White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders faced some tough questions on Monday about her claim that President Trump has been totally exonerated on obstruction of justice.
Sanders was interviewed on Today the morning after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The White House has called the findings a complete exoneration, but while the summary does say Mueller found no evidence of collusion with Russia, Mueller specifically says Trump is not exonerated on obstruction and that he was leaving this determination to the attorney general. It was Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who subsequently determined there was insufficient evidence to show Trump obstructed justice.
Today's Savannah Guthrie made this point during her interview with Sanders on Monday, asking her, "Would you acknowledge it is incorrect for the president to call this a total exoneration?" Sanders' response? "Not at all. It is. It is a complete and total exoneration."
Sanders' basic argument was that Trump is still exonerated based on Barr and Rosenstein's conclusions, which resulted from evidence obtained by Mueller, even if Mueller himself did not make a determination either way. Guthrie raised some criticism that has been leveled at Barr, namely that he made his determination on obstruction in 48 hours after having previously said there was no obstruction of justice case against Trump, suggesting perhaps he made a "snap judgment."
"It's not a snap judgment," Sanders responded. She went on to say that "in the legal commnunity, when you can't convict somebody on something, you're exonerating them." Guthrie objected to this idea, responding, "You're not." Watch the exchange below. Brendan Morrow
When pressed Thursday by CNN's Jake Tapper on why the Trump administration is considering returning two Russian compounds to U.S. soil, White House aide Sebastian Gorka pointed to the importance of giving "collaboration, cooperation, a chance." "The fact is we may not share the same philosophy. We may not share the same type of statesman view of the world. But the fact is there are some issues of common concern," Gorka said of Russia.
The compounds were closed down by former President Barack Obama as punishment for Russia's interference in the U.S. presidential election, and Tapper wanted to know why there would be "the possibility of a reward when there is still this issue, this cloud, of Russia's election interference." "You don't think it's weak at all to let Russia go after having interfered in the 2016 election with no punishment at all?" Tapper asked.
Gorka scoffed. "The last thing you could say about Donald J. Trump after the last 25 weeks is that he's weak," Gorka said. "So what's the punishment for Russia?" Tapper countered.
Gorka went on about how Trump had "pressed and pressed" Russian President Vladimir Putin about election meddling during their meeting last week, before coming to the conclusion that it's time to just drop it. "At that point, you have to move on, because people are dying in Syria," Gorka said. "Jake, do you not care about the devastation, the half a million people killed?"
"Of course I do," Tapper responded. "Russia is killing some of those people."