President Donald Trump’s fear that leaks and press speculation were “undermining” his presidency did not prevent him from cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russians bent on influencing the 2016 election campaign, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday.
Barr, speaking at a press conference, said the White House “fully cooperated” with the probe, underlining his conclusion that the president had not obstructed justice.
“There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered in his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency,” Barr said.
Barr’s comments were immediately slammed by Democrats as a thinly veiled effort to help the president in his re-election campaign.
Senate Leader Charles Schumer branded the event as “Donald Trump’s campaign press conference,” The Washington Examiner reports.
The redacted report, made public later Thursday, appears to confirms Barr’s claim that there was nothing in it to back up any allegations of criminal behavior by the president, the Washington Post reports.
“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” the report stated.
“At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
With Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at his side, Barr said he and Rosenstein disagreed on several points of legal “theory,” but that both came to the same conclusion.
In response to a question about whether he was acting more as the president’s “lawyer” than as attorney general, Barr said Special Counsel Mueller also concluded that Trump acted on the “sincere beliefs” that he was being unfairly pilloried.
“Nevertheless, the White House fully cooperated [with the probe], and the president took no action to deprive the Special Counsel of the documents needed.”
Critics earlier discounted Barr’s actions in deciding that Trump did not obstruct justice. John Dean, who served as White House counsel to former President Nixon during Watergate, said Barr’s news conference was a “conspicuous effort to try to frame the report,” and he claimed it was “reminiscent of Watergate.”
The 400-page report, delivered to the Department of Justice last month, was first summed up in a four-page briefing by Barr. In the report, Mueller did not come to a conclusion whether there was sufficient evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.
At the 20-minute press conference, Barr said he had no objection to Mueller testifying before Congress.