White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday declined to contradict former White House counsel Don McGahn’s account — as detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — that President Donald Trump ordered McGahn to take steps to fire Mueller and then asked McGahn to deny press reports detailing Trump’s directive.
But Conway also implied that she doubted McGahn would have continued to serve if things had unfolded the way McGahn said they did.
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“I believe that Don McGahn is an honorable attorney who stayed on the job 18 months after this alleged incident took place,” Conway told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.”
“If he were being asked to obstruct justice or violate the Constitution or commit a crime — help to commit a crime by the president of the United States — he wouldn’t have stayed,” Conway continued. “I certainly wouldn’t stay.”
According to Mueller’s 448-page report, a redacted version of which was released Thursday by Attorney General William Barr, Trump on at least two occasions in June 2017 asked McGahn to contact Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to order that the Department of Justice dismiss Mueller.
Following the publication of a New York Times article in January 2018 detailing the president’s efforts to have McGahn fire Mueller, Trump pressured McGahn to deny the NYT report, according to the special counsel. McGahn refused.
BREAKING — “Explosions kill at least 207 in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday,” by AP’s Bharatha Mallawarachi and Krishan Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka: “At least 207 people were killed and hundreds more injured in eight blasts that rocked churches and hotels in and just outside Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday, officials said, pitching the South Asian island nation into the worst chaos it has seen since a bloody civil war ended a decade ago.
“Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, who described the blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, told reporters Sunday evening that seven suspects had been arrested, though no one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the violence could trigger instability in the country and its economy.” AP
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP RESPONDS — @realDonaldTrump at 7:20 a.m.: “138 people have been killed in Sri Lanka, with more that 600 badly injured, in a terrorist attack on churches and hotels. The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!”
… BUT THEN QUICKLY SHIFTS GEAR — at 7:40 a.m.: “Do you believe this? The New York Times Op-Ed: MEDIA AND DEMOCRATS OWE TRUMP AN APOLOGY. Well, they got that one right!”
… at 8:37 a.m.: “The Trump Haters and Angry Democrats who wrote the Mueller Report were devastated by the No Collusion finding! Nothing but a total ‘hit job’ which should never have been allowed to start in the first place!”
… at 8:51 a.m.: “Despite No Collusion, No Obstruction, The Radical Left Democrats do not want to go on to Legislate for the good of the people, but only to Investigate and waste time. This is costing our Country greatly, and will cost the Dems big time in 2020!”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK AHEAD: MONDAY: The president and First Lady Melania Trump will participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll. TUESDAY: The president will participate in a photo-op with the White House News Photographers Association photo contest winners. He and VP Mike Pence will have lunch. WEDNESDAY: The president and Melania Trump will deliver remarks at a prescription drug abuse and heroin summit in Atlanta. THURSDAY: Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will have lunch.
FRIDAY: The president will deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Indianapolis. He will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. SATURDAY: Trump will hold a political rally in Green Bay, Wis.
Good Sunday morning. Happy Easter!
SUNDAY BEST — CHUCK TODD spoke with RUDY GIULIANI on NBC NEWS’ “MEET THE PRESS”: TODD: “Let me start with some of the front line conclusions from the report itself, which is square one. The first one is this. ‘The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systemic fashion.’ Do you and the president accept that as a fact from this report?” GIULIANI: “We do. There’s no reason not to accept it.” TODD: “And the president accepts it as well?” GIULIANI: “I’m sure he does.”
TODD: “All right. The next fact they put in here is this one. ‘The special counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two opportunities. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.’ Do you and the president accept the idea that the Russian interference was designed to help President Trump?” GIULIANI: “I believe it was. I can’t tell you for sure. I mean, I haven’t examined all that evidence. But I have no reason–” TODD: “Does the president accept that?” GIULIANI: “No reason to dispute it. I think he does.”
— JAKE TAPPER also spoke with GIULIANI on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”:GIULIANI: “Any candidate in the whole world in America would take information … negative [information].” TAPPER: “From a foreign source, from a hostile foreign source?” GIULIANI: “Who says it’s even illegal.”
— MARTHA RADDATZ interviewed KELLYANNE CONWAY on ABC NEWS’ “THIS WEEK”: RADDATZ: “You have seen what the Mueller team concluded and I want to go to that ending line, while the — this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime it also does not exonerate him. So how does the president call this complete exoneration?”
CONWAY: “The president says that because he’s known from the beginning that there was no collusion. There’s no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to try to disrupt and spread disinformation about our elections, and that really was the central premise here.”
— RADDATZ also spoke with HOUSE INTEL CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF (D-CALIF.): RADDATZ: “Congressman Schiff, Kellyanne Conway has said you should resign as committee chair, I assume you will not. But what about the evidence? You just heard her, you have said there is ample and abundant evidence of collusion leaving the very strong impression there was illegal activity.”
SCHIFF: “Well, you heard another display of alternate facts from Kellyanne Conway today where she could not even acknowledge that the Russians tried to help the Trump campaign and did provide substantial help to the campaign. But look, I’ve been very clear [for a] year, year and a half, that there is ample evidence of collusion in plain sight.
“And I use that word very carefully because I also distinguish time and time again between collusion, that is acts of corruption that may or may not be criminal, and proof of a criminal conspiracy. And that is a distinction that Bob Mueller made within the first few pages of his report. In fact, every act that I’ve pointed to as evidence of collusion has now been borne out by the report.”
— CHRIS WALLACE also spoke with SCHIFF: @FoxNewsSunday: “.@RepAdamSchiff on impeachment: I think it’s a very difficult decision and we’re going to have a caucus about this over the next couple of weeks to try to figure out what the best course is, not for the party, but what’s the best course for the country. #FNS”
MORE MUELLER FALLOUT — “Mueller Witnesses Who Once Served in White House Now Fear Trump’s Ire,” by NYT’s Mike Schmidt and Maggie Haberman: “[S]ome of the witnesses named in the report, who have departed the White House but rely on access to Mr. Trump for their livelihoods, fear his ire. Some have begun calling current and former administration officials and others in the president’s orbit to seek clues about Mr. Trump’s state of mind, according to four special counsel witnesses who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“One called friends and colleagues in the days before the report was released to see whether he could have the Justice Department redact his name from Mr. Mueller’s report, according to two people told of the matter. The idea went nowhere.” NYT
NYT’S PETER BAKER: “‘I Do Not Remember’: Trump Gave a Familiar Reply to the Special Counsel’s Queries”: “The answers Mr. Trump provided sounded more like lawyer speak than the blunt-talking president’s usual colorful language. They included phrases like ‘named entities or individuals’ and ‘tangible support’ and ‘no meaningful relationship.’It may be hard to imagine Mr. Trump saying or writing this: ‘In the course of preparing to respond to your questions, I have become aware that the campaign documents already produced to you reflect the drafting, evolution and sources of information for the speech I expected to give “probably” on the Monday following my June 7, 2016, comments.’” NYT
TRUMP RESPONDS … QUINT FORGEY: “Trump lashes out at Romney”: “President Donald Trump on Saturday ridiculed Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) for his loss to former President Barack Obama in the 2012 election — one day after Romney said he was ‘sickened’ by Trump’s actions as detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
“‘If @MittRomney spent the same energy fighting Barack Obama as he does fighting Donald Trump, he could have won the race (maybe)!’ Trump tweeted. Attached to the president’s post was a 40-second video contrasting election night footage and CNN news coverage from Romney’s White House loss six-and-a-half years ago to Obama with Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. It was unclear whether the White House produced the brief clip, or if it was crafted by one of the president’s supporters.” POLITICO
TICK TOCK – “How Michael Cohen Turned Against President Trump,” by NYT’s Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman: “Michael D. Cohen was at a breaking point. He told friends he was suicidal. He insisted to lawyers he would never go to jail. Most of all, he feared that President Trump, his longtime boss, had forsaken him. ‘Basically he needs a little loving and respect booster,’ one of Mr. Cohen’s legal advisers at the time, Robert J. Costello, wrote in a text message to Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer. ‘He is not thinking clearly because he feels abandoned.’ That was last June. The ‘booster’ from Mr. Trump never arrived.
“And by August, Mr. Cohen’s relationship with him had gone from fraught to hostile, casting a shadow on the Trump presidency and helping drive multiple criminal investigations into the president’s inner circle, including some that continued after the special counsel’s work ended. … Now, as Mr. Cohen prepares to head to prison in two weeks, dozens of previously unreported emails, text messages and other confidential documents reviewed by The New York Times suggest that his falling out with Mr. Trump may have been avoidable.
“Missed cues, clashing egos, veiled threats and unaddressed money worries all contributed to Mr. Cohen’s halting decision to turn on a man he had long idolized and even once vowed to take a bullet for, according to the documents and interviews with people close to the events.” NYT
HEATHER CAYGLE and LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ: “‘How do we make amends?’: House Dems debate reparations”: “Democrats have sidestepped the debate over reparations for African-Americans for decades. But now the issue is bubbling up in the House, and the new majority is wrestling with how to tackle it ahead of the 2020 campaign. Sparked in part by the support of several presidential contenders, the topic has been discussed multiple times by top House Democrats, including at their retreat in the exurbs of Virginia earlier this month. But the issue is likely to divide the party — not just by race, but by generation.
“The Congressional Black Caucus is notably split, with some younger African-American lawmakers clamoring to force the conversation into the open while more senior members worry about alienating moderate voters.” POLITICO
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — ANNIE SNIDER: “Interior’s Bernhardt worked closely on matters he promised to avoid”: “Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO analysis of agency documents — a revelation that adds to the ethics questions dogging his leadership of the agency.
“Bernhardt’s efforts, beginning in at least October 2017, included shaping the department’s response to a key portion of a water infrastructure law he had helped pass as a lobbyist for California farmers, recently released calendars show. The department offered scant details at the time about meetings that Bernhardt, then the deputy secretary, held with Interior officials overseeing water deliveries to the farmers, leading many observers to believe he was steering clear of the issues he had previously lobbied on.” POLITICO
CASH DASH — “Republican National Committee raises $15.5 million in March,” by Maggie Severns: “The [RNC] raised $15.5 million in March and spent almost as much — $13.5 million — as the committee prepares for the campaign for President Donald Trump’s reelection.
“The RNC ended the month with $33.1 million cash on hand. It has raised close to $46 million this year, a staggering sum compared to the [DNC], which has not yet released its fundraising totals for the month of March but had raised $12.7 million as of the end of February.” POLITICO
2020 WATCH — “For Bernie Sanders, 2016 gets in the way of 2020,” by WaPo’s Sean Sullivan: “[T]here is growing uncertainty among Democrats about the Vermont independent’s desire to unite a party whose fissures have deepened and multiplied since his insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton. In key respects, Sanders has been unable or unwilling to move beyond that bruising race, a posture that gives him a kinship with President Trump but has limited his embrace by Democrats. He frequently revisits his biggest 2016 triumphs and obstacles in speeches.
“He recently criticized a Democratic-leaning think tank helmed by a Clinton ally, in part because of its conduct in 2016. And he has kept Clinton and other prominent Democrats at a distance, vexing some associates who hoped warmer relations would send a positive signal across the party.” WaPo
— “A Top Adviser To Beto O’Rourke Has Left His Presidential Campaign,” by BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer and Molly Hensley-Clancy: “[Becky] Bond, a longtime progressive activist and organizer known for her work on O’Rourke’s 2018 Senate bid against Republican Ted Cruz, left the campaign along with her deputy Zack Malitz. Malitz worked closely with Bond on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ first presidential campaign in 2016.” BuzzFeed
HMM — “Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet: Workers at a 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina have complained of defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations,” by NYT’s Natalie Kitroeff and David Gelles in North Charleston, S.C.: “When Boeing broke ground on its new factory near Charleston in 2009, the plant was trumpeted as a state-of-the-art manufacturing hub, building one of the most advanced aircraft in the world.
“But in the decade since, the factory, which makes the 787 Dreamliner, has been plagued by shoddy production and weak oversight that have threatened to compromise safety.A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, reveals a culture that often valued production speed over quality.
“Facing long manufacturing delays, Boeing pushed its work force to quickly turn out Dreamliners, at times ignoring issues raised by employees.Complaints about the frenzied pace echo broader concerns about the company in the wake of two deadly crashes involving another jet, the 737 Max. Boeing is now facing questions about whether the race to get the Max done, and catch up to its rival Airbus, led it to miss safety risks in the design, like an anti-stall system that played a role in both crashes.” NYT
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Capitalism in crisis: U.S. billionaires worry about the survival of the system that made them rich,” by WaPo’s Greg Jaffe in Palo Alto: “For the first time in decades, capitalism’s future is a subject of debate among presidential hopefuls and a source of growing angst for America’s business elite. In places such as Silicon Valley, the slopes of Davos, Switzerland, and the halls of Harvard Business School, there is a sense that the kind of capitalism that once made America an economic envy is responsible for the growing inequality and anger that is tearing the country apart.” WaPo
BORDER TALES — “The Stay Here Center: A U.S.-funded school gives young Guatemalans job skills to find success in their own country. Will it keep them from migrating north?” by WaPo’s Kevin Sieff in Santa Maria Visitacion, Guatemala: “The United States spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on programs such as the Stay Here Center, aimed at improving the lives of would-be migrants in their own communities so they don’t leave home in the first place. It’s the softer side of migration enforcement: rehabilitation programs for prisoners in El Salvador, business training for young Hondurans, funding for the corn and bean farmers of Guatemala.” WaPo
— “Trump administration says immigrants working in legal marijuana industry lack ‘moral character’ for citizenship,” by WaPo’s Colby Itkowitz: “Immigrants who use marijuana or who work in the cannabis industry can be denied citizenship, even if they are doing so in states where it is legal, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday. The guidance, issued — coincidentally or not — just before pot advocates’ national celebration of their 4/20 holiday, confirms what immigration and marijuana advocates have cautioned is a legal gray area that penalizes would-be citizens because they’ve broken a federal law.” WaPo
BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:
— “Trump’s Second Term,” by Paul Starr in The Atlantic’s May issue: “It’s more likely than most people think—and compared with his first term, its effects would be far more durable.” The Atlantic
— “Women of Substance,” by Liza Mundy in TNR: “2020’s slate of female presidential candidates is already making history.” TNR
— “The Most Modern of Modern Sports,” by Jennifer Noonan in Damn Interesting – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “You might expect a calendar of races pitting cheetahs against greyhounds to be a sell-out anywhere. But when British investors tried this in the 1930s, with cheetahs from Kenya, the cheetahs were too fast. Nobody would bet on the greyhounds. So the promoters tried a new scheme: Cheetahs against motorbikes. The bikes could reliably reach 90mph; enough to outrun the cheetahs; with a twist.” Damn Interesting
— “Mercenaries, Spies, and Double Agents Gather En Masse in Bogotá: In the Casablanca of the Andes, seemingly everyone’s plotting—or counterplotting—for control of neighboring Venezuela,” by Ethan Bronner and Ezra Fieser in Bloomberg Businessweek: “The Cubans have told Colombian officials they’re reducing their numbers in the country, but the Colombians say the opposite is true. The U.S. isn’t yielding the playing field: Its Bogotá mission, one of the largest in the world, has 3,000 employees. Meanwhile, more Venezuelans are coming every hour. Some say Bogotá feels like Casablanca during World War II. As in the 1942 Humphrey Bogart classic about life and death in the wartime city, refugees are rushing in and upending the social order.” Bloomberg
— “Watching the Internet React to the Worst Night of My Life,” by Erin Lee Carr in New York Magazine: “Erin Lee Carr on her father’s death.” NYMag (h/t Longform.org)
— “Walt Whitman’s Guide to a Thriving Democracy,” by Mark Edmundson in The Atlanti’cs May issue: “America had a mind shaped by its Founders, but the country needed the poet to discover its spirit.” The Atlantic
— “The Invention of the ‘Salvator Mundi,’” by Matthew Shaer in Vulture – per TheBroweser.com’s description: “Gripping — at times breathtaking — backstory of how Salvator Mundi, a painting on wood attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, sold for £45 at Sotheby’s in 1958, and then for $450 million at Christie’s in 2017, after very heavy restoration. It has since vanished from view. Its current owner is said to be the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has parked the painting in a Swiss warehouse while he decides whether to give it to a museum, or hang it on one of his many walls.” Vulture
— “Cornell’s Straight Flush,” by Tevi Troy in City Journal in Dec. 2009: “Forty years after the student center was occupied, the destructive effects linger.” City Journal
— “Looking for Shakespeare’s Library,” by Stuart Kells in Lapham’s Quarterly – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “Shakespeare must surely have built up a library. He drew often in his plays upon the works of other writers, from recent to classical times. Private libraries were usual, in his day, among the learned and wealthy — and by the end of his life he was both. … [N]o surviving book can be traced back to Shakespeare’s shelves. His will makes no reference to them. Where is the greatest undiscovered treasure in English literary history?” Lapham’s Quarterly
— “The Battle for Rust Belt Catholicism,” by Charles F. McElwee in City Journal: “Amid metastasizing sex scandals and growing secularism, believers try to revive parishes in struggling communities.” City Journal
— “Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic,” by Kathryn Miles in Outside magazine: “A recent report found that 259 people died between 2011 and 2017 while stepping in front of the camera in often dangerous destinations. Our writer went deep on the psychology of selfies to figure out what’s behind our obsession with capturing extreme risk-taking.” Outside (h/t Longform.org)
SPOTTED: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi last night at the Broadway play “Network” in NYC … Madeleine Albright on Saturday at Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville, Va.
WEEKEND WEDDINGS – “Matthew Asada, Bilal Qureshi” – N.Y. Times: “Mr. Asada, (left), 38, is a United States Foreign Service officer for the State Department in Washington. … Mr. Qureshi, 36, works in Washington as a journalist for NPR and a culture writer. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.” With a pic.NYT
— “Dana Mattioli, Whitman Walker” – N.Y. Times: “The bride, 34, is a business reporter in Manhattan mainly covering Amazon for The Wall Street Journal. She graduated cum laude from American University with degrees in journalism and in literature. … The groom, 35, is the director of product at Wade & Wendy, a recruiting company that uses chatbots in job-matching, in Manhattan. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and received an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia.” With a pic.NYT
BIRTHDAYS: Ken Duberstein is 75 … Matt Rivera … Bill Neidhardt, Midwest press secretary for Bernie Sanders … Felix Salmon, chief financial correspondent at Axios and host of the Slate Money podcast, is 47 … NYT’s Jodi Kantor … Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is 93 … Lauren Weber, Midwest correspondent for Kaiser Health News, is 28 (hat tip: Eli Yokley) … USDA’s Greg Lyons … BBC’s Caroline Wyatt … Binghui Huang … Justin Wilson … Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation … Tavi Gevinson is 23 … Will Boyington … Jay Cranford, partner at CGCN Group … Saagar Enjeti, White House correspondent at The Daily Caller … Google’s Brian Tschoepe (h/t Arlette Saenz) … former Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) is 71 …
… WaPo’s Katherine Finnerty (h/t Mallory Shelbourne) … SKDKnickerbocker managing director Jon Reinish … Simone Wai … Steven K. Chlapecka … Russ Cherry … Eric Weisbrod, CNN’s director of social TV … Bob Blaemire … Craig Johnson, VP of gov’t affairs at Altice USA … Brad Cheney, government relations consultant at GrayRobinson, P.A. … Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center (the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Beijing office), is 53 … Nate Palmer is 45 … Alexandre Vicentin … Dominic Bellone … Dr. Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund … Peter Van Voorhis … Ashley Hohman … Hessy Fernandez … Marty Steinberg … John Krause (h/t Teresa Vilmain)
Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s personal legal team had not produced a rebuttal to the Mueller report because they believe the public discourse since the redacted report’s release had so far been in their favor, even as he appeared to begin gearing up for a fight in Congress over the issue of obstruction.
“So far we don’t think we need to,” Giuliani said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” of the 30-to-40 page report his team had been reported to be assembling. The president’s personal attorney added at some point it “may become necessary” to release that report, alluding to the near certainty that Congress will take the issue up.
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Giuliani sparred with host Chris Wallace in his defense of Trump, arguing in an interview littered with interruptions from both men that it was misleading for Trump’s critics to point out that Mueller hadn’t exonerated the president in declining to bring charges against him for collusion or obstruction of justice.
“Exoneration means proving a negative,” Giuliani said to Wallace, calling the notion that Mueller’s report would need to exonerate Trump a “biased, warped view of a prosecutor’s role.”
Though Giuliani seemed resigned to a congressional investigation of obstruction, he cast doubt on whether Congress could legally make a determination on whether Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and his attempts to fire Mueller amounted to obstruction.
“If they’re gonna review his removal power,” he said, there’s a “real question under Article 2 whether they can do that. The Constitution of the United States give the Congress a role in appointment, advise and consent, it deliberately doesn’t give them a role in removal because they say, go back to the Constitutional Convention, that would be too much of an intrusion.”
Even so, Giuliani contended about the possibility of removing Mueller, “had he done it, it would not have been obstruction of justice” to fire Mueller because “there were very good reasons” to fire the special counsel due to perceived bias and conflicts of interests on Mueller’s team.
And, he continued, Trump would have known that firing Mueller would not have halted the investigation because of the investigation continuing under different leadership when Trump fired Comey.
According to Mueller’s report, which Giuliani denounced as “one-sided” and “infected” with bias despite hailing it for clearing the president legally, Trump asked then-White House counsel Don McGahn to remove Mueller from the investigation just days after media reports revealed the special counsel was looking into whether Trump obstructed justice and for the first time was personally a target of the investigation.
McGahn refused to fire Mueller, instead threatening to resign rather than do so, putting him in the company of numerous other instances of Trump aides shutting down is attempts to thwart the investigation.
“The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the report states.
Despite Giuliani’s insistence that the only actions of Trump in question regarding obstruction were his firing of Comey and his attempted removal of Mueller, the special counsel’s report lays out eight other episodes where the president potentially obstructed justice.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday criticized Robert Mueller’s decision not to rule on whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice during the course of the Russia investigation, and claimed that the special counsel’s inconclusive findings exonerated the president.
“That’s not really the job of a prosecutor. The job of a prosecutor is to gather evidence and decide whether to indict or to decline to indict,” told host Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week.”
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“They declined to indict. The president is not going to jail, he’s staying in the White House for five-and-a-half more years,” Conway said. “Why? Because they found no crime, no conspiracy. That was the central premise.”
Attorney General William Barr, as well as the president’s personal attorneys and allies, have argued that Trump did not obstruct justice because Mueller found that his 2016 campaign did not conspire with Russia to influence the results of the White House race.
In his report, Mueller wrote that if his team of federal prosecutors “had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
Mueller also wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Conway took issue with that turn of phrase on Sunday.
“The word exoneration was unnecessary in the Mueller report, and I would say inappropriate,” Conway said, adding: “You either prosecute or you don’t. You either bring an indictment or you don’t.”
Responding to attacks by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Rep. Adam Schiff on Sunday insisted his criticism of the Trump administration was not wrong, saying there was “ample evidence of collusion in plain sight.”
“I use that word very carefully,” the California Democrat said on ABC’s “This Week,” “because I also distinguish time and time again between collusion, that is acts of corruption that may or may not be criminal, and proof of a criminal conspiracy. And that is a distinction that Bob Mueller made within the first few pages of his report. In fact, every act that I’ve pointed to as evidence of collusion has now been borne out by the report.“
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Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been the subject of frequent attacks by President Donald Trump and his supporters for insisting that the Trump campaign acted inappropriately during the 2016 election season by working with Russians who wished to see Trump elected.
Before Schiff’s interview on “This Week,” Conway criticized Schiff for repeatedly raising the idea of “collusion.“
“Adam Schiff in at least 14 tweets I saw today constantly on TV, collusion, collusion,” Conway told host Martha Raddatz. “It was meant to sound furtive, it was meant to sound criminal, it was meant to sound like the president would be frog marched out of office.“
Schiff insisted that his reading of the situation was not wrong.
“The obstruction of justice in particular in this case is far worse than anything that Richard Nixon did,” Schiff told Raddatz, adding: “I would say in every way this is more significant than Watergate.
“And the fact that a candidate for president and now president of the United States would not only not stand up and resist Russian interference in our election but would welcome it goes well beyond anything Nixon did.“