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By Ludwig Hurtado
Ex-White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman said Monday that she expects her former boss, President Donald Trump, to claim exoneration from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but she’s “not buying” it.
“He is going to scream from the mountaintop that he has been wronged, there was a witch hunt, and he was exonerated,” Manigault Newman said in an interview with Craig Melvin on MSNBC.
“Like most, until I see the report, I’m not buying the spin coming out of the Trump camp,” she added. “They’re good at spin. The first rule of spin is to get ahead of the message, get ahead of any bad news and frame it. The framing is that he’s been exonerated, I’m just not buying that.”
Manigault Newman also said she thinks Congress is “going down the right path” with its continuing probes into Trump’s actions during the campaign.
“We know that he has been involved in paying off porn stars and campaign finance violations possibly,” she said. “Following the money is actually going to lead us to get a better picture of how Donald Trump misled this country, possibly influenced the election in that way. So he is not totally out the clear, Craig. I think that we need to just kind of wait and see. pump the brakes and let the full story be heard.”
In a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr wrote that Mueller’s investigation did not find collusion between the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it and the Russian government in its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Barr added that the special counsel declined “to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on obstruction of justice, leaving it up to the attorney general to draw a conclusion about actions such as the president’s firing of James Comey as FBI director in May 2017.
Barr said he concluded Trump did not obstruct justice based on the evidence presented and not because of Department of Justice guidelines on prosecuting a sitting president. “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,'” Barr wrote.
On Sunday, Trump called the main findings of the special counsel and Barr a “total exoneration.”
“There was no obstruction, none whatsoever, and it was a complete and total exoneration,” Trump told reporters outside of Air Force One as he departed Mar-a-Lago for Washington. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame your president had to go through this.”
“This was an illegal takedown that failed,” he said of the Mueller probe.
Trump on Monday responded “yes, he did” when asked if Mueller acted honorably. During the course of the nearly two-year Mueller probe, Trump had repeatedly attacked the special counsel and his team of lawyers as conducting a “witch hunt” against him.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Barr in an interview Monday on NBC’s “Today” show, saying the recently confirmed Department of Justice head did not make a “snap judgment” about whether Trump had obstructed justice.
“It’s not a snap judgment,” Sanders said, adding that Barr “takes his job seriously.”
The comments came after NBC’s Savannah Guthrie pointed out that Barr wrote a memo last year arguing that the president could not have obstructed justice. Guthrie added that some critics said the attorney general — who determined that Trump did not obstruct justice within 48 hours of receiving Mueller’s report on Friday — might have acted in haste.
“It wasn’t that he took this upon himself,” Sanders continued, referring to Mueller’s decision to leave it up to Barr to decide whether the evidence presented in the report amounted to a criminal offense. “That’s the process of the law. When the special counsel couldn’t make a decision, couldn’t make a final determination, they refer that to the attorney general to make that decision.”