US President Donald Trump sought to have special counsel Robert Mueller removed nearly two years ago from the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the long-awaited Mueller report revealed.

The Mueller Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election is pictured in New York, New York, on April 18, 2019.
The Mueller Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election is pictured in New York, New York, on April 18, 2019. (Reuters)

Public at last, special counsel Robert Mueller's report revealed to a waiting nation on Thursday that President Donald Trump had tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mueller's removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president.

The report said that in June 2017, Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest.

McGahn refused — deciding he would rather resign than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate firings fame.

For all of that, Mueller said in his report that he could not conclusively determine that Trump had committed criminal obstruction of justice.

The Justice Department posted a redacted version of the report online Thursday morning, 90 minutes after Attorney General William Barr offered his own final assessment of the findings at a press conference.

The two-volume, 448-page report recounts how Trump repeatedly sought to take control of the Russia probe.

Mueller evaluated 10 episodes for possible obstruction of justice, including Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, the president's directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate.

The president's lawyers said Trump's conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller's team deemed the episodes deserving of criminal scrutiny.

TRT World 's Courtney Kealy brings more from Washington, DC.

'No sufficient evidence'

Mueller reported that Trump had been agitated at the special counsel probe from its earliest days, reacting to Mueller's appointment by saying it was the "end of his presidency."

As for the question of whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mueller wrote, "While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges."

Mueller also said there wasn't sufficient evidence to charge any campaign officials with working as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia.

The report included an appendix that contained 12 pages of Trump's written responses to the special counsel. They included no questions about obstruction of justice, as was part of an agreement with Trump's legal team.

Soon after the release of the redacted report, Trump said "This should never happen to another president.

'Total victory' for Trump

Trump told Mueller he had "no recollection" of learning in advance about the much-scrutinised Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer. He also said he had no recollection of knowledge about emails setting up the meeting that promised dirt on Hillary Clinton's campaign.

He broadly denied knowing of any foreign government trying to help his campaign, including the Russian government. He said he was aware of some reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made "complimentary statements" about him.

Trump said that his comment during a 2016 political rally asking Russian hackers to help find emails scrubbed from Clinton's private server was made "in jest and sarcastically" and that he did not recall being told during the campaign of any Russian effort to infiltrate or hack computer systems.

Trump's legal team called the results "a total victory for the president."

Trump tweeted moments after Barr concluded his press conference, with an image inspired by the HBO show "Game of Thrones."

The image reads "No Collusion" and "No Obstruction" and then taunts Democrats with the phrase "Game Over."

'No collusion'

Earlier, Barr laid out in advance what he said was the "bottom line:" no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government hackers.

While Mueller drew no conclusion about whether Trump had obstructed justice in the investigation, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein personally had concluded that while Trump was "frustrated and angry" about the Mueller probe, nothing the president did rose to the level of an "obstruction-of-justice offence."

And he said the president's personal attorney had requested and gotten a chance to review the report before its public release.

Barr said that he and deputy Rod Rosenstein disagreed with some of Mueller's "legal theories" pertaining to obstruction of justice. But he said that didn't influence their conclusion that Trump didn't commit a crime.

He said they set their feelings on the matter aside and accepted Mueller's "legal framework for purposes of our analysis" but still determined that the evidence gathered by Mueller was "not sufficient to establish" that Trump had violated the law.

The report's release represents a moment of closure nearly two years in the making and at the same time the starting bell for a new round of partisan warfare.

Moments after Barr concluded his press conference, House Judiciary Chairman Nadler sent a letter requesting that Mueller himself testify before his panel "no later than May 23."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies