Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Government

Mueller's Investigation Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy

But Special Counsel Stops Short of Exonerating Trump Over Obstruction of Justice
Mueller's Investigation Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has now concluded, says U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

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Barr sent a four-page summary of the report's "principal conclusions" based on his "initial review of the report," to Congress on Sunday. He also publicly released his summary, which selectively quotes a small number of sections from Mueller's report.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr's March 24 letter to Congress, including a summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's confidential report.

Barr writes that Mueller had sent to him "a 'confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions' he has reached."

Mueller's team has been investigating whether the campaign of President Donald Trump conspired with Moscow. The special counsel also looked at whether the president or others sought to obstruct justice.

To the first point, Mueller's investigation found no evidence that Trump or his team conspired with Moscow, says Barr, who was picked for his position by Trump and confirmed by the Senate in February. He previously served as the U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993.

To the second point, however, Mueller's team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment and instead shared evidence with Barr's office. Based on that evidence, Barr says that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have chosen to not prosecute Trump for obstruction of justice.

The special counsel's office has not obtained any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public, Barr says.

Mueller's investigation led to 34 individuals and three companies being indicted or pleading guilty to a variety of charges, which have included fraud, obstruction of justice and lying to Congress (see Collusion Investigation: 37 Indictments and Counting).

Mueller's Confidential Report

Mueller's report, titled "Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election," is confidential, as stipulated by the law that established how special counsels operate.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr

"As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter," Barr said in his summary letter to the leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees. "For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the special counsel's report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations and department policies."

Barr says he has requested the special counsel's help in identifying what can be made public. But he noted that grand jury proceedings and other investigative powers may require some information to be withheld. Likewise, Mueller's team referred some matters to other prosecutors, which might necessitate not disclosing details that might impede active investigations or prosecutions.

No Conspiracy or Coordination With Russia

Mueller's report found no evidence that Trump or members of his presidential campaign worked with the Russian government as it conducted two separate campaigns designed to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including hacking the Democratic National Committee and leaking stolen emails and documents, in part via WikiLeaks.

"The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," Mueller's report concludes, Barr directly quotes.

"In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the special counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign 'coordinated' with Russian election interference activities," Barr says. He adds that the special counsel defined such coordination as being an "agreement - tacit or express - between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference."

U.S. intelligence officials say Russia's interference efforts continue.

Obstruction of Justice Questions

Mueller's report does not conclude whether President Trump did or did not attempt to obstruct justice. Instead, Barr says that Mueller says in the report that after conducting a "thorough factual investigation," he has chosen to list each relevant action as well as evidence on both sides.

Barr states: "The special counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'"

Barr says the threshold for prosecuting someone would be proof "beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding."

Barr says that together with Rosenstein, he has chosen to not pursue Trump on obstruction of justice charges, based on the president's actions, "most of which have been the subject of public reporting."

"The special counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'"
— U.S. Attorney General William Barr

Barr writes: "In making this determination, we noted that the special counsel recognized that 'the evidence does not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,' and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the president's intent with respect to obstruction."

The Kremlin has declined to comment on Barr's summary or Mueller's report. "We haven't seen the report itself," Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told the Guardian on Monday. "Hardly anyone has seen it, so we don't have the ability to comment on it in any detail."

Majority Leaders Respond

Republican lawmakers have seized on Mueller's finding that neither Trump nor his campaign worked with Moscow.

"The special counsel's conclusions confirm the president's account that there was no effort by his campaign to conspire or coordinate with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election," says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "However, Russia's ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing, and I welcome the special counsel's contributions to our efforts to understand better Russia's activities in this regard."

"There was no collusion," tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "This case is closed."

But Democrats have countered that while Mueller's report is clear about collusion, they are concerned by the obstruction of justice questions. They have also called for full access to the report.

"Attorney General Barr's letter raises as many questions as it answers," Pelosi says in a joint statement with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"The fact that Special Counsel Mueller's report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay," they say. "Given Mr. Barr's public record of bias against the special counsel's inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report."

Trump Responds

Trump has responded to Barr's summary by saying that it completely exonerates him.

Speaking at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida on Sunday, Trump branded the two-year Mueller investigation as an "illegal takedown that failed."

The president offered nothing to substantiate what about Mueller's investigation, which his own Department of Justice ordered and which was authorized by Rosenstein, who Trump picked to serve as his administration's deputy attorney general, might be illegal.

"There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction," Trump said. "It was a complete and total exoneration."

President Trump speaks at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida on March 24.

But Pelosi and Schumer said Trump's statement that he had been "completely exonerated" was "not to be taken with any degree of credibility."

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, says he will call on Barr to testify before his committee "in the near future."

By the Numbers

The special counsel's investigation by the numbers:

  • Lawyers employed by Mueller: 19
  • Other staff, including FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants: 40
  • Subpoenas issued: 2,800
  • Search warrants executed: nearly 500
  • Orders for communications records: 230
  • Orders authorizing the use of pen registers: nearly 50
  • Requests to foreign governments for evidence: 13
  • Witnesses interviewed: 500
  • Individuals indicted or who pleaded guilty as a result: 34
  • Companies indicted or which pleaded guilty as a result: 3

About the Author

Mathew J. Schwartz

Mathew J. Schwartz

Executive Editor, DataBreachToday & Europe

Schwartz is an award-winning journalist with two decades of experience in magazines, newspapers and electronic media. He has covered the information security and privacy sector throughout his career. Before joining Information Security Media Group in 2014, where he now serves as the executive editor, DataBreachToday and for European news coverage, Schwartz was the information security beat reporter for InformationWeek and a frequent contributor to DarkReading, among other publications. He lives in Scotland.




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