Mueller says he was ‘unable’ to clear Trump of obstruction

Special Counsel Robert Mueller launched the Mueller Report investigation. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in his investigation report released Thursday he was unable to declare President Donald Trump not guilty of obstruction of justice based on the evidence.

“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,” Mueller’s long awaited report said.

“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgement.”

Meanwhile, Mueller cited “some evidence” suggesting Trump knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s controversial calls with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office, but evidence was “inconclusive” and could not be used to establish intent to obstruct.

The report said Trump directed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to ask former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to say the Russia investigation was “very unfair.”

Ahead of its release, Attorney General William Barr – whose Department of Justice oversaw the investigation – delivered a spirited defence of the Republican president and his actions, infuriating Democrats.

Barr subsequently concluded that Trump had not broken the law, but told a news conference that Mueller had detailed “10 episodes involving the president and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offence.”

Before the report’s release, Barr gave a news conference at the Justice Department as he sought to shape the narrative on the document’s findings.

One of a handful of people to have seen the report before its release, Barr emphasised, as he had said last month, that Mueller did not conclude there was collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinising his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr said.

“At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability.

Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion,” added Barr.

Shortly after, he sent the report to Congress. The report said Mueller’s team did not issue a subpoena to force Trump to give an interview to the special counsel because it would have created a “substantial delay” at a late stage in the investigation.

It said Mueller accepted the longstanding Justice Department view that a sitting president cannot be indicted on criminal charges.