Less than 24 hours after Attorney General William Barr issued his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, the White House spin machine is in high gear.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted on Sunday that Barr’s letter to Congress reveals a “total and complete exoneration” of President Donald Trump.
The Special Counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. AG Barr and DAG Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction. The findings of the Department of Justice are a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) March 24, 2019
Trump tweeted the same thing.
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
In reality, Barr wrote that Mueller “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities” and “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on whether the president obstructed justice.
“The Special Counsel, therefore, did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.”
Barr noted, however, that although the report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
On Monday, Sanders was pressed on the discrepancy between her tweet and Barr’s summary during an appearance on The Today Show.
Noting Barr’s words, Savannah Guthrie asked Sanders regarding obstruction of justice: “Would you acknowledge it is incorrect for the President to call this a total exoneration?”
“Would you acknowledge it is incorrect for the President to call this a total exoneration?” @savannahguthrie asks @PressSec Sarah Sanders about the question of if President Trump obstructed justice pic.twitter.com/I0XnGlYWCU
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 25, 2019
Sanders replied by doubling down on the administration’s dubious assessment.
“Not at all. It is a complete and total exoneration and here’s why. The special counsel said they couldn’t make a decision one way or the other. The way the process works is they then leave it up to the attorney general.”
Guthrie pointed out that some critics, such as House Democrats, are wondering how Barr was able to draw such a “snap judgment” given the length and breadth of Mueller’s investigation. Guthrie alluded to a memo drafted by Barr last summer in which suggested Barr opined that there was no obstruction case to be made against Trump.
Sanders brushed off those concerns and praised Barr.
“It’s not a snap judgment,” Sanders replied. “Anybody that knows Attorney General Barr including a number of Democrats who have known him for decades talked about what a great individual he is.”
When Guthrie brought up Barr’s memo again, Sanders said that we should “look at Bob Mueller’s report… in the legal community when you can’t convict somebody on something, you’re exonerating them.”
Note: Mueller’s report – and therefore his findings – have not been made public.
Guthrie explained to Sanders that “to say you can’t prosecute someone because they don’t meet the legal standards of the statute is not an exoneration.”
Many weren’t surprised that Press Secretary Sanders wouldn’t concede the fact that the report didn’t exonerate Trump.
Sarah Sanders never fails to amaze by her ignorance. But did Guthrie really expect that Sanders would be able to acknowledge one obvious fact about exoneration? I think she should be knowledgeable enough to be able to explain the definition of exoneration.
— Gordana (@Gordana15921685) March 25, 2019
It amazes me how she is so loyal to DT but not her own country.
— Donna Neubig (@DonnaNeubig) March 25, 2019
“ while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.” Bar rights this while he admits that mueller drew no conclusions but simply presented the evidence for and against conviction.
— Regina Marie (@mamaraquel) March 25, 2019
Barr made it crystal clear in a 2018 memo to the Justice Department – which he penned as a private citizen – what he thought of Mueller’s investigation.