Donald Trump has held a joint press conference with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign a proclamation formally recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as the fallout from the Mueller report continues.
Attorney-general William Barr, a Trump ally handpicked by the president, came to the conclusion Mr Trump had not colluded with Russia to win the 2016 president election after reading FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, submitted following the conclusion of a 22-month investigation into the allegation.
In a four-page letter to Congress, Mr Barr quoted Mr Mueller in conceding: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
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“A number of actions” carried out by Mr Trump could raise obstruction of justice concerns, Mr Mueller thought, but Mr Barr and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, decided these actions did not reveal “corrupt intent”.
A jubilant Mr Trump was quick to hail the verdict as a “complete and total exoneration”, repeating his long-running attack on the “witch hunt” as “an illegal takedown that failed” – to the delight of Trump loyalists – while Democrats called for the Mueller report’s full release.
Here’s more on John McCain’s decision to turn over the Steele dossier to the FBI, from CNN’s Manu Raju:
We’ve known for quite some time now that Donald Trump was misleading the public when said John McCain distributed the infamous Steele dossier to the media, and that the late senator and war hero actually delivered it to the FBI, as he previously confirmed.
New reporting reveals he went to his friend and colleague Lindsey Graham upon receiving the dossier, who then encouraged him to give it to the federal agency.
A copy of the talking points Donald Trump’s White House plan to use in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluding his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been leaked, and it is, well, predictable:
Donald Trump and his associates have been running a victory lap today after his attorney general released a four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But there are at least 17 different investigations still surrounding the president. Those are:
Eastern District of Virginia
Washington DC Attorney’s Office
Department of Justice, Public Integrity Section
State Attorneys General in DC and New Jersey
Four probes across New York, including tax department investigation
House Financial Services
House Ways and Means
House Foreign Affairs
Attorneys General in DC and Maryland lawsuit of potential emoluments clause violations
Trump’s good day continues. Michael Avenatti, the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels, has been charged with extortion “for attempting to extract more than $20m in payments from a publicly traded company by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.”
Here’s Andrew Buncombe on the president’s Golan heights proclamation.
Democratic presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand has given her first campaign speech – right outside of Trump Tower in New York!
“We don’t build walls that are emblems of racism and fear. We build bridges, communities and hope – because our unity of purpose lifts us higher than any tower”.
Donald Trump refuses to answer questions on any other subjects as he signs his Golan Heights proclamation.
Mr Netanyahu declares he has brought the president a case of the “finest wine” from the region (very Withnail) but, since Mr Trump doesn’t drink, he’ll have to give it to his staff. “Hope they don’t open an investigation on us!”
PM Netanyahu says Israel has “never had a better friend” than Donald Trump – thanking him for his actions regarding the Iran nuclear deal, relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem and now for recognising the Golan Heights.
The territory was won by Israel in 1967 but is considered occupied by much of the international community.
Here’s Benjamin Netanyahu arriving at the White House.
He and President Trump are now holding a joint press conference on the sovereignty of the Golan Heights, flanked by Mikes Pompeo and Pence.
Apparently “Woke Lindsey Graham” is now a thing among Trump supporters.
They’re loving having him on side but don’t forget he once considered the president a “jackass” and was branded “not as bright as Rick Perry” for his trouble. His current toadying is pure ambition over principle.
Only last August, Mr Graham said it “p*sses him off no end” when the Donald insulted his old friend John McCain, making his reluctance to read the president the riot act last week when he repeatedly denigrated the late war hero all the more pitiful.
And, as if that weren’t enough, a US Navy Destroyer has sailed through the Taiwan Strait ahead of President Trump’s upcoming trade talks with China.
Here’s Chris Riotta.
Phew. Meanwhile, while Senator Graham was speaking, Donald Trump posted this Fox clip – joining Don Jr and Kellyanne Conway in attacking House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff.
Senator Graham advises the president to focus on what’s next for the country.
As for the Democrats…
“We’re not prosecutors,” he says of his own committee, asked if his expression of satisfaction with William Barr’s verdict means his team don’t need to review the Mueller report for themselves.
This was his big gambit, turning the tables on the Clinton campaign by way of revenge and digging up Obama-era intrigues.
Lindsey Graham asked if making a “rousing speech” to administration staff at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend is a conflict of interest given his role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“You’ve got be kidding.”
Apparently his golf game was “terrible”.
“Lawyers are not in the exoneration business”, he says of Barr and Rosenstein not pursuing an obstruction of justice charge against Donald Trump.
Senator Graham insists Robert Mueller’s decision to pass judgement on to the attorney-general and Justice Department regarding obstruction, “after exploring both sides of the issue”, was his own decision.
He’s now attacking the media’s “disappointing double standard” in reporting on the Steele Dossier, says it would have been dismissed out of hand if it concerned Hillary Clinton.
Senator Graham says he’s convinced of Russian involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee emails in 2016 and that the Trump camp were not involved, his having read through the William Barr overview.
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