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Trump intensified attacks on Mueller report before release

JONATHAN LEMIRE

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump intensified his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in the hours before the report was submitted Friday.

The president, speaking to reporters on the White House lawn before leaving for meetings at his Florida estate, again repeated his claim that "There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax. It's all a witch hunt."

Mueller's report has not been released publicly. Attorney General William Barr released a letter noting his plans to write his own account of Mueller's findings and advise Congress of its principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.

Justice Department regulations require only that Mueller give the attorney general a confidential report that explains the decisions to pursue or decline prosecutions. That could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.

Barr is required only to say the investigation has concluded and describe or explain any times when he or Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed "was so inappropriate or unwarranted" that it should not be pursued. Barr has already said that the Justice Department denied none of Mueller's requests.

Trump and his allies have spent nearly two years trying to discredit Mueller. But the president has grown increasingly confident the report will produce what he has insisted all along: no clear evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and his 2016 campaign. And Trump and his advisers are considering how to weaponize those possible findings for the 2020 race, painting the probe as a failed coup while railing against investigations launched by House Democrats.

Even if Mueller's final report does not implicate the president in criminal conduct, the investigation was far from fruitless. His team charged 34 people, including six Trump associates, and three companies. His prosecutors revealed a sweeping criminal effort by Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and showed that people connected to the Trump campaign were eager to exploit emails stolen from Democrats.

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