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President Donald Trump is claiming victory after his attorney general published a summary of the special counsel’s nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and whether the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow.
In a four-page letter to lawmakers, Attorney General William Barr summarized the key findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, which Trump said unequivocally cleared his name on allegations that have dogged him over his presidency.
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"No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION," Trump tweeted. "KEEP AMERICA GREAT!"
According to Barr, the Mueller report does largely exonerate Trump on the collusion question — but it’s a stretch based on Barr’s letter to call it a "complete and total exoneration," as Trump did.
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What Barr said about collusion is favorable for Trump. But Barr’s letter also says Trump was not exonerated on the question of obstruction in Mueller's report.
On collusion, Barr’s summary states that Mueller did not find criminal coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
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Here, Barr quoted the Mueller report directly: "(T)he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
One important caveat is that it’s not clear from Barr’s letter what level of evidence Mueller’s office considered — for instance, the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard that’s applied to criminal prosecutions, or some lower bar.
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Given the intense pressure for Mueller’s report to be released in its entirety, we may learn more about precisely what led Mueller to this conclusion.
But based on Barr’s summary about the collusion question, it’s fair for Trump to say Mueller exonerated him.
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Trump went beyond the collusion claim, however, to say "no obstruction."
That’s where Trump’s claim runs into trouble. Mueller did not take a position on whether Trump obstructed justice in the course of the Russia investigation, according to Barr’s summary.
"The special counsel did...
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