Trump: 'It was a complete and total exoneration'

President Trump on Sunday claimed “complete and total exoneration” after the Justice Department announced special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation found no evidence of collusion with Russia and criticized the probe as an “illegal takedown that failed.”


In his first response to the conclusion of the investigation, a seemingly angry Trump went on the offensive, bemoaning that “so many people have been so badly hurt” by Mueller’s investigation and calling for a new probe to “look at the other side.”

“It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this,” Trump told reporters in West Palm Beach, Fla. before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington.

“This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody’s going is to be looking at the other side,” the president added. “So it’s complete exoneration. No collusion, no obstruction.” 

Trump’s 87-second statement, which he delivered on the tarmac of Palm Beach International Airport, came minutes after he tweeted: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

The president’s comments broke an unusually long period of silence, as Trump’s attorneys and advisers urged him to keep a low profile until Mueller’s conclusions were announced after the investigation ended last Friday.

But Trump and his allies were eager to take a victory lap after Attorney General William Barr released a four-page letter on Sunday afternoon summarizing Mueller’s findings from his 22-month probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which had cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency.

White House lawyers Pat Cipollone and Emmet Flood briefed Trump on Barr’s letter inside his private quarters at his Mar-a-Lago estate, where he spent the weekend surrounded by a larger-than-usual cadre of advisers in anticipation of the report’s release. The White House has not been given access to Mueller’s full report, aides said.

Despite his gruff demeanor while speaking to reporters, spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president was in a “really good mood” and spent the flight to Washington watching television, making calls and talking to staff.

“He’s just very happy with how it all turned out,” Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One.

In a paper statement issued minutes after the letter was sent to Congress, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Mueller “did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction” and called the findings “a total and complete exoneration of the president of the United States.”

While Barr’s summary said Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with” Moscow’s efforts, the special counsel did not determine whether the president obstructed justice during the probe.

Barr wrote that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and he decided there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump violated obstruction laws.

Nonetheless, Trump’s lawyers and political supporters called the end of the investigation a clear-cut vindication.

“As we have stated from the very beginning, there was no collusion and no obstruction,” Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Jay Sekulow, Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin said in a statement. “This is a complete and total vindication of the president.”

Asked why Trump claimed total exoneration when Barr’s letter was ambiguous on the question of obstruction, Gidley said “prosecutors don’t exonerate, they prosecute. They don’t prove a negative. That’s just silly.”

Trump’s complaints about a lengthy investigation that “hurt” many people also renewed questions about whether he may pardon Mueller’s targets who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of crimes, namely his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The president has repeatedly refused to rule out a pardon for Manafort, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for a raft of financial and lobbying-related crimes.

Democrats in Congress on Sunday vowed they would push to make public more information related to the investigation, ensuring the political battle over the probe will continue for weeks, if not months longer as the 2020 election nears.

“Attorney General Barr’s letter raises as many questions as it answers,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. “He is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”

Pelosi and Schumer added that “the American people have a right to know” the contents of Mueller’s full report, and not just Barr’s summary.

Trump’s reelection campaign manager, Brad Parscale, accused Democrats who said there was collusion of taking the nation “on a frantic, chaotic, conspiracy-laden roller coaster for two years, alleging wrongdoing where there was none.”

“Democrats lied to the American people continually, hoping to undo the legitimate election of President Trump,” said Parscale.

Trump’s campaign sought to capitalize politically on the Barr letter, blasting out a video message attacking Democrats for their collusion allegations and urging supporters in a text message to donate to the campaign.

“Congratulations @POTUS @realDonaldTrump Today you won the 2016 election all over again. And got a gift for the 2020 election. They’ll never get you because they’ll never ‘get’ you,” tweeted White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Congressional Democrats demanded that the Justice Department release Mueller’s full report, along with underlying evidence, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said he would call on Barr to testify before Congress.

Nadler tweeted Barr’s testimony was important to hear “in light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department,” related to the obstruction question.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller wrote in his report, according to Barr.
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