ROCKVILLE – After almost two years of investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller cleared President Donald J. Trump from collusion with the Russian government, ending the long probe and scandal that has consumed American politics.
Mueller, the former F.B.I. director under President George W. Bush, appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, concluded in his report that Trump did not collude with Russia according to Attorney General William P. Barr.
While Mueller’s report has not been made public, and may not ever be given Department of Justice rules, Mueller submitted his report to Barr, leading Barr to issue a short summary in a memo to the ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 24.
“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” according to Mueller’s report.
Since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as a special counsel, he has spent vast resources investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, and most notably, whether Trump or any members of his campaign colluded with the Russian government.
While Mueller’s investigation led to several indictments and convictions of Trump campaign and administration officials including Paul Manafort, chairman of Trump’s campaign team and Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor, no Americans were indicted for any crime relating to collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 election.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Barr wrote in his letter to the ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
For Trump, the conclusion from Mueller’s report was a full exoneration, a positive change in tune after he frequently called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”
“There was no collusion with Russia,” Trump said. “There was no obstruction, and — none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration. It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your President has had to go through this for — before I even got elected, it began.”
The hack of the Democratic National Committee’s and members of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s emails and computers prompted an investigation by U.S. intelligence agencies. After the election, several intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government was likely responsible for the hack and did so as part of its campaign to interfere in the presidential election.
Since becoming president, Trump expressed skepticism about what U.S. intelligence reports that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, prompting speculation from many that Trump colluded with Russia.
In May 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. He told NBC News’ Lester Holt in an interview that he terminated Comey because he would not end the investigation into his campaign and any possible collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 election.
Comey’s firing prompted newly appointed Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to appoint Mueller, giving him the reigns to conduct an independent investigation as to if any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
For almost two years, Trump complained about the Mueller probe, repeatedly calling it a “witch hunt” and often publicly criticized his then-attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the investigation.
Trump’s decision to fire Comey, who as director was overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, prompted Mueller to look into whether Trump committed obstruction of justice, something that Mueller did not make a judgment on.
While Mueller did not make a judgment call as to whether the president committed obstruction of justice by deciding to fire Comey, Barr did, saying the president was cleared of that charge.
Barr’s decision to clear Trump angered many Democrats, who often speculated that Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice, and possibly greater crimes like collusion.
After Mueller finished his report, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), said that he did not trust the legal judgment from Barr, who said was biased in favor of Trump while making his decision.
“I know our country is relieved that Mueller did not find that the President participated in a criminal conspiracy with Putin and Russia, but the President is simply wrong to claim he has been exonerated with respect to charges that he sought to obstruct justice,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “In fact, the Mueller report expressly indicates that they did not reach a determination on that question.”
The Mueller investigation did not clear everyone.
While no grand juries indicted any U.S. citizens for crime related to collusion, several people who work for the president, either on the campaign or for his administration were convicted of felonies.
In March, federal judges sentenced Manafort to seven and half years in prison after a jury convicted him of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account. In addition, Flynn, the former NSA under Trump, plead guilty to making false statements to federal investigators.
Neither Manafort or Flynn were indicted for any charge related to Russian collusion.