By Chris Megerian and Del Quentin Wilber
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr told Congress Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller did not find that Donald Trump's presidential campaign "or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia" in 2016.
Barr also wrote in a letter that the evidence collected by Mueller does not conclusively show whether Trump obstructed justice after taking office as president.
"While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," Barr wrote.
The letter from Barr shared with Congress what the attorney general considered the "principal conclusions" from the Russia investigation led by Mueller, and it's expected to be the first step in what will likely become a prolonged tug-of-war over fully disclosing the findings and defining what they mean to the president.
It's unlikely that Barr's letter will be the last word on the special counsel's report. Legislative leaders from both parties have demanded to see the full picture of what Mueller uncovered during his nearly two-year investigation. House Democrats, using the majority power newly won in November, have said they may subpoena his report or call Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said on CNN Sunday that he would "absolutely" be willing to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of targeting Trump with a "fishing expedition."
"They have an agenda against the president," he said.
Barr told the leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees Friday that he is "committed to as much transparency as possible" and would consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mueller "to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law." Barr and Rosenstein spent Saturday and Sunday at the Justice Department reviewing the findings.
Mueller is not seeking any more indictments, and he is expected to step down as special counsel soon after nearly two years of behind-the-scenes investigating with his team. Rosenstein appointed Mueller, a former FBI director to two presidents, after Trump fired his successor at the FBI, James Comey, in May 2017.
Since then, Mueller and his prosecutors have investigated Moscow's covert effort to meddle in the 2016 election, any conspiracy with Trump's team and whether the president subsequently obstructed justice.
Along the way, a total of 34 people were charged, including 25 Russians and several of the president's close associates. Some of the Russians charged were accused of spreading disinformation on social media, while others were charged with hacking Democratic Party emails and releasing them through WikiLeaks at key moments to undermine Hillary Clinton.
No Americans have been charged with working with Russians during the campaign. However, Mueller helped expose eagerness by Trump and his associates to capitalize on Moscow's assistance, and then lie about it repeatedly.
Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, admitted to seeking help from the Kremlin to build a luxury skyscraper in Moscow that would have earned Trump hundreds of millions of dollars. The negotiations continued until after Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, far longer than Cohen had testified to Congress. He is scheduled to start a three-year prison sentence May 6.
Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying about discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period.
Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser to Trump, was indicted in January in connection with lying about his pursuit of Democrats' hacked emails from WikiLeaks. He has pleaded not guilty and he is scheduled to stand trial this year.
In addition, Donald Trump Jr. accepted a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign after being told she represented the Kremlin's support for his father. "I love it," Trump Jr. wrote to an intermediary, and he hosted the lawyer at Trump Tower with Jared Kushner, his brother-in-law and a top campaign adviser, and Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman.
No charges have been filed in connection with the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, and participants have said that no campaign assistance was provided during the encounter.
Manafort was convicted of financial crimes connected to his work as a political consultant to what was then the pro-Russia government in Ukraine, and he also pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges related to attempted witness tampering and an illegal lobbying scheme. He has been sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.
Mueller's work has also led to other investigations, notably in New York, where Cohen admitted his role in a hush money scheme that silenced two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, which is handling the case, said Trump directed the scheme during the campaign, directly implicating the president in a felony.
There are also ongoing investigations into Trump's inaugural committee, his now-defunct charitable foundation and his businesses.
(Laura King contributed to this report.)
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