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Atty. Gen. William P. Barr told Congress on Sunday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III did not find evidence that President Trump or his campaign conspired with Russians during the 2016 election, a significant victory for a president who has steadfastly denied any inappropriate ties to Moscow.

Mueller did not determine whether Trump obstructed justice, which was another focus of the investigation, yet he concluded that the evidence “does not exonerate” the president, Barr wrote in his letter to lawmakers.

The attorney general, however, decided the facts don’t show Trump committed a crime by trying to interfere with the Russia probe, a judgment that Democrats will fiercely contest and that will fuel their efforts to see Mueller’s full report.

Barr’s four-page letter was based on a final report from Mueller that remains confidential after being submitted to the Justice Department on Friday.

“It was a complete and total exoneration,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One to fly back to Washington from Florida, where he spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “It was a shame that our country had to go through this.”

He angrily described the investigation as “an illegal takedown that failed.”

Barr’s letter does nothing to wipe away the numerous crimes to which Trump’s associates have confessed during the nearly two-year investigation, nor does it deter other ongoing probes — some of them referred to federal prosecutors by the Mueller team — that threaten the president and his businesses.

But it does provide Trump with some inoculation against allegations from Democrats and other critics who have ascribed dark motivations to Trump’s praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his dismissals of Moscow’s covert operation.

However, unlike the president, Barr accepted as fact the Mueller team’s evidence that Russians interfered in the 2016 election and that there were “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign” — a conclusion that contradicted Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s denial at their Helsinki summit last year. Los Angeles Times


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