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What Mueller, Barr Say About Obstruction of Justice

Special counsel Robert Mueller devoted much of his 10-minute remarks on May 29 to explaining why the special counsel’s office did not reach a determination about whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice. Democrats have criticized Attorney General William P. Barr for mischaracterizing the findings on that point in Mueller’s report.

Here we compare what Mueller said in his remarks with how Barr has characterized the special counsel’s report and Mueller’s decision not to make a determination on obstruction charges.

In his remarks at the Department of Justice, Mueller spoke for the first time about his two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller reiterated that Russia had engaged in “multiple, systematic efforts” to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but “there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy” between the Russia government and any individuals associated with the Trump campaign. He said the “central allegation” against the Russians “deserves the attention of every American.”

On the issue of obstruction, the Mueller report, which was released in redacted form on April 18, “found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations.” But the report said it could not make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment,” because the department’s Office of Legal Counsel had issued an opinion that states an “indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President” would be unconstitutional. 

“Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about

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