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Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

At his press conference on the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report Thursday, Attorney General Bill Barr shed some light on why he decided the evidence Mueller set out was "not sufficient to establish" that President Trump obstructed justice.

What he's saying: "Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation," Barr said on Thursday morning.

The big picture: Any case for "obstruction of justice" has to demonstrate that said obstruction was driven by corrupt motives. Barr said on Thursday that Mueller's special counsel found 10 episodes of the president potentially obstructing justice, but that it's important to "bear in mind the context."

"President Trump faced an unprecedented situation.  As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates.  At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability.  Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.  And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.
Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.  And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation."

Why it matters: Barr and Rosenstein's decision isn't surprising, since the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel determined in 1973 and 2000 that a president cannot be prosecuted as it limits the White House's ability to function. But applying this federal code to POTUS is still mostly "new ground," according to Politifact.

Background: Obstructing justice is when someone intentionally interferes or attempts to interfere with an ongoing investigation with corrupt intent, according to U.S. Code Chapter 73. Punishments can range from fines or imprisonment up to 20 years (or both). The federal code has 21 statutes laying out the different ways to obstruct justice, including:

  • Tampering with, retaliating against or intimidating a witness, victim, or informant
  • Influencing or injuring an officer of the U.S. or a juror
  • Falsifying or stealing records
  • Someone who "obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding" — or even if they attempt to do so

Go deeper: Mueller report lists 10 episodes of potential Trump obstruction

Go deeper

12 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

13 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 13 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

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