A jubilant President Donald Trump, eager to shape public opinion about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, declared Thursday that he is “having a good day.”
Why? “It’s called ‘no collusion, no obstruction,’” Trump said during an event with wounded U.S. military personnel, adding that a probe like Mueller’s “should never happen to another president.”
His remarks came just after the Justice Department released its redacted version of the special counsel’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and reflected the administration’s efforts to cast it in a positive light. Trump spoke just over an hour after his hand-picked second attorney general, William Barr, issued a verbal summary of Mueller’s probe that amounted to a full-throated defense of his boss.
Watch: Barr on Mueller report ahead of release — ‘No collusion’
“After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government-sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts,” Barr said, telling reporters Mueller and his team found “no underlying collusion with Russia.”
But congressional Democrats and the party’s 2020 presidential hopefuls quickly slammed Barr’s press conference, saying it showed an attorney general mostly focused on shielding his boss.
“In 20 minutes this morning Barr undermined a two-year investigation by going out of his way to frame the evidence in a light most favorable to the president. Barr made clear this morning that he is more concerned about protecting the president than protecting the independence of the special counsel’s investigation,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a presidential contender, said in a statement. “His actions were what you would expect from President Trump’s defense lawyer, not our nation’s top law enforcement officer.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth called Barr’s “biased” press conference “a low point for our nation and the rule of law.”
“It’s sad to see the attorney general of the United States acting as if he were the president’s personal lawyer,” the Illinois Democrat said in a statement. “The American people deserve the opportunity to read the complete findings of Robert Mueller and to hear from the special counsel, who must testify before Congress in a public hearing as soon as possible so he can fully explain the report and the context behind its findings.”
A few Republican lawmakers were also quick to react, but were more circumspect.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso said he looked forward to reviewing Mueller’s report.
“From the start, Attorney General Barr made clear his commitment to making public as much of the special counsel’s report as possible,” the Wyoming Republican said. “After announcing the special counsel’s finding that there was no collusion, the attorney general has worked quickly to prepare this report for the American people to see.”