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President arrives in FL amid partisan debate over Mueller findings

President Donald J. Trump waves to the crowd while exiting Air Force 1 at St. Louis Lambert International Airport Nov. 29, 2017. (Airman Chad Gorecki/U.S. Air Force)

While special counsel Robert Mueller’s report notes that it “does not exonerate” President Donald Trump, the president and the supporters who cheered him wildly as he arrived in Palm Beach Thursday evening declared full vindication in the Russia collusion and obstruction probe.

About seven hours after Mueller’s 448-page report went public, Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at Palm Beach International Airport to spend Easter weekend Mar-a-Lago. After descending the steps from Air Force One, Trump bypassed his limousine to walk over to a crowd of about 100 supporters on the tarmac.

The president could be heard saying “Thank you” several times and, at one point, “Game over,” as he signed autographs, posed for selfies and interacted with the crowd for about 15 minutes.

“I said, ‘You’re the greatest president of my lifetime,'” Matt Shaw of West Palm Beach said he told Trump. Shaw said he showed the president a “Trump” tattoo on his left wrist.

“I asked him what he thought of my tattoo and he said ‘I love it!'” Shaw said.

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As he waited for Air Force One’s arrival at the airport with other Trump supporters, Juan Fiol of Miami dismissed Mueller’s refusal to completely rule out wrongdoing by the president.

The report says Trump’s “actions and intent presents difficult issues” and “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state …Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

“It’s not Mueller’s job to exonerate him,” Fiol countered. “He’s been vindicated. There’s no collusion, no evidence of anything. It’s 100 percent faux narrative, fake news.”

Another member of the tarmac welcoming crew, Sylvia Kahana of Parkland, said the Mueller report “just made a statement that we all knew, those who support Trump. We all knew that it (the Russia investigation) was a distraction and a waste of time.”

Among a group of Trump opponents awaiting Trump’s motorcade in front of the Southdale Shopping Center on Southern Boulevard, Vickie LeHuray of West Palm Beach said she wasn’t buying Mueller’s finding that there was not enough evidence to support criminal charges of conspiracy between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government.

“I believe that he did collude … We have to see what else is out there,” said LeHuray.

Brenda Macedo of Lake Worth didn’t read the report but said she listened to CNN, ABC and Fox on Thursday and believes there was collusion. She also accused Attorney General William Barr of obstructing justice.

“If you’re stupid enough to believe the meeting in Trump Tower was about Russian adoption, you’re stupid enough to vote for him … I believe in my heart that the American people think Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of the United States,” Macedo said.

Farther east along the motorcade route, where a large group of Trump supporters regularly gather to cheer the president, Donald Tarca Jr., 52, of Boynton Beach, said he hadn’t read Mueller’s report, but watched Barr’s news conference Thursday.

Tarca was pleased with what Barr said.

“He explained how the president complied with everything asked for,” Tarca said.

Another Trump supporter, Jane Justice of West Palm Beach, said Barr has done an “excellent” job and she is confident the president did nothing wrong. “Don’t you think if they had something on Trump, it would’ve come out?” she said.

Trump is making his 24th visit to Palm Beach as president. He is expected to return to Washington on Sunday.

Staff writers Christine Stapleton, Sam Howard and Chris Persaud contributed to this story.

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© 2019 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.