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(WASHINGTON) — As congressional Democrats demand the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Monday the president will leave the decision to Attorney General Bill Barr.
“Look, the president’s fully open to transparency. He said that last week. But he’s leaving that decision at this point into the hands of the attorney general, and he’ll make that determination at the appropriate time,” Sanders said on CNN. Last week, the president told reporters at the White House, “let it come out, let people see it.”
The summary of the report, submitted to Congress Sunday by Barr, said there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Mueller did not come to a conclusion on obstruction of justice, according to Barr’s summary, so Barr took that on himself, concluding that the evidence Muller found didn’t support a charge, although Barr didn’t reveal all that Mueller discovered.
Sanders insisted that Trump was justified in claiming “complete and total exoneration” despite Mueller stating, according to Barr, that his not making a decision on the question did not amount to an exoneration on the matter of obstruction.
Sanders was asked on NBC Monday morning to acknowledge that it was incorrect to say the report is a full vindication for the president.
“Not at all. It is,” she said.
“It is a complete and total exoneration, and here’s why, because the special counsel, they said they couldn’t make a decision one way or the other. The way the process works is then they leave that up to the attorney general. The attorney general and the deputy attorney general went through and based their decision on Mueller’s investigation. This wasn’t based on just their own ideas and their own thinking. It was based on Mueller’s investigation,” Sanders said.
Critics, however, rejected Trump’s claims of exoneration — and rejected the notion that Barr was objective in his summary.
“Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement over the weekend.
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, criticized Barr’s quick turnover of a summary on an investigation that took almost two years and said Barr is likely to be subpoenaed to explain his actions and conclusions.
“We will ask the attorney general to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. We will demand the release of the full report. The American people are entitled to a full accounting of the president’s misconduct referenced by the special counsel,” Nadler said at a press conference over the weekend in New York district.
In a tweet over the weekend, Nadler described “very concerning discrepancies” within the report and “final decision making at the Justice Department.” The report “did not exonerate the President,” Nadler tweeted.
Former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, said that while the case on collusion “is closed,” on the issue of obstruction of justice, “we’re sort of not done.”
“It seems to me it was a very close case. Bob Mueller decided not to make a determination about whether or not a charge can be brought, and you only do that if there is substantial evidence of obstruction,” Bharara said on ABC’s Good Morning America Monday.
While it’s clear Congress will continue to investigate the questions around obstruction of justice, it remains to be seen whether the president will be receptive to those questions.
Asked on Good Morning America if the president was prepared to cooperate with any continuing investigations in the House, one of the president’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said it would be a waste of taxpayer money, listing off all of the evidence Mueller obtained in the probe that lasted the past 22 months.
“I think the reality is that Congress is wasting the taxpayers’ money, frankly, and they should be going about legislating and governing rather than continuing this that is a prerogative they have,” Sekulow said. “I think at this point it’s ridiculous to put people through this.”
Trump has gone as far as to call the entire investigation an ““illegal takedown that failed” on Sunday. Trump made the claim despite Mueller having been appointed as special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after the president’s own decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey, who was leading an investigation into possible Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Trump and congressional Republican have claimed that there was wrongdoing in the way the investigation was carried out.
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