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Long Island Congress members split by party over Barr report on Mueller findings

Reps. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Peter King

Reps. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Peter King (R-Seaford) in January. Credit: Barry Sloan

A report on special counsel Robert Mueller's findings prompted several Democratic Congress members who represent Long Island to call Sunday for the release of Mueller's complete report and at least one Republican to celebrate a "total vindication" of President Donald Trump.

The Mueller report cleared Trump and his campaign of colluding with Russia during the 2016 campaign but did not reach a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice in related investigations, according to Attorney General William Barr's letter to Congress on Sunday. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined there was not "sufficient" evidence for an obstruction of justice offense. 

In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Barr's letter answered some questions but raised others about Trump's actions as well as the attorney general's ability to impartially judge Mueller's report.

"The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay," the statement said. "Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report." 

Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford), in a phone interview, said the report absolved Trump of allegations of collusion and obstruction of justice.

“Everyone in the media and politics said, ‘Wait for the Mueller report. It’ll show it all.’ The Mueller report said there was no collusion. … This was their best shot and he was exonerated," King said. "It means that the president is vindicated. It shows me he's been right all along and his critics have been wrong."

While Barr's report largely wraps up questions over Russian collusion, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) said other investigations are needed, especially when a number of Trump's associates and campaign aides have been indicted or found guilty of crimes. 

"I don’t think it changes much in the sense that there's no collaboration," Meeks said in a phone interview, "but there's plenty of corruption within this administration, and this continues with the investigations being done by the [U.S.] Southern District of New York."

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) criticized the Mueller investigation as a political weapon and said he looks forward to "maximum accountability for the individuals responsible for spreading destructive disinformation trying to take down a President of the United States for crimes he didn't commit."

"Our legal system should never be weaponized like this ever again, our political system should never be disgraced like this ever again, and our intelligence should never be insulted like this ever again," Zeldin said in a statement. 

In a tweet Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a 2020 presidential candidate, joined Schumer and Pelosi's call for the release of the special counsel's complete report. 

“Above all else, the American people deserve transparency and accountability," Gillibrand tweeted. "Attorney General Barr must release Mueller’s full report to the public without any delay.”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) concurred, saying the public and Congress need more information.

"The Special Counsel explicitly declined to exonerate the President of obstruction and yet Attorney General Barr provided us with little more than a brief summary of his own conclusions," Rice said in a statement. "He owes the public more information. [The Department of Justice] must release the underlying evidence in this investigation as well as the entire report so that Congress can determine the appropriate next steps.”

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), in a statement, agreed.

"It is imperative that for full transparency, and in the public interest, that Attorney General Barr release the entire content of the Special Counsel’s report. Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Suozzi said.

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