Mueller examined 10 episodes for possible obstruction.
Investigators examined 10 episodes in which the president may have obstructed justice, but Mr. Mueller said he could not reach a conclusion.
“The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” he wrote. “At the same time, 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.
“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards,” he added, “we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Mr. Barr, however, opted to reach the conclusion that Mr. Mueller would not. “After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other department lawyers, the deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense,” Mr. Barr said at a news conference before the release of the report.
Mr. Barr said that he “disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories” regarding obstruction but even accepting them found no basis for a criminal charge.
Among the incidents that the special counsel examined was Mr. Trump’s decision to fire James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, in May 2017, and an attempt by the president a month later to have his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, fire Mr. Mueller.
He also looked at the president’s efforts to hide details of a Trump Tower meeting with Russians during the election and to pressure Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, to reverse his decision to recuse himself from supervising the investigation.
Mr. Barr said he would not stand in the way of Mr. Mueller testifying on Capitol Hill about his findings. “I have no objection to Bob Mueller testifying,” Mr. Barr said.
Barr offers an understanding interpretation of Trump actions.
In his news conference on Thursday morning, Mr. Barr at times sounded like a defense lawyer, making no criticism of the president and instead offering an understanding interpretation of actions that Mr. Trump’s critics have said amounted to obstruction of justice.
In addressing obstruction, Mr. Barr said the president had no corrupt intent and that his actions seen as impeding the investigation were a result of being understandably “frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks.”
Trump’s lawyers read the report in advance.
Mr. Barr said he gave access to the report to Mr. Trump’s lawyers, which gave them an opportunity to prepare their public defense in advance.
“Earlier this week, the president’s personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released,” Mr. Barr said. “The president’s personal lawyers were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions.”
Mr. Barr said he did so in accordance with the “practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act,” permitting those named in a report to read it before publication. However, that has not always been the practice. In 1998, the independent counsel Ken Starr declined to let President Bill Clinton or his lawyers read his report on the Monica Lewinsky case before he sent it to Congress.
Mr. Barr said that the White House made no claims of executive privilege over any information in the report and that none of the redactions in the public report Congress were made at the request of the White House.
At the news conference, Mr. Barr made sure to include Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who first appointed Mr. Mueller.
Barr says that even if the Trump campaign colluded with WikiLeaks, that is not a crime.
Mr. Barr provided an important qualifier to the determination that Mr. Trump and the Trump campaign did not engage in illegal collusion — not with the Russian government that stole the Democratic emails, but with WikiLeaks, which published them.
“The special counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts,” he said.“Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.Here too, the special counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.”
In other words, since WikiLeaks did not participate in Russia’s underlying hacking of the emails, its actions were no crime. Thus, any Trump campaign collusion with WikiLeaks could not be an illegal conspiracy.
Trump frames the report as exoneration.
Mr. Trump responded to the report at an event at the White House for wounded troops, saying that it had vindicated him.
“They’re having a good day,” he said of the troops. “I’m having a good day too. It’s called ‘no collusion, no obstruction.’ There never was, by the way, andthere never will be.”
“This should never happen to another president again, this hoax,” he added.
Even before the report was released, Mr. Trump was claiming victory and lashing out at investigators and his critics. He tweeted a photo resembling a “Game of Thrones” poster that depicted him staring into a cloud, saying “No Collusion. No Obstruction. For the haters and radical left Democrats: Game Over.”
The tweet was the latest of a barrage that the president posted starting early Thursday morning, long before the report was released.
The report may for the first time provide Mr. Trump’s official responses to Mr. Mueller’sspecific questions, which have remained secret since he responded in writing in November. With his lawyers worried that he would make a false statement and expose himself to criminal charges, the president refused to be interviewed in person, and Mr. Mueller did not try to force the issue with a subpoena.
By drafting the answers in writing in consultation with his legal team, Mr. Trump may have sidestepped what his lawyers feared would be a “perjury trap.”
Democrats lash out at Barr.
Democrats quickly assailed Mr. Barr for trying to frame the results of the report before lawmakers or the public had a chance to read it for themselves.
“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter. “We are now requesting Mueller to appear before @HouseJudiciary as soon as possible.”
Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said Mr. Barr’s performance demonstrated fealty to Mr. Trump. “Attorney General Barr is supposed to be the nation’s top impartial lawyer, not a White House spokesman,” he said. “His press conference was just an attempt to spin a report nobody has read yet, and that’s really disappointing.”
Democratic presidential candidates quickly pounced on Mr. Barr as well. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, in a tweet, labeled the attorney general’s remarks as “spin.” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said it was “ a disgrace to see an Attorney General acting as if he’s the personal attorney and publicist for the president of the United States.” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York called Mr. Barr’s news conference “a complete farce and an embarrassing display of propaganda on behalf of President Trump.”
Katie Benner, Michael S. Schmidt, Eileen Sullivan, Michael Tackett and Noah Weiland contributed reporting.