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Trump claims exoneration from report Democrats call ‘damning’

The redacted Mueller report on possible collaboration between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign has been publicly released. Running 448 pages, it is broken into two volumes, one focusing on Russian election interference and the other on whether President Trump obstructed justice in that investigation. As Judy Woodruff reports, reaction to its findings varies widely.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The long wait is over.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into Russian ties to the Trump campaign and the Trump presidency is finally public, at least in redacted form. But the debate over the findings and their implications is anything but over.

    The president asserts that he has been exonerated, but Democrats insist that's a whitewash of what the report really says. And they're accusing the attorney general of trying to spin the findings in the president's favor.

    The redacted report runs 448 pages, broken into two volumes, on whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and whether President Trump obstructed justice during the investigation.

  • William Barr:

    After nearly two years of investigation…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Attorney General William Barr offered his own summation, before releasing the report to Congress and the public, first on Russia:

  • William Barr:

    The special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but didn't find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The report's actual language says the evidence wasn't sufficient to bring criminal charges. But it does outline numerous contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russia.

    The report itself does not exonerate the president with regard to obstruction. In fact, it cites 10 key episodes that investigators reviewed. They include the president's January 2017 dinner with then FBI Director James Comey, in which Mr. Trump allegedly asked for loyalty, and his request that Comey publicly state that he was not under any criminal investigation. Comey was ultimately fired in May of 2017.

    That same month, special counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation. The report says Mr. Trump was extremely agitated about the probe and complained bitterly: "This is the end of my presidency."

    It further says the president tried that June to have Mueller fired over an alleged conflict of interest. But then-White House counsel Don McGahn refused, citing — quote — "a fear of being seen as triggering another Saturday Night Massacre," referring to the infamous incident during Watergate.

    In the end, Mueller determined that President Trump's efforts to influence the Russia probe were mostly unsuccessful because his advisers refused to carry out his orders. He went on to say Mr. Trump declined to be interviewed, and that his written responses to questions, which included dozens of no memory answers, were inadequate.

    But the special counsel says he decided not to subpoena the president, believing that would trigger a long court battle and delay the investigation.

  • William Barr:

    After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Attorney General William Barr repeated his own finding that there is no basis for a criminal case.

  • William Barr:

    The deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.

  • Donald Trump:

    No collusion, no obstruction.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For his part, the president claimed total vindication, and called for an investigation of the investigation.

  • Donald Trump:

    And we do have to get to the bottom of these things, I will say. This hoax, this should never happen to another president again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But in New York, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat Jerry Nadler, said the report is anything but vindication for the president.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.:

    Even in its incomplete form, however, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nadler said he will now subpoena the entire report, and he called for Mueller to testify before his committee by May 23.

    Democratic Adam Schiff, chairing the House Intelligence Committee, weighed in today from Burbank, California.

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:

    The facts that are now established by this report are damning. Whether they could or should have resulted in the indictment of the president or people around him, they are damning. And we should call for better from our elected officials.

    The standard cannot simply be that you can do anything you like as long as you can declare at the end of the day, I am not a crook.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Top Democrats joined in condemning Attorney General Barr's depiction and handling of the Mueller report. On Twitter, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Barr's morning event as — quote — 'a campaign press conference for the president."

    And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that Barr — quote — "confirmed the staggering partisan effort by the Trump administration to spin the public's view of the Mueller report."

    Barr acknowledged today that the president's lawyers reviewed the final redacted version of the report before it was made public. He said the White House decided not to invoke executive privilege to redact any further information.

    Barr is due to testify before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees early next month.

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