After the release of the special counsel’s report on Thursday, President Trump declared himself exonerated and then departed for his resort in Florida to celebrate Easter. He left behind in the capital a much more complicated assessment.
The investigation will now shift from the executive branch to Congress, and the matter still appears far from resolved.
The president usually avoids news conferences at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But if he remains atypically quiet, Democrats are happy to fill the void, declaring that the report, far from clearing Mr. Trump, cataloged troubling evidence against him.
The report’s release offers some answers but leaves many questions.
The Justice Department’s release of the report on Thursday elicited claims of validation from the White House and Democrats — and endless analysis of an unprecedented investigation into a foreign adversary’s efforts to influence American democracy and whether the president tried to obstruct justice.
Did Russia try to influence the 2016 presidential election? Yes, according to the special counsel team, led by Robert S. Mueller III.
Did the Trump campaign criminally conspire with Russia to try influence the election? No, the report found.
Did Mr. Trump obstruct justice? Unclear.
Attorney General William P. Barr said Mr. Mueller’s team did not make a determination about whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, but he and the deputy attorney general did: “The evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” Mr. Barr said on Thursday morning before the report was released.
At an event at the White House on Thursday for wounded American troops, Mr. Trump said the investigation vindicated him. “It’s called ‘no collusion, no obstruction,’” he said.
But the report itself, even with redactions, describes a much more complicated consideration as investigators struggled to determine whether a number of the president’s actions constituted criminal obstruction of justice.
“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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment,” the report said. “The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.”
The investigation moves to the Capitol.
The investigation of Mr. Trump’s activities related to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including efforts to impede the inquiry, now moves from the executive branch to Congress, where the matter is anything but resolved.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, made that abundantly clear on Thursday when he bluntly said, “We clearly can’t believe what Attorney General Barr tells us.”
Mr. Nadler said Mr. Barr is scheduled to testify before his committee on May 2, and he also has asked Mr. Mueller to testify no later than May 23. Mr. Barr said he had no objection to Mr. Mueller testifying.
Mr. Nadler made clear that he and other Democrats would continue to investigate the president. He even held out the possibility of impeachment proceedings but said it was too early to call for that.
In the Senate, Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said Mr. Barr had “fundamentally mischaracterized” the special counsel’s findings, and demanded a briefing and access to the full report by Mr. Mueller.
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