Donald Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Sanders emerged from the White House Monday morning to give an interview on NBC’s The Today Show with host Savannah Guthrie following a weekend of intrigue and excitement in Washington, DC. Sanders was eager to trumpet the summary of the Mueller report given by Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr, who said that the report showed no evidence of collusion, but stopped short of saying that it cleared the President of accusations of obstruction.
That didn’t stop the President from falsely claiming on social media that the report completely absolved him of wrongdoing:
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
The interview got more than a little tense almost immediately, with Guthrie pointing out to Sanders that the letter absolutely does not exonerate Trump on obstruction charges, and in fact, even Barr’s summary of the report makes it a point to say as much. Sanders insisted that it did prove the President didn’t obstruct:
It is. It is a complete and total exoneration, and here’s why. Because the Special Counsel, they said they couldn’t make a decision one way or the other, the way the process works is, then they leave that up to the Attorney General. The Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General went through and based their decision on Mueller’s investigation. It wasn’t based on just their own ideas, their own thinking.”
But Guthrie questioned the fact that Trump’s Attorney General wrote a memo all the way back in June of 2018 that explicitly said there was no obstruction case — something entirely in line with the summary that he delivered about the report — and that 19-page memo was written before he’d seen any evidence from Mueller’s inquiry.
Sanders wasn’t quite done getting the legal aspects of the case wrong, either:
In the legal community, when you can’t convict somebody on something, you’re exonerating them, legally exonerating them.”
That is perhaps the logic that the Trump White House intends to stick with, but it’s a long way removed from the truth. Armchair lawyers who sit at home watching Investigation Discovery shows can tell you that sometimes a prosecutor cuts a deal that drops some charges in favor of others — but it certainly doesn’t mean that the perpetrator didn’t commit those crimes. Simply not having enough proof to convict someone beyond a reasonable doubt is a far cry from saying they’ve done nothing wrong.
What’s more, many believe that Barr used creative interpretations in his summary to expressly exclude things that there is evidence of: Rather than saying the report found no collusion with “Russians” Barr specifically said “the Russian government.” But that leaves out people we publicly know there’s evidence of collusion with — Natalia Veselnitskaya, who made a deal with Junior to exchange dirt on Hillary for sanctions relief, has connections to the Kremlin, but isn’t currently in the government. Konstantin Kilimnik, who Paul Manafort sold polling data to, is ex-Russian intelligence, but not currently in the government.
Until the Mueller report is released in full, there is absolutely no reason to trust what so far has amounted to a partisan interpretation of the findings.
In the meantime, you can watch Sanders squirm in the interview here:
Featured image via screen capture