Mueller Report Doesn't Find Russian Collusion, But 'Can't Exonerate' On Obstruction
Updated at 3:53 p.m. ET
Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find any evidence that President Trump's campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election, according to a summary of findings submitted to Congress by Attorney General William Barr.
"The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russian in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election," Barr writes in his letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees delivered Sunday afternoon.
However, Mueller's investigation did not take a position on whether Trump obstructed justice in the ongoing investigation, writing that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
President Trump and the White House had been waiting with the rest of the country. Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters earlier in the day that neither he nor anyone else on staff had received the report or been briefed about it.
Mueller notified the leaders of the Justice Department on Friday that he had completed his work investigating whether Trump's campaign had any connection to the Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump was visiting Florida; White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and another top attorney, Emmet Flood, traveled with him, among other staffers.
Lawyer Rudy Giuliani told NPR on Saturday that the White House had deliberately taken a hands-off approach with Mueller and the Justice Department and that there was no more to say until the results come in.
The president's legal team has drafted a rebuttal to Mueller's report, but the decision as to whether or not to release that will depend on what Mueller wrote, Giuliani said.
"If they don't say anything harmful or critical that's worth responding to, we won't respond," he said. "If they do say something then we'll put out whatever is necessary to rebut it."
Supporters of the president welcomed the news from the Justice Department that Mueller hasn't recommended any more criminal indictments. They say this shows the story is over and that, according to this line of thinking, Mueller didn't uncover any conspiracy between Trump's campaign and the Russians.
"If they're not going to indict anybody else then they can't have any further evidence of collusion," Giuliani said. "Otherwise they would have brought some kind of conspiracy indictment."
Trump's former campaign boss Corey Lewandowski pointed specifically to the case of conservative commentator Jerome Corsi, who walked away from a potential guilty plea with the special counsel over alleged lies to investigators.
The government doesn't appear to be pursuing that case, Lewandowski told NPR on Friday, which he said suggests to him that this chapter is about to close.
"I'm reading the tea leaves," he said.
Widespread calls for openness
Calls have been nearly universal and bipartisan for Mueller's original report to be released, and for the public or Congress to access its findings and its underlying source material.
Many Republicans and Democrats agree they will not be content only with a Barr-drafted synopsis of the report.
"It needs to be released to the Congress and it needs to be released to the American people," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told CNN on Sunday morning. "This has consumed two years of the American people's time and we need full transparency."
Congressional Democrats appeared nearly unanimous about the need for wide release and individual Democratic leaders also tried to preempt what they feared might be attempts by the White House to conceal Mueller's findings.
Specifically, one longstanding question has been whether Trump might seek to invoke executive privilege, the doctrine that allows an administration to keep secret some of its internal workings.
Nadler, the House Judiciary chairman, told NBC on Sunday morning that he thinks the president shouldn't attempt it.
"I do not believe it exists here at all because, as we learned from the [Richard] Nixon tapes case, executive privilege cannot be used to hide wrongdoing," Nadler said.
Continued Nadler: "In that case, the Supreme Court, nine to nothing, ordered that all the claims of executive privilege be overridden and the tapes be public ... The president may try to assert it, may try to hide things behind it. But I don't think that's right or be successful."
Trump hasn't opposed publication
Trump, for his part, has said in the past both that he doesn't mind if Mueller's report becomes public — because he says he has done nothing wrong — but also that there shouldn't have been a Mueller report in the first place.
Trump has gone back and forth about what he accepts about the Russian interference in 2016 but he has been consistent that neither he nor anyone in his campaign had any connection to it.
That idea is a "hoax" perpetuated by conspirators and Democrats sore that Hillary Clinton lost to him, Trump says, who have been consequently running a "witch hunt" against him.
If a near-consensus had formed on Sunday about the need to release Mueller's findings and his evidence — at least to Congress — what remained unclear was precisely what would happen next with Barr and the Justice Department.
Officials gave only a general indication that something might happen in the afternoon but did not commit to any particular time or describe in more detail what Barr would give to the Congress.
NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith contributed to this report.