardon people like George Papadopoulos, the campaign adviser, or Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman. The president is saying he hasn't looked into that, but they are praising, including the president and his lawyers, they're praising Paul Manafort for not lying and for not cooperating fully with — essentially fully with the Robert Mueller investigation.
The other thing that they're doing is, again going back to this idea of a campaign mode, they're fund-raising off the idea that the president was found not to be colluding with Russia.
And, Lisa, to you now. What about on the Hill? What are Republicans and Democrats saying there?
I don't think it will shock you, Judy, that we see two different paths here, one in the House, controlled by Democrats.
Democrats are meeting right now to determine when they want to have the attorney general come to the Hill, how they play that. We do know there is a scheduled hearing for the attorney general for April 9. That's a hearing for his budget, to defend the Department of Justice's budget.
But, of course, Democrats can ask anything they want. Will they call him before then, is the question. Also very notable, Judy, that the House Intelligence Committee just in the past hour so postponed its next Russia hearing, which was supposed to be Wednesday morning.
A spokesman told me that because of everything brought up by the Mueller report and sort of waiting to see more what it says, they're going to put on hold their interviews on that topic. But they're going to proceed on them eventually. So that's the House.
The Republican-led Senate, on the other hand, that's where you saw Lindsey Graham doing what he said in your story, that he wants to do a deep dive on whether the FBI acted inappropriately even in starting this investigation.
Graham also told me this personally, Judy, that he felt that it was important to tell the president over the weekend that Russia did act, that Mueller found Russia did intervene, and that Russia is not the friend to the United States. He said that the president understands that.
I asked, did the president say that to you? And, again, Graham simply repeated, "I think the president understands that."
And in just a few words, Lisa, what about the Democrats? How do they see the political calculus now?
They have a thin needle to thread, Judy, between legitimate oversight that moves things forward and between the risk of looking like a mob.
Many Democrats aware of what happened from the Kavanaugh hearings last year.
Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, Carrie Johnson of NPR here in the studio, we thank you very much.
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