The White House was jubilant Monday after the massive Russian collusion probe cleared President Donald Trump, freeing him to campaign for reelection — and tell Americans that he was right all along.
“I think it’s a day America’s looked forward to for a long time. I think it’s a great day for America,” Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told CNN.
Trump has been under the cloud of potentially historic scandal for two years while special prosecutor Robert Mueller delved into allegations that his 2016 election campaign colluded with Russian agents trying to tilt the polls in his favor.
“Breaking News: Mueller Report Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy.” @MSNBC
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2019
Late Sunday, Attorney General William Barr said in a brief summary of the just-finished report that Mueller had found “no collusion with Russia.”
Mueller pointedly said that he could not determine whether Trump had or had not committed the crime of obstruction of justice through his highly public opposition to the Russia probe, which he railed against as a “witch hunt.”
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Barr cited Mueller as saying.
But that was only a wrinkle on an otherwise clear horizon as seen from the White House ahead of 2020 presidential elections.
Democrats, who for two years have seen the Mueller report as fuel for potential impeachment, insist they will continue to use powerful congressional committees to probe further into Trump’s business and political dealings with Russia.
But Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway told journalists she had two words for the president’s foes.
“Move on,” she said in the spring sunshine outside the White House.
"Collusion" has always been about a central question: Has Trump, as a candidate and as President, always acted in America's interests, or has he pursued his own personal interests, political & financial, at our expense? It's unclear from Barr's letter how Mueller addressed that.
— Ned Price (@nedprice) March 25, 2019
It was uncertain when Trump would speak further in public about his dramatic boost in fortunes, but the nature of his message is already clear.
“It was a complete and total exoneration,” Trump said Sunday in brief comments from Florida, where he’d spent the weekend at his golf resort. “It’s a shame that the country had to go through this,” he added with a note of anger. “This was an illegal takedown that failed.”
“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.” @BretBaier @FoxNews
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 25, 2019
Trump appears likely to maintain that line between declaring victory and seeking to call out his accusers — and possibly to seek revenge.
“Hopefully somebody’s going to be looking at the other side,” he said, referring to investigating the origins of the probe against him.
Conway went further, calling on Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, head of the House Intelligence Committee and one of Trump’s most dogged opponents, to resign.
Mueller spent two years investigating obstruction of justice and found evidence that “does not exonerate” Trump. Barr took two days to set aside that evidence.
The entire report must be published and evidence provided to Congress so the American people can judge for themselves.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 24, 2019
On Thursday, Trump will be back on the campaign trail, addressing a rally of his most faithful fans in Michigan — and energy levels will likely go through the roof.
“Expect him to come ‘off the chain,'” Trump’s controversial former strategist Steve Bannon wrote to The Washington Post.
Despite the relief at the White House, the Mueller probe painted a deeply unflattering picture of the divisive and populist real-estate-tycoon turned politician.
The probe established that Russians did try to influence the 2016 election by hacking Democratic party computers and flooding social media with disinformation to harm Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.
It also brought new focus on Trump’s hidden business dealings with Russians, including a long-running push to build a Trump tower in Moscow, with negotiations continuing right into his election year — despite claims that he had no such links.
And although no collusion was proven, the probe uncovered other crimes, leaving a heavy taint on Trump’s inner circle.
Mueller's report is finished — but there are still ongoing investigations surrounding the Trump administration pic.twitter.com/csQlhI52h4
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) March 25, 2019
Mueller issued criminal charges ranging from conspiracy to lying to investigators against 34 individuals.
Six of those were former insiders in Trump’s circle, and five have been convicted, including Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, his national security advisor Michael Flynn and his campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including, at Trump’s alleged instruction, using campaign funds for hush payments to an adult film star who allegedly had an affair with Trump.
And Manafort was imprisoned for 7.5 years, though mostly for crimes unrelated to the campaign.
The lengthy probe saw Trump frequently and angrily attacking Mueller, one of the most respected members of Washington’s judicial and prosecutorial elite.