WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find that Donald Trump or his campaign schemed with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and he did not reach a conclusion as to whether the president obstructed justice, according to a summary of Mueller's findings sent to lawmakers Sunday.
"The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election," says the four-page summary by Attorney General William Barr.
The letter notes that Mueller's probe said no such conspiracy was found "despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign."
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
On the question of whether the president might have sought to obstruct the high-profile investigation, Mueller's team did not offer a definitive answer.
"The Special Counsel . . . did not draw a conclusion - one way or the other - as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction," Barr's letter to lawmakers states.
"The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him'," the letter says, signaling that Mueller's team apparently struggled with the issue.
"For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as 'difficult issues' of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction," the letter says.
Mueller "ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment," Barr wrote, leaving it up to the attorney general and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to decide whether the president had committed obstruction.
Rosenstein and Barr "concluded that the evidence developed during the special counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president," Barr wrote.
Barr further explained that decision by writing that "the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department's principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction of justice offense."
The highly anticipated summary of Mueller's investigation was sent to Congress on Sunday. Over four pages, it described in broad terms Mueller's work.
Brian Rabbitt, the attorney general's chief of staff, called White House lawyer Emmet Flood and gave him a readout of the letter at 3 p.m., a senior Justice Department official said.
"That is the extent of the conversation between us and the White House on the report thus far," the official said.
Mueller's central mission has been to determine if Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election were aided or assisted in any way by Americans, including people close to Trump.
In all, Russian citizens interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and presidential transition, according to public records and interviews.
Of particular concern was the interaction between a London-based professor and a low-level Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos. According to court filings, the professor told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians held damaging information about Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the form of thousands of emails.
Mueller also dug into a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York. Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer after being told she had incriminating information on Clinton that was being offered as part of the Russian government's support for the GOP candidate, according to emails exchanged in advance of the meeting.
The lawyer has said she was not working on behalf of the Russian government. Trump Jr. and Kushner have said she did not provide any information about Clinton at the meeting.
Seeking to answer the collusion question, Mueller has also scrutinized the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which released batches of Democrats' emails that U.S. investigators say were stolen by Russian intelligence officers.
Since his appointment in May 2017 as special counsel, Mueller has also wrestled with the question of whether the president attempted to obstruct justice once the FBI began investigating those close to him. Current and former White House officials who were questioned by Mueller's investigators were repeatedly asked about how the president spoke of the investigation behind closed doors, and whether he sought to replace senior Justice Department officials to stymie the probe, according to people familiar with the interviews.
The special counsel's work led to criminal charges against 34 people, including six former Trump associates and advisers.
On Saturday, officials said that one of those cases - that of Trump's former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates - will be transferred from the special counsel's office to federal prosecutors in Washington. Gates pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, and he continues to cooperate with prosecutors while awaiting sentencing.
A senior Justice Department official said the special counsel has not recommended any further indictments - a revelation that buoyed Trump's supporters, even as additional Trump-related investigations continue in other parts of the Justice Department, in Congress and in New York state.
Lawmakers awaiting the findings appeared on the Sunday morning news shows, with some declaring they'd already reached their own conclusions.
Video: Politicians took to the airwaves while waiting for more Mueller report details on March 24. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
On ABC News' "This Week," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., reiterated that there was "significant evidence of collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said: "We know there was collusion. Why there's been no indictments, we don't know." A senior Justice Department official said Friday that Mueller has not recommended any further indictments.
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Nadler said it was "way too early to speculate" about the prospect of impeaching the president. He said he still believes Trump obstructed justice, although "whether they're criminal obstructions is another question."
Republicans accused Democrats of trying to revive a dead investigation in order to hobble the president.
The ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, said on "This Week" that Democrats had asserted that Mueller was "right next to Jesus and can walk on water" but that "all indications are that there's not going to be any finding of any collusion whatsoever."
Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, pledged to fight any efforts to use Mueller's files as a springboard for impeachment.
"It is not the Department of Justice's job to give Chairman Nadler and the House Judiciary, or any committee in the House or in the Senate for that matter, what they want to do to go off on a purely partisan investigation that could lead to impeachment," said Collins.
Video: President Donald Trump reacted to Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Mueller report on Sunday. (The Washington Post)
Trump spent the weekend at his Florida resort, golfing and largely staying quiet on the investigation, which at times has threatened to consume his presidency - and which he has publicly labeled a "witch hunt." He was scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday evening.
The president's supporters are hopeful he will be vindicated now that Mueller's inquiry has ended, while Democrats pledged that the special counsel's findings will bring new focus to congressional inquiries aimed at the administration.
This article was written by Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, reporters for The Washington Post.