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Trump backs Mueller report disclosure as aides oppose it

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House

President Donald Trump speaks at the White House on Sunday. Credit: EPA / Jim Lo Scalzo

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday said the full disclosure of special counsel Robert Mueller's two-year Russia probe "wouldn't bother me at all," even as his top aides and legal team made it clear they plan to push back on calls by congressional Democrats to release all of Mueller's work.

A day after Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page memo summarizing the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s investigation, Trump’s allies fanned out on morning television to denounce Democrats and cast the investigation as a partisan inquiry that ultimately vindicated the president.

Trump, who for months has accused Mueller of being part of a "deep state" effort aimed at undermining his presidency, said "yes" when asked by a reporter if he believed Mueller acted honorably, but later offered a more stinging assessment of the underlying motives for the probe.

"It was a false narrative. It was a terrible thing. We can never let this happen to another president again … very few people I know could have handled it," Trump told reporters at the Oval Office where he was joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Barr’s summary indicated Mueller’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,” but noted that Mueller declined to make a determination on whether Trump obstructed the investigation.

Mueller, according to Barr, stated “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the two-year probe, ultimately decided there was “not sufficient” evidence “to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

Barr and Rosenstein’s decision prompted Democrats to call for the complete disclosure of Mueller’s findings to determine what factors led the special counsel not to exonerate Trump on the issue of obstruction of justice.

But Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, appearing on CNN, said it would be “very inappropriate” for Trump’s written responses to Mueller to be released to the public.

"As a lawyer, you don't waive privileges and you don't waive investigative detail absent either a court order or an agreement between the parties,” Sekulow said. “You'd have to weigh a lot of factors there on how that affects other presidencies."

Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Sekulow said congressional Democrats “should be going about legislating and governing rather than” pursuing additional investigations into Trump.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, appearing on Fox News, would not definitively answer when asked twice whether the White House was on board with releasing all of Mueller’s work.

“That decision is up to the attorney general,” Sanders said when asked to state if the White House was opposed to fully airing the Mueller report. “It’s not just about this president, but about the future as well, and making sure things like executive privilege, and sources and methods and things like that are protected.”

On Monday morning, Trump tweeted a quote from Fox News anchor Bret Baier saying, "No matter your ideologies or your loyalties, this is a good day for America. No American conspired to cooperate with Russia in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election, according to Robert Mueller, and that is good."

He also tweeted a quote from Barr's summary that Mueller "did not find that the Trump Campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government."

Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called on Democrats to apologize to Trump during an appearance on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.”

Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, accused Mueller’s team of conducting “an investigation as if this were a terrorism case,” and an “organized crime case.”

On Sunday, shortly after the release of Barr’s memo, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for the full release of Mueller’s 22 months of work, and said he would be calling on Barr to testify before the committee in the near future.

“We will demand the release of the full report,” Nadler said at a news conference in Manhattan. “The American people are entitled to a full accounting of the President’s misconduct referenced by the special counsel.”

Democrats on Monday continued the drum beat of calls for full disclosure of Mueller’s findings.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) tweeted: “The Special Counsel’s investigation produced dozens of indictments + evidence POTUS may have engaged in obstruction of justice. This summary is insufficient. The American [people] must be given the chance to read the complete #MuellerReport as soon as possible. #ReleaseTheFullReport.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, noted on MSNBC that there are other investigations outside of Mueller's. 

“We have just started that process,” Jayapal said. The Southern District of New York, state Attorney General and Manhattan District Attorney are all investigating Trump.

Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, said he accepted the conclusion that there is no evidence of a conspiracy even though Mueller found that agents of the Russian government spoke to the Trump campaign. 

In 2016, Podesta's emails were hacked by a group allegedly tied to Russian intelligence, then released by WikiLeaks. 

“The rule of law needs to prevail in this country," Podesta said. "But the bottom line is Russia did interfere in our election. There were indictments forthcoming. They did try to help Donald Trump get elected.”

Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whom Trump fired in March 2017, said: “I think on collusion, the case is closed."

“On the issue of obstruction, we’re sort of not done," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Calling that issue a “very close case,” Bharara said Mueller would choose not to exonerate the president only if there were “substantial evidence of obstruction.”

Mueller “punted” on the question, allowing Barr to make a “touchdown,” Bharara said, pointing to Congress' ability to investigate any abuse of power. Bharara said of the full report and Barr's summary: “There might be a big disconnect between the two.”

With Robert Brodsky and Rachel O'Brien

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