Sarah N. Lynch, Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s election team and Russia in the 2016 election, Attorney General William Barr said on Sunday. Barr said he had determined that Trump did not obstruct justice during the investigation.
In a major political victory for Trump, Mueller, who spent nearly two years investigating allegations that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, did not find evidence that Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government,” according a summary of Mueller’s findings.
While Mueller left open the possibility that Trump had obstructed justice in his response to the Russia probe, U.S. Attorney General William Barr concluded that the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense,” the summary said.
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr quoted Mueller as writing in his report on the issue of possible obstruction of justice.
Mueller said he would leave it to the attorney general to decide whether a crime was committed.
Barr’s summary said Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, despite multiple offers from individuals associated with Russia.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the findings on the Russia probe were a “total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it “seems like the Department of Justice is putting matters squarely in Congress’ court.”
The release of the summary is likely to ignite a new political fight in Washington as Democrats push for Barr to release the full report, and Trump seizes on the findings as vindication of his near daily assertion that he was a victim of a “witch hunt” that has cast a long shadow over his presidency.
Trump has always denied collaborating with Moscow or obstructing justice. Russia says it did not interfere in the election, although U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that it did.
Barr said the investigation also found insufficient evidence that Trump had attempted to obstruct justice. Many of his opponents accused him of obstructing the Russia probe when he fired former FBI director James Comey.
The Department of Justice announced on Friday that Mueller had ended his investigation after bringing charges against 34 people, including Russian agents and former key allies of Trump, such as his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Mike Flynn and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
None of those charges, however, directly related to whether Trump’s campaign worked with Moscow.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by by Roberta Rampton in Palm Beach, Florida; Karen Freifeld, Doina Chiacu and Nandita Bose in Washington; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Ross Colvin; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney