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Barr: Trump Did Not Obstruct Investigation Despite Being ‘Frustrated and Angry’

Attorney General William Barr, flanked by Edward O’Callaghan (left) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had determined President Trump did not obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation despite being “frustrated and angry” with a process he believed to be politically-motivated.

While Mueller did not make a determination on whether to charge Trump with obstruction, Barr explained that the president’s intent and his own interpretation of the obstruction statute, which he admitted departed from Mueller’s “legal theories,” led him to decide against bringing charges.

“After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report . . . 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 during a Thursday press conference held hours before the release of the redacted Mueller report.

Barr explained that the forthcoming report examines ten “episodes” in which Trump involved himself with the ongoing investigation, but suggested that those actions were understandable given Trump’s frustration with the investigation and did not evince “corrupt intent.”

“And as the special counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr added. “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. 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. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”

Allegations that Trump obstructed the investigation first emerged in June 2017, after he fired former FBI director James Comey in part, as he later admitted, over Comey’s refusal to say publicly that there was no evidence the president personally coordinated with the Kremlin to swing the election in his favor.

Comey’s dismissal led to the opening of a counterintelligence investigation into the president and the question of whether the decision was influenced by the Kremlin. Barr announced earlier this month that he has formed a team to examine whether that investigation was tainted by partisanship.

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