WASHINGTON.- President Donald Trump tried to influence Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and his responses to questions submitted by investigators were «inadequate,» the declassified version of the special counsel’s report released Thursday said.
The report, citing Jody Hunt, the chief of staff of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said that Trump took the news that a special counsel had been appointed badly, telling aides, «Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency.»
The report says that Trump tried to get Sessions, who had recused himself from the investigation, to fire Mueller, an act that could amount to obstruction.
«On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation of Hillary Clinton? There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President’s conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that could restrict its scope? A reasonable inference from those statements and the President’s action is that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation,» the report said.
Attorney General William Barr, who held a press conference on Thursday morning ahead of the release of the special counsel’s more than 400-page report, said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein «concluded the evidence developed that Trump did not commit an obstruction of justice offense.»
Barr said he and Rosenstein «disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision.»
The AG said that Trump was dealing with a situation that no newly elected US president had faced before.
«In assessing the president’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. 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,» Barr said.
On the subject of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the original reason for the special counsel’s appointment, Mueller said his «investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.»
«So that is the bottom line. 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,» Barr said.
Democrats, who have been pushing the Russia collusion allegations for nearly three years, want to hear from Mueller himself.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, said Thursday that he wanted Mueller to appear before lawmakers «no later than May 23.»
Trump, for his part, celebrated the Mueller report’s conclusions by sending a tweet apparently inspired by the hit series «Game of Thrones.»
«No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and radical left Democrats–Game Over,» the president tweeted.