Trump’s 2016 campaign didn’t conspire with Russia, finds Mueller probe

Washington: US Attorney General William Barr has said Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find proof that Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, following which the US president claimed “complete and total exoneration”.

In his four-page letter to the Congress on Sunday, which was later made public, Brar however said that “while this (Mueller’s) report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” and sets out evidence on “both sides of the question”.

 

The investigation had cast a shadow over the Trump presidency for nearly two years with the Democratic leadership alleging that Russian interference helped him in the 2016 polls.

Barr said that Mueller found no proof of such a conspiracy “despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign”.

“The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election,” the attorney general said.

Mueller, in his report, “did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction”, Barr told the lawmakers.

“For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr said, adding Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment”.

In the letter, he also said the Department of Justice has determined that there is not sufficient evidence to establish that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

“After reviewing the special counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” the letter read.

“The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election,” it said, adding, “the report identifies no actions that, in our judgement, constitute obstructive conduct.”

The Democrats were banking heavily on the results of the Mueller investigation to defeat Trump in the 2020 elections.

Many were also talking about impeaching the president if the report reveals collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“It was complete and total exoneration,” the president told reporters in Florida as he was returning from Mar-a-Lago to Washington DC.

Terming the allegation of collusion “the most ridiculous thing ever”, Trump said, “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest it’s a shame that your president had to go through this.

” He had been repeatedly claiming that he was a victim of “witch hunt”, while asserting that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.

“This was an illegal takedown that failed and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at their other side,” Trump said.

“After a long look, after a long investigation, after so many people have been so badly hurt, after not looking at the other side where a lot of bad things happened… it was just announced there was no collusion with Russia,” he said, adding “It’s a complete exoneration.

” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the report has justified the president’s stand.

“The special counsel did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. Attorney General Barr and Deputy Attorney General (Rod) 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,” she said.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said this is a great day for all Americans.

“As we have said all along, there was no collusion and no obstruction. Now that this investigation is over, Democrats need to finally end their baseless investigations and political crusade against President Trump for the good of the country,” she said.

Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale said the president has been “completely and fully vindicated” by Mueller’s report.

“After issuing 2,800 subpoenas and 500 search warrants, interviewing 500 witnesses, employing 40 FBI agents and 19 lawyers, and spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, Robert Mueller concluded unequivocally, ‘the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’

Moreover, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general determined that there was no evidence of obstruction of justice,” Parscale said.

“Nevertheless, Democrats took us on a frantic, chaotic, conspiracy-laden roller coaster for two years, alleging wrongdoing where there was none,” he claimed.

“So distraught and blindsided by the results of the 2016 elections, Democrats lied to the American people continually, hoping to undo the legitimate election of President Trump,” Parscale said.

Russian Air Force planes carrying troops land in Venezuela to send message to Trump

Caracas: Two Russian air force planes landed at Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops, according to media reports, amid strengthening ties between Caracas and Moscow.

A flight-tracking website showed that two planes left from a Russian military airport bound for Caracas on Friday, and another flight-tracking site showed that one plane left Caracas on Sunday.

 

That comes three months after the two nations held military exercises on Venezuelan soil that President Nicolas Maduro called a sign of strengthening relations, but which Washington criticized as Russian encroachment in the region.

Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tonnes of material.

An Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping along the way in Syria, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.

The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site.

The flights carried officials who arrived to “exchange consultations,” wrote Russian government-owned news agency Sputnik, which quoted an unnamed source at the Russian embassy.

“Russia has various contracts that are in the process of being fulfilled, contracts of a technical military character,” Sputnik quoted the source as saying.

A Reuters witness saw what appeared to be the passenger jet at the Maiquetia airport on Sunday.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Russia’s Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry did not reply to messages seeking comment. The Kremlin spokesman also did not reply to a request for comment.

The Trump administration has levied crippling sanctions on the OPEC nation’s oil industry in efforts to push Maduro from power and has called on Venezuelan military leaders to abandon him. Maduro has denounced the sanctions as US interventionism and has won diplomatic backing from Russia and China.

In December, two Russian strategic bomber aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed in Venezuela in a show of support for Maduro’s socialist government that infuriated Washington.

Maduro on Wednesday said Russia would send medicine “next week” to Venezuela, without describing how it would arrive, adding that Moscow in February had sent some 300 tonnes of humanitarian aid.

Venezuela in February had blocked a convoy carrying humanitarian aid for the crisis-stricken country that was coordinated with the team of opposition leader Juan Guaido, including supplies provided by the United States, from entering via the border with Colombia.

Muellar probe doesn’t exonerate Trump, report needs to be released urgently: Pelosi

Washington: Top congressional Democrats said on Sunday it was “urgent” that the full report on Russian interference in the 2016 US election be publicly released, stressing it does not exonerate President Donald Trump.

“The fact that Special Counsel (Robert) Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

 

They also said Attorney General Bill Barr, nominated just months ago by Trump, is “not a neutral observer” in the process and that his summary of the report, delivered to Congress earlier, is not an objective determination about Mueller’s findings.

The two Democrats also said that Trump’s declaration that the report is a complete exoneration of the president because it clears him of colluding with Russia “directly contradicts the words of Mr Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility.”

Trump has no problem with release of Mueller report: White House

Washington: US President Donald Trump would have no problem with the release of the Mueller report into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday.

“I don’t think the president has any problem with it,” Sanders said on NBC’s Today show. “He’s more than happy for any of this stuff to come out because he knows exactly what did and what didn’t happen and now frankly the rest of America knows.”

 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that Trump or his campaign conspired with a Russian effort to influence the election in his favour, but stopped short of exonerating the president of obstruction of justice.

Attorney General Bill Barr, however, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to bring obstruction of justice charges against Trump. Trump, who had said before Mueller’s conclusions were relayed to Congress that the report should be released, called the outcome a “complete and total exoneration” despite Mueller’s caveat on obstruction.

Echoing Trump, Sanders said the American public knows “there was no collusion, they know there was no obstruction and it’s a complete and total exoneration of the president.”  

Boost for US President Donald Trump’s re-election hope

Washington: US President Donald Trump has declared himself completely exonerated after his campaign was cleared of colluding with Russia in the 2016 election, in a major boost for his re-election hopes.

The long-awaited final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Moscow’s election meddling concluded that no member or associate of the campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia in its plot to boost Trump in the vote more than two years ago.

 

While the Mueller report did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice, Attorney General Bill Barr’s letter to Congress summarising the still-secret document cleared a dark cloud that had hung over the Trump’s legitimacy since he took office in January 2017.

“There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. It was a complete and total exoneration,” Trump said on Sunday of Mueller’s conclusions.

“It’s a shame that the country had to go through this,” he added. “This was an illegal takedown that failed.” Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Trump was “in a really good mood” and “very happy with how it all turned out.”

Gidley said the president watched television, talked to staff and made calls during his flight home from Florida.

Following the release of the report, the Kremlin again said that Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 presidential vote that brought Trump to office – a denial at odds with the conclusion of the US intelligence community.

Summarising Mueller’s findings, Barr said no Trump campaign official was involved in Russian conspiracies in 2016 to hack Democratic computers and flood social media with disinformation to harm Trump’s Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.

He also said there were no new surprises coming from the Mueller team, which is disbanding – no further indictments being referred, and no sealed indictments outstanding.

Release full report, demands Nancy Pelosi

Washington: Top congressional Democrats said on Sunday it was ‘urgent’ that the full report on Russian interference in the 2016 US election be publicly released, stressing it does not exonerate Donald Trump.

The president was quick to claim vindication by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report findings which, according to a summary by Attorney General Bill Barr, found that no Trump campaign official was involved in Russian conspiracies to interfere in the 2016 US election.

 

Such a conclusion would no doubt blunt a key weapon for Democrats desperate to oust Trump in 2020. But with the report declining to determine whether there was obstruction of justice by the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer escalated their demands for the full document’s release.

“The fact that Special Counsel (Robert) Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” the Democratic pair said in a joint statement.

They also said Barr, nominated just months ago by Trump, is ‘not a neutral observer.’ The two Democrats also said Trump’s declaration that the report is a complete exoneration of the president ‘directly contradicts the words of Mr Mueller and is not to be taken with any degree of credibility.’     

Indian origin US Senator Kamala Harris calls to improve teacher salaries

Washington: First Indian-origin US Senator Kamala Harris has called for allocation of a large federal investment to improve teacher salaries nationwide.

The 54-year-old senator, who represents California, said that currently teachers are making over 10 per cent less than other college educated graduates and that gap is about USD 13,000 a year, the CNN reported on Saturday.

 

“I’m declaring to you that by the end of my first term, we will have improved teachers’ salaries so that we close the pay gap,” Harris said to a group of supporters in Houston.

“Because right now, teachers are making over 10 per cent less than other college educated graduates and that gap is about USD 13,000 a year, and I am pledging to you that through the federal resources that are available, we will close that gap,” she added.

Harris, who formally launched her presidential campaign with an impressive rally of more than 20,000 people in her home town of Oakland in California on January 27, is said to be a potential formidable opponent to her eventual GOP incumbent President Donald Trump.

Harris said that her proposal would be the largest ever federal investment in teacher pay. Though Harris didn’t provide further details about where the funds will come from, the campaign has said they will unveil the details of the full policy plan next week, the report said.

As candidates sweep across key battle-ground states testing their economic messages with potential voters, Harris is the first to announce a plan to allocate funding to teachers — a heavily unionised demographic that is reliably Democratic. Education occupations have unions that represent more than 37 per cent of employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — far more than any other occupations, the report said.

Harris was born in Oakland, California, to a Tamil Indian mother and a Jamaican father in 1964. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a breast cancer scientist who immigrated to the US from Madras (now Chennai).

Her father, Donald Harris, was a professor of economics at Stanford University and emigrated from Jamaica in 1961.

Indian man in Canada gets 8 years in jail for bus crash that killed 16

Ottawa: A 30-year-old Indian truck driver in Canada was sentenced to eight years in prison on Friday for causing a bus crash that killed 16 people, mostly members of a junior hockey team, in one of the worst disasters in the country’s sporting community.

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty in January to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death or bodily injury.

 

On April 6, 2018, Sidhu’s semi-trailer truck failed to stop at a highway intersection, killing 16 people and injuring 13 on the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team and others en route to a playoff game.

Sidhu appeared in a Melfort court on Friday.

Judge Inez Cardinal empathized with the victims’ families as she read out her sentencing decision.

“Most find the pain unbearable,” she said. “Families have been torn apart.”

Sidhu received a sentence of eight years for each fatality and five years for each person injured, to be served at the same time.

Cardinal said no case in Canada resembles this one due to the staggering number of dead and injured. She said she knows this has been difficult, but hopes Sidhu and the victims’ loved ones can now heal.

Families burst into tears after the sentence was delivered. Some immediately walked out, while others stared at the judge’s empty seat at the front of court.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Sidhu was solely responsible for the crash.

A forensic collision report found he didn’t brake at the intersection of Highway 335 and 35 before hitting the bus.

The report said Sidhu’s view of the intersection was not impeded by any environmental factors like trees near the road or sun in his eyes.

In court, the judge noted that Sidhu was preoccupied with a flapping tarp covering his truck’s load and failed to notice road signs. She said a person is not innocent simply because the consequences of their actions are not forseeable.

She said Sidhu had many chances to stop but didn’t, and said it was inconceivable he missed the intersection’s many large signs, including flashing lights.

In a statement, the Humboldt Broncos said the team is thankful that the matter is over and that Sidhu is being held to account for his actions.

Sidhu’s sentence was two years shorter than the term prosecutors had sought but is nevertheless the harshest ever handed down in Canada for the charges he faced.

The Indian national was a legal permanent resident but does not have joint citizenship and faces likely deportation after serving his time.

Trump cancels new sanctions on North Korea, says ‘I like Kim Jong Un’

Washington: President Donald Trump on Friday abruptly announced the cancellation of sanctions imposed by his own Treasury Department to tighten international pressure on North Korea.

“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” Trump said in a tweet.

 

He appeared to be referring to measures unveiled Thursday that targeted two Chinese companies accused of helping North Korea to evade tight international sanctions meant to pressure Pyongyang into ending its nuclear weapons program.

They were the first new sign of pressure since talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down in Hanoi less than a month ago. However, Trump, who has previously spoken of “love” for the totalitarian leader, appears to retain hope that his strong personal relationship will bear fruit.

“President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” the president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said.

Adam Schiff, a Democrat who heads the intelligence committee in the House of Representatives, blasted Trump for cancelling sanctions “imposed only yesterday and championed by his own national security advisor, because he ‘loves’ Kim.”

“Foolish naivete is dangerous enough. Gross incompetence and disarray in the White House make it even worse,” Schiff tweeted.

On Thursday, Trump national security advisor John Bolton had tweeted that the sanctions were meant to put an end to “illicit shipping practices” by North Korea.

“Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion,” he said.

China complained, saying that it did enforce all UN resolutions and opposed “any country imposing unilateral sanctions and taking long-arm jurisdiction against any Chinese entity according to their own domestic laws.”

This was Trump’s second major, unexpected foreign policy announcement by Twitter in two days. On Thursday, he sent a tweet reversing decades of US policy and pledged to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the hotly contested Golan Heights border area with Syria.

William Barr must not give Trump ‘preview’ of Mueller’s findings: Nancy Pelosi

Washington: Attorney General William Barr must not give US President Donald Trump any ‘sneak preview’ of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings or evidence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday (local time).

Pelosi, along with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, made the comments in a statement released shortly after Mueller submitted his findings to Barr at the end of his 22-month long investigation into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential elections which were won by Donald Trump.

 

“Now that Special Counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General, it is imperative for Mr Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation and findings to Congress,” the statement released by the two Democratic leaders highlighted.

Also Read: Robert Mueller submits Trump-Russia report, lawmakers urge quick release

“Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his staff any ‘sneak preview’ of Special Counsel Mueller’s findings or evidence, and the White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public,” they said.

“The American people have a right to the truth. The watchword is transparency,” the leaders mentioned.

The investigation into the possible Russian interference the 2016 elections has seen charges being filed against 37 defendants, seven guilty pleas and one conviction. However, no further convictions are expected, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Barr may provide the US Congress with “the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

The incumbent US President has often decried Mueller’s investigation as a “witch-hunt” and asked for the probe to be scrapped. He is yet to respond to the investigation’s cessation.