Mueller report: White House roasts critics over Mueller

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Sarah Sanders lashed out at Donald Trump's critics on Monday for trying to take down the Republican president

The White House has assailed President Donald Trump's critics after he was cleared of Russian election collusion.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told cable morning shows that Mr Trump is happy for the full report by special counsel Robert Mueller to be released.

She said the summary of the findings issued by the attorney general amounted to a full vindication of the president.

Mr Mueller's long-awaited report, however, stops short of exonerating Mr Trump of obstruction of justice.

It was the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation that saw some of the president's closest former aides prosecuted and, in some cases, imprisoned, though not for collusion with Russia.

Media caption,
Mueller report: One summary, two interpretations

What did the White House say?

White House aides took to the airwaves on Monday to depict the president as the victim of an inquiry that should never have been allowed.

When asked whether Mr Trump would support the release of the full report, Mrs Sanders told NBC News' Today programme: "He's more than happy for any of this stuff to come out."

Speaking on CNN later on Monday, Mrs Sanders said it was "outrageous" that Democrats and journalists had spent two years portraying the president as an agent of a foreign power.

"That's equivalent to treason," said the press secretary. "That's punishable by death in this country and that is outrageous."

Mrs Sanders said the "obscene lie" was used to try "to overthrow the president of the United States".

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Monday called on Democrat Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to step down.

"He ought to resign today," she told Fox News. "He has been on every TV show 50 times a day for practically the last two years promising Americans that the president would be impeached or indicted."

How did Trump react?

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"It was a complete and total exoneration," Mr Trump declared on Sunday, even though the report specifically states that he has not been fully exonerated.

Speaking at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida, he said: "It's a shame that our country had to go through this.

"To be honest, it's a shame that your president has had to go through this. Before I even got elected it began and it began illegally."

The Republican president said the inquiry was an "illegal takedown that failed".

Is Trump in the clear?

In his four-page summary released on Sunday, Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr wrote: "The special counsel did not find that any US person or Trump campaign official conspired or knowingly co-ordinated with Russia."

But on the issue of whether justice was obstructed, Mr Mueller's report says: "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Mr Trump still faces about a dozen other investigations.

These include a federal inquiry in New York into possible election law violations by the Trump campaign and his businesses, and possible misconduct by the Trump inaugural committee.

Congress is also continuing its own inquiries, mostly in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

What's the political reaction?

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham summed up the conservative response on Monday, telling reporters Mr Trump was stronger today than ever.

"This cloud has been removed," he said. "To those wanting an outcome of removing Trump, you're going to be disappointed."

Opposition Democrats are demanding full access to Mr Mueller's report.

The Democratic Chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said he would ask Mr Barr to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee "in the near future" over "very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department".

What are they saying in Russia?

Russia has denied being involved in hacking to influence the 2016 US election result.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mocked suggestions there had been collusion, saying: "I recall the words of the Chinese philosopher who said that it's hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it's not there. Well, centuries pass and unfortunately they still don't understand that across the ocean."

Alexei Pushkov, a member of Russia's upper house, tweeted: "Democrats, Russophobes and leading media created a virtual conspiracy which existed only in their heads and in headlines, and nowhere else."

Breaking the law or just venting?

Legally, the House Judiciary Committee will want to get its hands on the full Mueller report. They will want to see why Robert Mueller felt he couldn't exonerate the president on obstruction of justice.

And remember, obstruction of justice is one of the "high crimes and misdemeanours" that can lead to impeachment.

There will be an endless back and forth over that. And I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if the subpoenas start to fly.

Committees have the right to call people and papers. They are bound to flex their muscles as much as they can. They want to play this long. They want to damage the president.

To prosecute the president for obstruction of justice there would have needed to be evidence of intent to obstruct. So even though the president fired former FBI chief James Comey and unleashed regular torrents of abuse on Twitter about the investigation, if his only motivation for those acts was to vent his spleen rather than break the law, then he's done nothing wrong legally.

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