- The special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on the Russia investigation includes 10 instances of potential obstruction by President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday.
- Barr said, however, that Trump did not obstruct justice because he did not consider the president to have corrupt intent.
- The report is expected to be delivered to Congress at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday and be published online by the Department of Justice shortly after.
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In a press conference Thursday morning, Attorney General William Barr told reporters that the final report in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation included 10 instances in which President Donald Trump might have obstructed justice in the Russia investigation.
Barr held the news conference at 9:30 a.m. ET, over an hour before a redacted version of Mueller’s report was to be delivered to Congress. The news conference did not include Mueller or any members of his team.
In a March 24 letter to Congress, Barr said Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to bring a conspiracy charge against Trump or anyone associated with his campaign over Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential campaign.
He also said Mueller did not make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether Trump had obstructed justice but instead laid out all the evidence on both sides of the issue and did not draw a conclusion.
Barr said he reviewed the evidence and, after consulting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and other senior Department of Justice officials, determined that Trump did not obstruct justice.
On Thursday, Barr said there was “substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”
But “the president took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation,” Barr added. “The evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”
Barr was later asked to address Mueller’s thought process behind his decision not to come to a conclusion in the obstruction case.
Barr replied that when he, Rosenstein, and other DOJ officials met with Mueller on March 5, they asked Mueller whether his decisions were influenced by DOJ guidelines saying a sitting president could not be indicted.
“We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking a position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion,” Barr said, referring to the Office of Legal Counsel. “And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position.”
Barr was also asked why he took the step of concluding Trump did not obstruct justice instead of leaving it up to Congress.
Barr said the Justice Department’s “prosecutorial function and all our powers as prosecutors” were provided for one purpose. “It’s to determine, yes or no, was alleged conduct criminal or not criminal,” he said. “That’s our responsibility and that’s why we have the tools we have.”
“Because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the department had to,” Barr added.
The redacted report is now expected to be delivered to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday. Barr also said the Justice Department would post a copy of the report to its government website after it had been delivered to Congress.
The attorney general’s decision to give an overview of the report before lawmakers or the public saw it sparked immediate and sustained backlash on Capitol Hill.
“The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,” the House Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler, said in a hastily arranged press conference Wednesday evening, after the timing of Barr’s presser emerged.
“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation” in Trump’s favor, he added.