Democrats are keeping up pressure on President Donald Trump following the long-awaited release of a report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
They want Robert Mueller, the man who collated the report, to publicly testify before congress about the work he has done. The redacted report, which was released on Thursday, reveals the president tried to get Mr Mueller fired.
Mr Trump’s legal team has described its release as a “total victory”. The 448-page redacted document is the result of a 22-month investigation by Mr Mueller, who was appointed to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
What’s in the report?
Mr Mueller’s report says he found no criminal conspiracy between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia, but could not reach a concrete legal conclusion on whether Mr Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.
“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,” the report says. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgement.
“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The report also reveals:
- Mr Trump instructed a White House lawyer to try to get Mr Mueller removed over alleged “conflicts of interest”, but the lawyer resigned because “he did not plan” to follow the directive
- Mr Trump reportedly used an expletive when the investigation was announced, adding: “Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency”
- Mr Mueller examined 10 actions by the president in regards to obstruction of justice, which he said largely “took place in public view”
- The report says that potential obstruction of justice by the president only failed because members of his administration refused to “carry out orders”
- Investigators viewed the president’s written responses to their questions as “inadequate” but chose not to pursue a potentially lengthy legal battle to interview him
What do Democrats say?
Democrat congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in a joint statement said the report painted a “disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behaviour”.
The party has begun moves to try to obtain the full, unredacted document and to have Mr Mueller testify before Congress. Congresswoman Jackie Speier told the BBC that Mr Mueller had “basically tossed the ball to Congress and said, ‘you need to pursue obstruction of justice here’.”
Democrats have also attacked US Attorney-General William Barr, accusing him of “misleading” them with an earlier summary of the report’s findings regarding whether Mr Trump obstructed justice.
Mr Barr held a news conference before the report was made public in which he backed the president.
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The report has long been viewed as a potential tool to impeach the president but the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said this would not be “worthwhile at this point”. “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement,” he told CNN.
What’s the Democrat game plan?
I think that the wider strategy of the Democrats is that they would like to see a president going into 2020 a bit wounded, a bit weakened. The danger of going down the impeachment route is that all that it results in is uniting the Republican party.
For that reason I think the Democratic leadership would much rather knock the president around a bit than go down a route which would almost certainly end in failure and almost certainly be counter-productive.
And for all the questions, doubts, contradictions, sleights of hand, Mr Trump emerges with two key headlines: Mueller says there was no collusion; the attorney-general says there was no obstruction of justice.
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How has Mr Trump responded?
Speaking at an event for veterans, Mr Trump said he was having a “good day” – adding that there was “no collusion” and “no obstruction”.
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Representatives for the president have also reiterated his view that the investigation was a “hoax” and called for reprisal inquiries. “President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again,” Mr Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
“Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.” His comments followed a stream of social media posts by the president on Thursday regarding the report’s release. In one tweet, he said had the right to “end the whole witch hunt” and fire Mr Mueller had he wanted to.