Attorney General William Barr said that special counsel Robert Mueller's 22-month investigation produced "no evidence of any collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia during a press conference Thursday held hours before the release of the special counsel report.
"After two years of investigation the special counsel did confirm Russian meddling in 2016 campaign but no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia," Barr said.
Barr's categorical description puts to rest the suggestion by many of the president's critics that, while Barr's summary of the report made clear that Mueller could not prove criminal coordination beyond a reasonable doubt, his report would likely include some evidence of same.
The special counsel report, Barr explained, features two sections related to Russian interference: one dealing with the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA), which worked to disseminate political disinformation on social media, and another addressing the hacking of internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by Russian intelligence.
According to Barr's description of Mueller's findings, no one associated with the Trump campaign, or any American, coordinated with the Russians to further either operation.
"The special counsel found no evidence that any Americans - including anyone associated with the Trump campaign - conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme." Barr said. "Put another way, the Special Counsel found no 'collusion' by any Americans in the IRA's illegal activity."
Barr went on to directly addressed the allegation that someone associated with the Trump campaign, namely political operative Roger Stone, coordinated with Wikileaks to time the release of hacked DNC emails for maximum political effect.
"The Special Counsel's investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet. The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication," he said.
"Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps. The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts," he continued. "Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the Special Counsel's report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials."
Stone has long maintained that his communications with Trump campaign officials regarding Wikileaks' activities, which were seized upon by critics who believe he coordinated with the operation, were merely speculative and not based on any inside information.