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Barr Spins for Trump Before Releasing Mueller Report

Attorney general walks off stage when asked why he spoke without giving evidence to the public first—including 10 episodes related to obstruction of justice.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Attorney General William Barr spun the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation before releasing the report to the public, proclaiming President Trump’s innocence over obstruction of justice.

In a dramatic end to his Thursday morning press conference at the Justice Department, Barr then walked off stage when he was asked why he decided to give his take on the report before it was released.

During the press conference, Barr said the Mueller investigation did not establish conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election. Barr said, however, Mueller’s report recounts 10 “episodes” involving Trump and possible obstruction.

The attorney general said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence gathered by Mueller “is not sufficient to establish” that Trump committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.

Barr then went on to exonerate Trump’s behavior.

“And as the special counsel’s report acknowledges, 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 fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr said.

“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.”

Trump immediately tweeted a gloating image of himself after Barr finished speaking. “No collusion, no obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats,” it read in Game of Thrones script. “GAME OVER.”

Barr’s words were in sharp contrast to those of Mueller himself.

“While this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller stated, according to a four-page letter Barr sent Congress last month notifying the end of the special counsel’s investigation.

Over the past four weeks, Barr has worked to redact portions of Mueller’s report that contained grand jury information, classified intelligence, and what he said were allegations that could disparage people who were not charged with crimes.

The report, which is said to be nearly 400 pages, will be handed over to Congress where Democrats have said they are prepared to sue the Justice Department to see Mueller’s findings in their entirety.

Mueller’s office indicted 34 people—more than any other special counsel in history—including high-level figures in Trump’s world: former senior campaign officials Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, long-time political advisor Roger Stone, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen. The Cohen case involving hush money paid to Trump’s purported mistresses was handed off to federal prosecutors in Manhattan who implicated the president in the illegal scheme.

The special counsel’s investigation started in dramatic fashion: Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, an act Mueller investigated for possible obstruction of justice. Trump reportedly considered firing Mueller that summer, a veritable sword that hung over the special counsel as Trump publicly fumed about the investigation he variously called illegal or a hoax since it started.

Mueller has not said a word publicly in almost two years, creating a ravenous appetite to learn what would be in his report.

But even before the report’s release, the story of Mueller’s work was hidden in plain sight: a global conspiracy centered in the Kremlin to elect Trump as president.

In an unprecedented attack on political infrastructure of the United States, military officers in Russia hacked into Democrats’ computers, stole emails, and release them to embarrass Hillary Clinton. The plot was first hatched years earlier, according to Mueller’s team, when Russians began studying how to manipulate Americans and turn them against each other, with one key lesson being to exploit the country’s racism. Working from a “troll farm” in St. Petersburg, Russians spread anti-Clinton fake news and pro-Trump propaganda across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram—all the while Silicon Valley slept.

At the same time, Russians approached the Trump campaign with promises of “dirt” on Clinton in the form of emails and offers for Trump to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. In both cases, the offers apparently went unrealized. Mueller’s investigation also revealed Russia offered to help Trump build a skyscraper in Moscow while he ran for president—contrary to his repeated statements he had “no business in Russia”—with Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen calling the Kremlin for assistance.

Though the Trump campaign was not accused by Mueller of colluding with Russia, the investigation revealed it spoke to two figures adjacent to Moscow’s scheme. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort gave polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, who Mueller says is linked to Russian intelligence. (Their meeting goes to the “heart” of the investigation, Mueller’s team said in a court hearing that remains partially redacted.) Roger Stone, a former Trump advisor and long-time friend, allegedly asked WikiLeaks through intermediaries about upcoming email releases.

Finally, Mueller’s investigation exposed Washington corruption that was seen as just another way of doing business: unregistered foreign lobbying. Manafort and Gates were charged with illegally lobbying D.C. on behalf of Ukrainian political interests. Democratic power players Tony Podesta and Greg Craig were also investigated for the same violations, with Craig being indicted this month after Mueller’s investigation finished.

While Mueller’s investigation is over, his work lives on across the Justice Department, with prosecutors preparing to try Stone in D.C. and Flynn’s former business partner in Virginia. Manhattan federal prosecutors fed by Mueller’s work continue to investigate the president’s business and inaugural committee.