The big day has begun. At a press conference Thursday morning, Attorney General William Barr reiterated what he views as the "bottom line" of the Robert Mueller investigation: Yes, the Russians meddled in the 2016 election, but no, they did not receive help from the Trump campaign. Barr spoke before turning over a redacted version of the report to Congress, which will happen after 11am. Read a transcript of his full remarks via the Washington Post. Highlights:
- On collusion: Barr said Mueller found no evidence that Russia had the "cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign." The "bottom line," he said, is this: "After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes."
- On obstruction: The other key part of the Mueller investigation involved whether Trump obstructed justice, and Barr revealed that Mueller looked into 10 possible instances, reports Bloomberg. Barr did not spell them out, but he said the report discusses "potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense." As Barr previously revealed, Mueller did not come to a conclusion on the matter, writing, "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." Barr defended his own decision not to bring obstruction charges, reports the New York Times, saying that he and deputy AG Rod Rosenstein differed with Mueller's "legal theories" on possible obstruction.
- Key obstruction quote: "The president took no action that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete the investigation," said Barr.
- Further defense: All in all, the Hill depicts Barr as presenting a "robust defense" of the president. It singles out this passage in particular: “President Trump faced an unprecedented situation," said Barr. "As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion."
- 'Context': Barr went further in defending the president, offering "context" for Trump's anger at the inquiry, notes the Guardian. “In assessing the president’s actions discussed in the report it is important to bear in mind the context,” Barr said. “There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.”
(Read more Mueller report