PoliticsPolitical Scandals


Saying The Mueller Report 'Exonerated' Trump May Be Premature

President Donald Trump and his allies say the special counsel's report clears him of any wrongdoing. But the full report hasn't been released yet.
Posted at 9:00 PM, Mar 27, 2019

Shortly after Attorney General William Barr released his four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, President Trump and his supporters quickly claimed exoneration. 

"The Mueller report was great — could not have been better. It said no obstruction, no collusion. It could not have been better," President Trump said. 

"And they made a decision that there was no obstruction. So that makes it a complete and total exoneration. I don't know any other way to look at it," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. 

The full Mueller report hasn't been released outside of the Justice Department, so everything we know about what the special counsel did and didn't find is based on Barr's summary. 

His letter lists two big takeaways from Mueller's report. One: No one in the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it "conspired or coordinated with Russia" in its 2016 election meddling. Two: The special counsel did not weigh in on the president's possible obstruction of justice. 

The second point is arguably the more notable of the two. According to Barr, Mueller's report spells out the case for and against charging the president with obstruction. Barr quotes the report as saying, "while [it] does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

That word choice is key, and it contradicts statements from the president himself.

"So it's complete exoneration. No collusion. No obstruction," Trump said.

Since the report didn't come to any conclusions on obstruction, it punted that decision to Justice Department officials. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided Mueller didn't find enough evidence to charge the president with obstruction, so it doesn't look like he'll face criminal charges because of Mueller's investigation. But other probes into President Trump, his business and his actions as a politician are ongoing.

This story is reported in partnership with PolitiFact and is part of an in-depth analysis show called "What The Fact" that airs Sunday mornings on Newsy.