No evidence of Trump, Russia collusion in 2016 polls: AG
Washington, Apr 18: Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 US presidential polls, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe which did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Moscow, Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday.
The special counsel's report states that his "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," Barr told reporters at a crowded news conference here.
Briefing reporters on the details of the recently concluded Mueller investigations, a copy of which was now headed to the Congress and a redacted version also being made public, Barr said the report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in American elections.
"But thanks to the special counsel's thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign - or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter. That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed," he said.
Commenting on the 400-page report, Trump said that Russia probe was a "hoax." "No collusion, no obstruction," Trump said. "There never was, by the way, and there never will be. And we do have to get to the bottom of these things...This hoax. It should never happen to another president again."
The report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.
Following a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign, Mueller brought charges in federal court against several Russian nationals and entities for their respective roles in this scheme. Those charges remain pending, and the individual defendants remain at large, Barr said.
"But the special counsel found no evidence that any Americans - including anyone associated with the Trump campaign - conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme," he said.
The report details efforts by Russian military officials associated with the GRU (Russian intelligence agency) to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton for the purpose of eventually publicizing those emails, he said.
Asserting that obtaining such unauthorised access into computers is a federal crime, he said following a thorough investigation of these hacking operations, Mueller brought charges in federal court against several Russian military officers for their respective roles in these illegal hacking activities.
"But again...there was no evidence of Trump campaign 'collusion' with the Russian government's hacking," Barr said.
Barr said that after nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, Mueller confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.
"After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the special counsel's report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the special counsel's investigation," he said.
Mueller "did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense," he said.
"After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense," Barr said.
Barr said Mueller acknowledges that there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fuelled by illegal leaks.
"Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the special counsel's investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims," he said.
"And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation,"he said.
Mueller was chosen to head the investigation in 2017 following concerns from US intelligence agencies that Russia had tried to tip the election in Trump's favour.
Earlier on Thursday, President Trump said the Mueller probe was "Greatest Political Hoax of all time!" "Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats," tweeted Trump, who refers Clinton as "Crooked".
Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler said he has sent a letter to Mueller - requiring his testimony before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee by May 23.
"We cannot take Attorney General Barr's word for it. We must read the full Mueller report, and the underlying evidence," Nadler said.