DOJ: Report doesn’t clear Trump or find crime

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FILE – In this April 21, 2016 file photo, attorney and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, right, arrives for a court hearing at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. Mueller has been overseeing settlement talks with Volkswagen, the U.S. government and private lawyers. Mueller is being honored with an award from West Point. […]

WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Mueller did not exonerate President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice or find that he committed a crime.

That’s according to a summary of Mueller’s findings provided to Congress by the Justice Department.

The summary also says Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign or its associates “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says a letter from the Justice Department describing special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings “does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

The department sent the letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler on Sunday afternoon. Nadler tweeted that the Justice Department “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.”

Attorney General William Barr has spent the weekend combing through Mueller’s report, which he received Friday, deciding how much of it Congress and the public will see. Democrats are pressing for full disclosure of Mueller’s report and vowing to use subpoena powers and other legal means if necessary to get it.

Mueller’s investigation is known to have concluded without a recommendation for further indictments after having snared nearly three dozen people, senior Trump campaign operatives among them. The probe illuminated Russia’s assault on the American political system, painted the Trump campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.

White House officials were buoyed by word that Mueller was bringing no new charges. Trump spent the weekend at his Florida estate, making no public appearances and tweeting only: “Good Morning, Have a Great Day!” Then he followed up: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Mueller submitted his report to Barr instead of directly to Congress and the public because, unlike independent counsels such as Ken Starr in the case of President Bill Clinton, his investigation operated under the close supervision of the Justice Department, which appointed him.

Mueller was assigned to the job in May 2017 by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw much of his work. Barr and Rosenstein analyzed Mueller’s report on Saturday, laboring to condense it into a summary letter of main conclusions.

Barr said he wants to release as much as he can under the law. That decision requires him to weigh the Justice Department’s longstanding protocol of not releasing negative information about people who aren’t indicted against the extraordinary public interest in a criminal investigation into the president and his campaign.

Democrats are citing the department’s recent precedent of norm-breaking disclosures, including during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, to argue that they’re entitled to Mueller’s entire report and the underlying evidence he collected.

The conclusion of Mueller’s investigation does not remove legal peril for the president.

He faces a separate Justice Department investigation in New York into hush money payments during the campaign to two women who say they had sex with him years before the election. He’s also been implicated in a potential campaign finance violation by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who says Trump asked him to arrange the transactions. Federal prosecutors, also in New York, have been investigating foreign contributions made to the president’s inaugural committee.

A number of Trump associates and family members have been dogged by speculation of possible wrongdoing. Among them are Donald Trump Jr., who helped arrange a Trump Tower meeting at the height of the 2016 campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was interviewed at least twice by Mueller’s prosecutors.

All told, Mueller charged 34 people, including the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and three Russian companies. Twenty-five Russians were indicted on charges related to election interference, accused either of hacking Democratic email accounts during the campaign or of orchestrating a social media campaign that spread disinformation online.

Five Trump aides pleaded guilty and a sixth, longtime confidant Roger Stone, is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to Congress and engaged in witness tampering.

Justice Department legal opinions have held that sitting presidents may not be indicted. But many Democrats say Trump should not be immune from a public accounting of his behavior.

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