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Special counsel Robert Mueller report finally releases, and the country goes nuts.

Federal

Robert Mueller’s (redacted) report is out! Florida pols react

Responses predictably broke along partisan lines.

The U.S. Justice Department today released a highly anticipated report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The document wraps up relevant findings of a two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A pdf of the 448-page report is available here.

Political leaders in Florida quickly offered their own reactions to the report. Most responses did not differ significantly from those that came after Attorney General William Barr released his own summary of the findings.

At the time, Democrats largely demanded the release of more information, and with large redactions in the new release, calls for transparency sounded anew. Mueller did not draw a conclusion about whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice. But many Democrats continue to ask why Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined there wasn’t sufficient evidence of that offense.

Barr held a news conference Thursday morning to explain that determination. The decision to do so already drew criticism from House Judiciary Chair Jerold Nadler, who said Barr is be waging a media campaign on behalf of Trump. Florida Reps. Val Demings and Ted Deutch stood alongside Nadler on Wednesday night for a news conference on the matter.

Republicans, meanwhile, focused on a fundamental finding of Mueller. The counsel determined nobody with the Trump presidential campaign conspired or knowingly coordinated with Russia’s efforts at meddling.

Before the Mueller report was delivered, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi already made clear she held no interest in impeachment hearings. Whether the release of the full report amplifies calls for action remains to be seen.

But many Republican members, including those in Florida, cast the report as vindication for the President. Several said the important findings from Mueller relate to President Barack Obama’s administration and whether Justice officials wrongly spied on Trump’s campaign during the election.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, said the entire Mueller investigation wrongly undermined Trump from nearly the beginning of his term.

“What AG Barr said was right,” he tweeted. “@ was always frustrated in discussions w me that the # was baselessly making it harder for America 2 lead the world. Imagine beating 16 Republicans, the [Hillary] Clinton machine, the media, the establishment … and then this.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panhandle Republican, commended Barr and said the Democrats were continuing a “witch hunt.”

“I commend Attorney General Barr for his timely release of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and for his commitment to transparency for the American people. I look forward to reviewing the report over the coming days,” he said in a statement. 

“The House voted unanimously to release the report and that is exactly what the Attorney General has done. By working directly with the Special Counsel on necessary redactions, I believe he has more than fulfilled his promise and it is time for Democrats in Congress to end their witch hunt and get back to work. Attorney General Barr also confirmed that the Special Counsel had the full cooperation of the White House throughout his investigation. Unfortunately, Democrats will never be happy with the truth and they have made it clear that they will continue to waste time and resources until they create the result they want.”

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, also praised transparency by Barr.

“I am glad Attorney General Barr has released as much of Special Counsel Mueller’s report as permissible by law and the White House did not redact information through executive privilege,” he said in a statement. “This allows the public to see the underlying evidence and analysis confirming there was no Russian collusion nor clear elements of obstruction of justice by President Trump or any of his campaign officials.

“I hope this saga can finally come to an end and we can get back to work on behalf of the American people.”

And Rutherford, unlike many colleagues on either side, criticized Mueller in a video saying he should have exonerated the president clearly.

“Folks, if you don’t find a crime, you don’t any choice but to exonerate. That is an exoneration, when you can’t prove a crime. And so in this case, the Special Counsel has decided we are not going to find that the president committed a crime but we are not going to exonerate him either. This is, I think, not a proper finding by the special prosecutor.

“And so I go back to the question that Attorney General Barr has raised, and that is, what is the predicate act that started his entire investigation. And that is the Steele Dossier apparently, and if it turns out that that is the predicate act that started this whole investigation and it proves to be false, then this whole investigation falls like a house of cards.

“What makes America different, and what makes America’s criminal justice system different from dictatorships in communist countries all across the world, is the fact we don’t just go in and investigate people. We investigate crimes.

“Attorney General Barr is absolutely right. He wants to get to the bottom of this spying on the President and determine was there a legitimate predicate act that started that spying and resulted in this report that you see in front of you. I encourage the continued investigation of the investigators, and Attorney General Barr is picking up that investigation. I’m anxiously awaiting to see what he discovers as far as the predicate act that started this whole thing two years ago.”

But U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Jacksonville Democrat, said he’s not satisfied with the heavily redacted report.

“It is important that the full Mueller Report be released to Congress, not the highly redacted version we were presented with today,” he said in a statement.

“Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation concluded potential obstruction, but that is being brushed over by Attorney General Barr. We know 25 Russian intelligence operatives were charged with interference, and six Trump aides were indicted or convicted of conspiracy or lying to investigators. There was also evidence presented that President Trump attempted to prevent an investigation into his campaign and his own conduct. The President has the responsibility to be transparent as we work to restore the trust of the American people.

“I would like to move forward and focus on the critical issues that matter most, but I also want to make certain that our leaders at the highest level are held accountable.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, an Orlando Democrat, focused on disturbing revelations about Russian interference.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, noted that while Barr asserted there was no evidence of obstruction by the President, Mueller actually investigated 10 instances of potential obstruction.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, scoffed at Barr’s suggestion the President’s mindset should be taken into account when determining crimes.

After the report was released, Demings spent much of the day spotlighting damning parts, including documenting Trump telling Attorney General Jeff Sessions his presidency was “over” after Mueller’s appointment.

She also put out a lengthy statement, along with the most damaging portions on the report.

“The Mueller Report documents how the President of the United States ‘welcomed’ a foreign attack on our 2016 election, engaged in a cover-up, and worked to obstruct the law enforcement officers tasked with investigating it,” Demings said.

“Special Counsel Mueller has found staggering evidence of corruption, abuse of power, and obstruction of justice by President Trump and his associates. Six of the president’s closest advisers were indicted on federal charges, and it appears that the only thing preventing the President from joining them on charges of obstruction of justice may have been the Department of Justice rule that a sitting President cannot be indicted.

“The Special Counsel explained the limits of his investigation, and it made clear that he expects the next phase of work to fall to Congress. I strongly support Chair Nadler’s decision to issue a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller Report and all underlying materials. Additionally, as required by federal law, Attorney General Barr must immediately provide all relevant counterintelligence materials to the House Intelligence Committee.

“It is deeply disappointing that Attorney General Barr chose to ignore the Special Counsel’s clear suggestion that obstruction of justice concerns should be handled by Congress, not the President’s political appointee. Mr. Barr has delivered a blow to justice by choosing to abandon his duties as Attorney General in order to act like the President’s press secretary.

“We deserve far more from our President than a non-indictment. This report lays out a pattern of dishonesty, corruption, and criminal behavior which is unacceptable in an American president.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Tampa Democrat, found much fault on Trump’s part in the report.

“The Mueller Report makes clear that the Trump campaign knowingly trafficked in emails stolen by Russian operatives and channeled by WikiLeaks for the purpose of winning the 2016 election. Those actions may not be criminal, but they are highly unethical.

“It is also clear the President attempted to obstruct the Mueller investigation for fear it would undermine his presidency. Special Counsel Mueller remained neutral on whether those actions were criminal, leaving it to Congress to decide on the appropriate course.

“The actions of the President as documented in the Mueller report are unprecedented and cause for serious concern. I will be discussing the report with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and look forward to hearings in the coming weeks that will further flesh out the issues at stake.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, also expressed her frustration.

“Every American should be outraged that the Russian government attacked our presidential election to boost Donald Trump and that Trump’s response to this ‘information warfare’ was to embrace it. While the Special Counsel did not have sufficient evidence to charge Trump or his campaign associates with ‘conspiracy,’ the report is a damning indictment of Trump’s contempt for the high ideals that Americans hold for our presidential candidates and presidents. Russia broke the law and Trump cheered them on.

“The Special Counsel charged and convicted numerous Trump campaign and administration officials for lying under oath to cover up their actions. The Special Counsel also determined that Trump may have acted unlawfully in obstructing justice and the Counsel should explain his findings before Congress.

“Now, the American people and the Congress must determine the ultimate outcome. For me, the report laid bare Trump’s corrupt, selfish and disgraceful actions. Trump relishes dividing our great country — and I regret that the Russians have prevailed in their goals through him.”

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican, applauded the report’s release before it even arrived.

“I applaud Attorney General Barr releasing the Mueller report for the American people to read and make up their own mind. It’s time to put this collusion delusion aside and work together in the best interest of the American people.”

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, saw the report as clearing Trump and said the public can now read it to see.

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, said Democrats should stop further “antics.”

“I’m pleased to see that Attorney General Barr has followed the will of Congress and released the Mueller Report. After nearly two years of investigation by over 40 FBI personnel including over 2,800 subpoenas, nearly 500 search warrants, and over 500 witness interviews, we have what the President’s opponents have been asking for — the report,” he said in a statement.

“Like the initial findings from Attorney General Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and other top officials at the Department of Justice, the report confirms what we knew all along — there was no collusion and no obstruction. It’s time to move forward.

“However, today, Democrats have made it clear they have no intention of moving on. For the last two years, they have refused to accept the results of the 2016 election and their reactions to the report today make it apparent that they will continue to attack the President and his associates. They continue to feed into this circus because they don’t want to talk about real issues and their radical policy proposals that will do nothing but hurt the American people. They don’t want to talk about their socialist Green New Deal and Medicare for All or discuss opening our borders and letting illegal immigrants flood in, so instead, they will continue to attack President Trump in whatever way they can.

“I for one am tired of their antics and think it’s time to get back to the business of making America great.”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, said the report hardly clears Trump.

“In contrast to President Trump’s repeated assertions that the Special Counsel’s report exonerates him from wrongdoing, the report identifies no fewer than 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the President. Even in its redacted form, the Special Counsel’s report states verbatim that it ‘does not exonerate him.’

“There is quite simply no way to read the report and arrive at the conclusion that the President has been exonerated. It is deeply disturbing that the Attorney General is providing political cover for the President rather than meeting the responsibilities of his position.

“Congress will continue to exercise its power to investigate and review the damaging evidence in this report and act as a check against abuses of power.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, a Boca Raton Democrat, shared full black pages of redactions on Twitter. She issued a statement of disappointment in Barr.

“Despite redactions and spin from Trump and his loyalists, we know without a doubt that Russia interfered in our 2016 presidential election in aid of Donald Trump and that there is substantial evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct. House Democrats are taking immediate action to get the full Mueller report in order for Congress to perform our constitutionally mandated responsibilities of oversight. Sadly it is obvious that William Barr is acting as an agent of Donald Trump and not as the Attorney General of the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, suggested Congress must investigate the findings further.

“10 episodes of potential obstruction and the AG says they all were A-okay. AND THE AG DISAGREED WITH THE SPECIAL COUNSEL’S LEGAL ANALYSIS. This is a biased AG countering Mueller to protect the president. Let’s see the 10 acts of obstruction and Congress will decide.

“Barr’s mendacity at spinning and inserting himself wrongly into the process is jaw-dropping — even for a Trump appointee. The Mueller report is no exoneration. It is a to-do list for the Judiciary Committee and we will investigate every fact and conclusion.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Sunrise Democrat who resigned as DNC chair after a hack on the organization’s servers, held a news conference addressing Mueller’s findings in detail. Beyond accusing Trump of dodging an obstruction charge, she said there is plenty of reason to believe the campaign did collude with Russia.

“Despite the heavy redactions, it is perhaps the most comprehensive look we have yet at how our democracy was hacked in 2016, and who was responsible for it,” Wasserman Schultz said of the report. “Sadly, what this report details is 400 pages of dark, deceptive Nixonian-like behavior by this President and his team. Despite the Attorney General substituting as the President’s personal counsel this morning, this report shows that Trump has not been fully cooperative in this investigation.

“He refused to be interviewed directly, or answer any follow-up questions. His team destroyed evidence. He attempted to get Mueller and many others fired to stop the investigation. So Trump did not fully cooperate. And, we now know, for obvious reasons.

“It is clear to me that the President and his team worked with the Russians — or willingly accepted Moscow’s help and the President himself encouraged it — in order to allow a foreign enemy to influence our democracy. What has been very dispiriting to me is to see how recklessly and eagerly Trump has been willing to damage our nation’s institutions just to cover it all up.

“He’s trashed law enforcement, challenged the rule of law and our judiciary, and even threatened the check of Constitutional and Congressional oversight, all just to hide his bedding down with Putin.

“Clearly, we have long known that Trump behaves in an ethically and morally repugnant manner. He regularly spreads falsehoods, and often puts personal gain over patriotism. We did not need Special Counsel Muller’s report to tell us that. But his report exhaustively documents these sad facts, and they will be there for all of history to judge.

“It’s a damaging and disturbing document. And that’s likely why Attorney General Barr has not been honest with the American public about it, especially on the issue of obstruction of justice. Clearly, Attorney General Barr is now acting as Trump’s personal general counsel when it comes to this report. Barr, like the President, has not been an honest broker with the American public.

“Finally, it is too soon to conclude that impeachment proceedings are necessary. I’m still reviewing details of this lengthy report. And I saw an unsettling number of redactions, which hopefully we can find out more about. Plus, Congress must hear from Mueller and see the documents underlying it.

“We have a clear mandate from the report to determine whether the President obstructed justice. We will immediately take up this responsibility and see where it leads.”

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, focused on evidence Mueller uncovered of Russian meddling.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, questioned the Justice Department’s impartiality, even comparing the situation to corruption in South American countries.

“Since the report came out earlier today, my staff and I have been going through it and closely examining both the evidence and the findings.

“First, I am concerned about Attorney General Barr’s leadership and his mishandling of the investigation. He appears willing to undermine the independence of his own Department in order to protect President Trump. Barr has been dishonest in saying the President is clear of wrongdoing. Barr’s previous summary he provided to Congress was not the full picture.

“Mueller writes: ‘if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would state so. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.’ 

 “Mueller then writes a ‘thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would have risen to personal and political concerns.’

“I am troubled not just by how Barr released the report but also by the evidence that is in the report and the amount of redacted material. There are numerous examples of Trump and those close to him obstructing justice, including destroying evidence and exerting undue influence over people involved in the investigation. The report makes clear that the President refused to be interviewed by the Special Counsel and refused to provide written answers to follow-up questions. 

“I am looking forward to both Attorney General Barr and Robert Mueller testifying before the Judiciary Committee. As Chairman Nadler said earlier this afternoon, Barr will be testifying before the Committee on May 2nd. There are many issues with the report that Barr must address, and we also expect Robert Mueller to testify regarding his investigation.

“The Administration must be held accountable for acts that have bordered on criminality. The Justice Department must provide Congress with the full report and must provide as much information as possible. The American people deserve to know the truth.

“In my life, I have witnessed foreign leaders abuse their powers and break down democratic institutions. In the United States, we cherish the separation of powers and our system of checks and balances. The same cannot be said for other countries. I am worried that President Trump is undermining countless democratic values.”

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, a Miami Democrat, said the report hardly clears the President.

“I agree with @ and Chairman @ that we need to hear from Mr. Mueller directly in order to get the facts, and not more political spin from Attorney General Barr and the Administration. Congress — but more importantly the American people — deserves the truth and deserves information that is free of partisanship and politics. It’s disappointing that we have to fight for such basic things.”

State Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and co-chair of Trump’s Florida campaign in 2016, said the report should end the debate about the President’s innocence.

“Democrats have spent the last two years lying about collusion,” he said.

“They have called for investigations, a special counsel, the full report, and for Mueller to testify publicly. Special Counsel Robert Mueller conducted an exhaustive and expensive investigation that confirmed there was no collusion. Today, Attorney General William Barr confirmed there was no obstruction. It is clear that Democrats just want to attack President Trump. It is time to end these baseless investigations and move forward.”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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