US Attorney General William Barr released the highly-anticipated redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Trump-Russia investigation report on Thursday.
The report, which is nearly 400 pages long, has multiple redactions, including information that has been classified, information that relates to ongoing probes and grand jury information, which includes witness interviews and other records.
Ahead of the report’s release, Barr defended President Donald Trump in a press conference. He emphasised that Mueller found no collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
Barr, a Trump appointee, said Mueller’s report recounts 10 episodes involving Trump that were investigated as potential acts of criminal obstruction of justice. Barr said Mueller did not reach a “prosecutorial judgment” and that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded the evidence was not sufficient to establish the president committed an offence.
“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinising his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr said.
“At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion,” added Barr, one of handful of people to have seen the report.
Democrats, who are demanding the release of the full, unredacted report, have scolded Barr over his handling of the report, saying they were concerned that a summary of its main conclusions he released last month portrayed the investigation’s findings in an overly favourable way for Trump.
Ahead on the redacted report’s release on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had “thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect” Trump. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “The process is poisoned before the report is even released.”
The top Democrats issued a joint statement calling for Mueller to appear before Congress “as soon as possible”. They said Barr’s “partisan handling” of the report has “resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality”.
Late on Wednesday, Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, warned that if the report is heavily redacted, the committee will issue subpoenas “in short order”.
On Thursday, Nadler requested that Mueller testify to panel “no later than May 23” .
Barr said in the four-page summary of the report released last month that Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin. He also said that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, instead presenting evidence on both sides of the question. Barr said he and Rosenstein decided that the evidence was insufficient to establish obstruction.
Barr said on Thursday that Trump’s personal lawyers “were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released”, a revelation certain to infuriate congressional Democrats.
Earlier this week, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers said the president’s legal team were putting the finishing touches on a rebuttal to the report.
Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a “witch-hunt”.
Al Jazeera and news agencies