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  • FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018.

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 March 2019

"No one, including the president, is above the law," Senator Bernie Sanders said in a tweet.

United States Special Counsel Robert Mueller Friday ended his investigation and handed over a confidential report to Attorney General William Barr on Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election and any potential wrongdoing by U.S. President Donald Trump, setting off clamor from lawmakers for the document's quick release.

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Marking the end of a nearly two-year investigation that has ensnared former Trump aides and Russian intelligence officers while casting a dark cloud over the Republican business tycoon’s presidency, Mueller submitted his  report to Attorney General William Barr, the Justice Department said.

Mueller did not recommend any further indictments in a sign that there might be no more criminal charges against Trump associates arising from the investigation, a senior Justice Department official said.  Mueller has brought charges against 34 people and three companies throughout his investigation.

The big question now is whether the report contains allegations of wrongdoing by Trump himself or exonerates him. Mueller, a former FBI director, had been examining since May 2017 whether Trump's campaign conspired with Moscow to try to influence the election and whether the Republican president later unlawfully tried to obstruct his investigation.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr attends a Justice Department event in Washington, U.S., Febr. 26, 2019. | Source: Reuters

Trump has denied collusion and obstruction, while Russia has denied election interference. Trump has sought to discredit the investigation, calling it a "witch hunt" and accusing Mueller of conflicts of interest. But he said Wednesday he does not mind if the public is allowed to see the report.

The report was not immediately made public. Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement officer and a Trump appointee, will have to decide how much of it to disclose. Barr told lawmakers in a letter he may be able to provide the "principal conclusions" of Mueller's findings to Congress as soon as this weekend and added that he was "committed to as much transparency as possible."

 U.S. Attorney General William Barr's letter to U.S. lawmakers in Washington March 22, 2019  | Source: Reuters

Under regulations governing special counsel investigations, the attorney general must share an outline of Mueller's report with Democratic and Republican leaders of the judiciary committees in Congress but it is largely up to him what to make public.

Key Trump aides, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, national security adviser Michael Flynn and personal lawyer Michael Cohen, have already either been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mueller. None of those charges, however, directly related to the question of collusion between the campaign and Moscow. The Justice Department has a policy that sitting presidents cannot face criminal charges.

Lawmakers from both parties called for prompt release of the report.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, the two top Democrats in Congress, said it was "imperative" the full report be made public, that Barr not give Trump and his team a "sneak preview" of the findings, and that the White House not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts are made public.

They said the investigation focused on questions that "go to the integrity of our democracy itself: whether foreign powers corruptly interfered in our elections, and whether unlawful means were used to hinder that investigation."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, said, "The attorney general has said he intends to provide as much information as possible. As I have said previously, I sincerely hope he will do so as soon as he can, and with as much openness and transparency as possible."

The White House has not received or been briefed on the report, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, adding that "we look forward to the process taking its course."

When the Justice Department announced the arrival of the report, Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he met Friday with a group of Caribbean leaders.

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