- Before the report was released, Attorney General William Barr revealed the investigation did not establish there was a criminal conspiracy between Trump and/or his campaign and anyone associated with the Russian government.
- Barr said Mueller declined to draw a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, but that as the attorney general, he reviewed Mueller's evidence and determined the president did not commit an obstruction offense.
- Trumpworld seized on Barr's comments and said they represented a "complete and total exoneration" of the president.
- But the report paints a much more nuanced picture and, in some cases, directly contradicts what Barr told the public.
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A third of Americans think the final report in the special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation somewhat or entirely implicates President Donald Trump, according to a new INSIDER poll, a figure 11 percentage points higher than the 22% who believe the Mueller report somewhat or entirely vindicates him.
INSIDER conducted a SurveyMonkey Audience poll with 1,100 respondents beginning at 6 p.m. ET on the day the redacted Mueller report was released in order to gauge initial reactions to the developments. One question asked was "Generally, what best describes your views on the released portion of the Mueller report?"
Given the recency of the report's release, it should come as little surprise that 33% of respondents said that they did not know or that they had not read it yet. Furthermore, of the two-thirds of respondents who had formed an opinion on it, another 14% said they didn't feel strongly either way.
In general, looking only at those respondents who had formed an opinion about whether the report exonerated or implicated the president, three-in-five thought the president was somewhat or entirely implicated and two-in-five thought he was somewhat or entirely vindicated.
Mueller's report landed with a bang on Thursday, marking a dramatic inflection point in the nearly two-year FBI investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
The final report caps Mueller's work as special counsel, but as INSIDER as previously reported and as the report confirmed there are still dozens of unresolved investigative threads and court cases connected to the Russia investigation.
Still, the Mueller report, which totaled 448 pages, revealed several key pieces of information that shed light on Mueller's findings and potential wrongdoing by the president and those in his orbit.
On the issue of whether there was a Trump-Russia conspiracy, Barr parroted the president, telling reporters at a press conference on Thursday there was no evidence of "collusion" in any of Mueller's inquiries into Russia's interference in the election.
The report did say, as Barr mentioned, that Mueller's investigation did not establish that members of the campaign coordinated with Russia during the election.
But prosecutors prefaced that statement with a significant caveat: "The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and ... the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts."
Barr made no mention of that finding by prosecutors in his initial summary of the report, in a subsequent letter to Congress, during several days of testimony before Congress, or at his Thursday morning news conference.
In the obstruction case, Mueller did not come to a conclusion one way or another and declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment."
Barr told reporters Mueller's decision was not influenced by Justice Department guidelines that state a sitting president cannot be indicted. He said that in fact, Mueller's determination or lack thereof was prompted by the inconclusive nature of the evidence prosecutors had collected.
But in his report, Mueller did not cite the nature of, or lack of, evidence as a reason he did not come to a decision on obstruction. He did, however, cite the policy against charging a sitting president.
Moreover, the special counsel's team said (emphasis ours) that "if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state." The team continued: "Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment."
Unsurprisingly, the assessment about how the president comes off in the report was overwhelmingly driven by the political leanings of the respondent. Of the 296 respondents who identified as very or somewhat liberal 170 (57%) thought the report implicated the president. Of the 236 who identified as very or somewhat conservative, 110 (46%) believed it vindicated the president.
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn't try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,093 respondents collected from the evening of April 18 through April 19, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3 percentage points with a 95% confidence level
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