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Trump hints at payback for ‘evil’ enemies over Mueller probe, Graham vows investigation

President Donald J. Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Maryland, en route Ohio. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump has hinted at possible payback for that his political enemies who did “evil” and “treasonous things,” a day after the summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report cleared him of colluding with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, although it reached no conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice.

“There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country,” Trump told reporters at the White House on March 25, without mentioning anyone by name or citing specific actions.

“Those people will certainly be looked at,” the U.S. president said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and a Trump ally, told reporters he would ask Attorney General William Barr to appoint a special counsel to probe whether U.S. law enforcement officials made missteps in their investigation.

Trump’s offensive came as Democrats made a new push for the Mueller report to be released.

The six committee chairs in the Democratic-led House of Representatives on March 25 called on Barr to release the full Mueller report to Congress by April 2.

No one outside the Justice Department has yet seen the report, including the White House.

The Justice Department has not said whether it will release Mueller’s full report, but Barr has said he will be as transparent as possible.

Trump and his allies appeared jubilant after Barr said, in a letter released to Congress and made public on March 24, that Mueller’s report states that the probe “did not establish that members” of Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But disagreement between the White House and Democratic lawmakers over the findings appeared to herald further tension and confrontation as the next presidential election, in November 2020, draws closer. Barr quoted Mueller’s report as saying, “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Russian officials and lawmakers used Barr’s summary to reiterate Moscow’s claim that it did not meddle in the U.S. presidential campaign — despite the attorney general’s repeated and sometimes detailed references to “election interference activities” by President Vladimir Putin’s government.

In his four-page outline of the report Mueller’s office delivered to him on March 22 after a 675-day investigation, Barr also said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded the evidence gathered by Mueller is “not sufficient to establish” that Trump committed obstruction of justice — a separate question that the special counsel investigated.

Democrats who disputed Trump’s claim of vindication focused on those words and on the fact that while Mueller decided not to “draw a conclusion” on whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr — a Trump appointee who was confirmed as the U.S. chief prosecutor in February — decided along with Rosenstein that the evidence was insufficient to show that he did.

Trump said on March 25 that it was up to Barr to decide whether detailed findings from Mueller’s report would be made public.

Mueller examined Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, along with, as Barr’s letter describes it, “allegations that members of Trump’s presidential campaign, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere.”

That was one of several instances in which Barr’s summary referred unequivocally to Russian interference. Barr said that Mueller’s investigation “determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election” — one involving attempts to “sow social discord” though “disinformation on social media operations,” the other “computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election.”

Barr also said Mueller’s report described “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”