Top Republicans believe special counsel Robert Mueller's findings vindicate President Donald Trump

"The clock has finally struck midnight on the 'Russian collusion' fantasy," Rep. Mark Meadows says

Published March 25, 2019 1:08PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Mitch McConnell (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Attorney General William Barr informed Congress on Sunday of the conclusions drawn by special counsel Robert Mueller in his highly-anticipated report on allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

Mueller's report did not clear Trump of allegations that he could have committed a crime by attempting to obstruct the various investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, but it stopped short of directly accusing the president. The attorney general cautioned that while Mueller's report "does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him" on obstruction of justice. That detail suggests the president's legal troubles may be far from over, although his numerous denunciations of collusion with Russia now appear to be supported by the results of Mueller's two-year investigation.

Barr's delivery of Mueller's findings has launched a new chapter in the battle over Mueller's probe. Democratic lawmakers are demanding that the Justice Department release Mueller's full report as they dismiss Barr's four-page summary of the investigation as insufficient and incomplete. Republicans, meanwhile, called for Congress to move on from the investigation, which they believe has vindicated Trump.

Vice President Mike Pence said the special counsel's conclusions are a "total vindication" of Trump and "our campaign" and "should be welcomed by every American who cherishes the truth and the integrity of our elections." He called it a "great day for America," Trump and the administration before urging Democrats, who he said spent "so much time on these discredited allegations," to join the White House and Republicans to make the nation more prosperous and secure.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump is "completely vindicated"

"The case is closed, " House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement.

"I understand that Democrats today are struggling with their own deep divisions and that it might be easier to attack President Trump than work together for a common cause," McCarthy continued. "But after months upon months of manufactured outrage on this issue, it is time we move on for the good of the nation and focus on the job we were sent to Washington to do: work to address the real challenges facing our country."

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said he was "glad that the special counsel’s investigation has finally drawn to a close and we can put this outrageous chapter behind us."

"Rather than focus on the issues that affect the lives of everyday Americans, like jobs, health care and border security, Democrats and their allies in the media have chosen to spend the last 674 days perpetuating conspiracy theories and lies in a shameless effort to discredit a president whose election they still are trying to overturn," Scalise said in a statement.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close ally of Trump, said Mueller's findings removed "the cloud hanging over President Trump." He added that Barr's summary of Mueller's conclusions marked a "good day for the rule of law. Great day for President Trump and his team. No collusion and no obstruction."

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Trump was proven right by Mueller's probe.

"At this point the president has been proved right," Collins said Sunday during an appearance on Fox News. "I think he was obviously frustrated during this time, and rightfully so, as this report seems to show."

"After 22 months of a special counsel and 2 years of congressional investigations, it's over," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., tweeted.  "The clock has finally struck midnight on the 'Russian collusion' fantasy."

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed any of the potential findings that could be revealed from Mueller's conclusions, saying that "we can just burn" the special counsel's final report.

"You know, we can just burn it up. It is a partisan document," Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on "Fox & Friends." The congressman pushed back against calls from Democrats to release the full report, saying Mueller's probe has proven to be "fraudulent."

"I don’t really care what the Mueller report says. The Mueller special counsel should have never been appointed," Nunes said. "We can take any part of this investigation, and we can show you how fraudulent it is."

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Trump was right about the investigation. Although he struck a more demure tone than his Republican counterparts, the senator said Mueller's conclusions "confirm the president's account that there was no effort by his campaign to conspire or coordinate with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election."

Mueller submitted his report Friday to Barr, who is not required by the regulations governing the special counsel to notify Congress of more than "brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them." Barr's summary report dealt a blow to Democrats, who had hoped Mueller's report would bolster their wide-ranging investigations into Trump and his business dealings.

The president appeared to celebrate the findings, declaring the Justice Department's findings to be a "complete and total EXONERATION." But Trump did not appear ready to let the matter drop, calling the probe "an illegal takedown that failed." In an apparent reference to Democrats, he added that "hopefully somebody's going to look at the other side."

It remains unclear what other findings Barr will release, although he has previously pledged to make as many of Mueller's findings public as possible. The Associated Press reported Barr would be "consulting with Mueller to determine what else can be release," although the outlet noted that "whatever is provided is unlikely to be enough for Democrats, who have said they want all of Mueller's underlying evidence — including interviews, documents and material turned over to the grand jury." Democrats have vowed to subpoena Mueller and Barr — if needed — to push for more full disclosure.

Trump himself said he believes Mueller's full report should be made public, even as he criticized its existence."Let it come out," Trump told reporters last week. "Let people see it." However, it is also unclear whether his administration would fight subpoenas to compel Mueller to testify or attempt to block the release of grand jury material. According to the AP, "If the administration decides to fight, lawmakers could ask federal courts to step in and enforce a subpoena. A court fight could, in theory, reach the Supreme Court."

By Shira Tarlo

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