IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump says Mueller was honorable, backs release of special counsel report

The White House was taking a victory lap the day after the special counsel found no proof of collusion and reached no opinion on obstruction.
Image: President Donald Trump Welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu To The White House
President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk through a colonnade at the White House on March 25, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Monday responded "yes, he did" when asked if special counsel Robert Mueller acted honorably, while White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Attorney General William Barr.

Trump was asked about Mueller by reporters as he was leaving an event at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

During the course of the nearly two-year Mueller probe, Trump repeatedly attacked the special counsel and his team of lawyers as conducting a "witch hunt" against him.

The president also said Monday he would not mind if Barr released the full Mueller report — "it wouldn't bother me at all," Trump said — and was pleased the probe was finally over, but wished it would "have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker."

"We're glad it's over. It's 100 percent the way it should've been," Trump said in the Oval Office with Netanyahu sitting beside him.

He went on to say that people whom he did not name had committed "evil" acts.

"There are a lot of people out there who have done some very, very evil things, very bad things," Trump said. "I would say treasonous things against our country...You know who they are. They have done so many evil things."

Trump added, "I love this country. I love this country as much as I can love anything, but what they did — 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."

The president also said he had given no thought to pardoning anyone caught up in the Mueller probe.

Earlier, in an interview Monday on NBC's "Today" show, Sanders said Barr did not make a "snap judgment" about whether Trump had obstructed justice.

"It's not a snap judgment," Sanders said, adding that Barr "takes his job seriously."

The comments came after NBC's Savannah Guthrie pointed out that Barr wrote a memo last year arguing that the president could not have obstructed justice. Guthrie added that some critics said the attorney general — who determined that Trump did not obstruct justice within 48 hours of receiving Mueller's report on Friday — might have acted in haste.

"It wasn't that he took this upon himself," Sanders continued, referring to Mueller's decision to leave it up to Barr to decide whether the evidence presented in the report amounted to a criminal offense. "That's the process of the law. When the special counsel couldn't make a decision, couldn't make a final determination, they refer that to the attorney general to make that decision."

She asked viewers to "look at Bob Mueller's report," which has yet to be released.

"Big takeaway here is that they could not find something conclusively that the president obstructed justice," she said, adding that Barr consulted with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "who had no memo" on obstruction of justice and "had been intimately involved since the beginning" of Mueller's investigation.

Vice President Mike Pence also touted the findings in remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, saying the Justice Department did not find collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016 or that the president obstructed justice.

"Make no mistake about it, my fellow Americans, this was a total vindication of the president of the United States and our campaign," Pence said.

"And it should be welcomed by every American," he added. "And even if some Democrats want to spend more time on discredited allegations, the American people can be confident the president and I are going to continue to focus where we always have, on the issues that are most important to our country, on a stronger and more prosperous America and on a safer world."

In a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Sunday, Barr wrote that Mueller's investigation did not find collusion between the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it and the Russian government in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Barr added that the special counsel declined "to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment" on obstruction of justice, leaving it up to the attorney general to draw a conclusion about actions such as the president's firing of James Comey as FBI director in May 2017.

Barr said he concluded Trump did not obstruct justice based on the evidence presented and not because of Department of Justice guidelines on prosecuting a sitting president.

"The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'" Barr wrote.

Trump called the Justice Department's findings a "complete and total exoneration."

Mueller was tasked with investigating Russian interference and possible collusion by Trump associates, submitting his final report to Barr on Friday. Mueller's investigation led to the indictment or conviction of 34 people, including major Trump associates like former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. None of those charges, however, included a direct allegation of colluding with Russians to swing the 2016 election.