Monday 19 August 2019

Trump lashes out as redacted Mueller report due this week

Donald Trump boards Air force One. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump boards Air force One. Photo: Reuters

Michael Balsamo

As Washington counts down the final hours until publication of the redacted special counsel report, Donald Trump stepped up his attacks yesterday in an effort to undermine potential disclosures on Russia, his 2016 campaign and the aftermath.

Ahead of the expected publication on Thursday, he unleashed a series of tweets focusing on the previously released summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's conclusions - including a crucial one on obstruction of justice that Mr Trump again misrepresented - produced by Attorney General William Barr.

"Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings (and great intelligence), have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction," Mr Trump tweeted. "These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!"

His press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly tried to make the same case on TV talk shows on Sunday.

But the political battle is far from finished over the special counsel's investigation of Russian efforts to help Mr Trump and whether there was co-operation with his campaign.

Democrats are calling for Mr Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Mr Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect the president.

The House Judiciary Committee, led by Jerry Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Mr Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report's underlying investigative files.

The Justice Department announced yesterday that it expects to release the redacted version on Thursday morning, sending the findings of the nearly two-year probe to Congress and making them available to the public.

Mr Mueller officially concluded his investigation late last month and submitted the confidential report to Mr Barr. Two days later, the attorney general sent Congress a four-page letter that detailed Mr Mueller's "principal conclusions."

In his letter, Mr Barr said the special counsel did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump associates during the campaign. However, contrary to Mr Trump's false claim, Mr Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Mr Trump obstructed justice.

Instead, Mr Mueller presented evidence on both sides of that question. Mr Barr said he did not believe the evidence was sufficient to prove that Mr Trump had obstructed justice, but he noted that Mr Mueller's team did not exonerate the president.

Portions of the report being released by the Justice Department will be redacted to protect grand jury material, sensitive intelligence, matters that could affect ongoing investigations and damage to the privacy rights of third parties, the attorney general has said.

The scores of outstanding questions about the investigation have not stopped the president and his allies from declaring victory.

They have painted House Democrats' investigations as partisan overreach and have targeted news outlets and individual reporters they say have promoted the collusion story.

The president himself seethed at a political rally that the whole thing was an attempt "to tear up the fabric of our great democracy."

He has told confidants in recent days that he was certain the full report would back up his claims of vindication but was also convinced the media would manipulate the findings in an effort to damage him, according to two Republican sources.

In the waiting game's final days, the White House continued to try to shape the narrative.

"There was no obstruction, which I don't know how you can interpret that any other way than total exoneration," press secretary Ms Sanders said on 'Fox News Sunday'.

While the president unleashed his personal grievances, his team seized on any exculpatory information in Mr Barr's letter, hoping to define the conversation in advance, according to White House officials and outside advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss private deliberations.

Irish Independent

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