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UN deadlock on Ukraine peacekeepers

Ukraine rejects Putin proposal for UN peacekeepers to protect OSCE observers on conflict contact line

Alexander Mercouris

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This article was first published by RussiaFeed

On 5th September 2017, during his press conference at the latest BRICS summit in China, President Putin of Russia unexpectedly announced a proposal for the UN Security Council to organise a lightly armed force of peacekeepers to provide protection to observers from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) who are patrolling the contact line between the militia in the Donbass and the Ukrainian army.

Putin’s words at the press conference were as follow

Vladimir Putin: This is impossible to do via the General Assembly, because UN peacekeepers cannot function other than pursuant to Security Council resolutions. But that is not the point.

You are saying that someone wants to push something through. In fact, I do not see anything wrong with that. I have already said many times that I support the idea of arming the OSCE mission, but the OSCE itself refuses to arm its field personnel, since it has neither the relevant people nor the experience of such work.

In this context, I believe that the presence of UN peacekeepers, not even peacekeepers, but those who provide security for the OSCE mission, is quite appropriate and I do not see anything wrong with that; on the contrary, I believe that this would help resolve the situation in southeastern Ukraine. Of course, we can talk only about ensuring the security of the OSCE staff. This is my first point.

The second point is that, in this regard, these forces should be located on the demarcation line only and on no other territories.

Thirdly, this issue should be resolved only after disengaging the parties and removing the heavy equipment. This cannot be resolved without direct contact with representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic.

I believe that if all this is done, it would definitely benefit resolving the situation in southeastern Ukraine. We will consider this as instructions to the Foreign Ministry to submit a relevant resolution to the Security Council.

This proposal has not been fully analysed, but what Putin proposed here was not a truly a “peacekeeping force” but rather a small lightly armed contingent whose task would have been to carry out bodyguard protection duties for the unarmed OSCE observers in the conflict zone.

Here it is worth pointing out that the presence of the OSCE observers in the Donbass conflict zone goes back to the spring of 2014, when it was actually proposed by Putin.  Putin’s latest proposal therefore represented an attempt by the Russians to strengthen an OSCE mission which is present in the Donbass conflict zone at their original instigation.

Behind Putin’s proposal is Russian frustration that the OSCE mission has proved ineffective in ramping down the conflict, with many though by no means all its field reports more favourable to the Ukrainian side in a way that the Russians undoubtedly feel is biased.  Introducing a small number of lightly armed UN peacekeepers drawn from a variety of countries – including non-Western countries – to the conflict zone might not merely make the OSCE mission more effective but might also correct this imbalance.

Putin’s proposal has received strong support from elements within the German government, who are becoming increasingly concerned that as a result of the indefinite perpetuation of EU sanctions EU-Russian relations – and therefore German-Russian relations – are becoming deadlocked.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, currently the most popular politician in Germany and a former leader of the SPD, has spoken of Putin’s proposal in enthusiastic terms

What we need to do now is to carry out negotiations aimed at the implementation of such a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry. Thanks to the Russian proposal we are able to do this now……

I advise all participants not to say that we won’t do this because not all of our demands are met, but to openly discuss with the Russian Federation the conditions of a UN mission,” Gabriel said.

The deployment, if successful in bringing about a lasting ceasefire, would pave the way for political settlement, Gabriel said, adding that “then, we will be able to begin lifting sanctions imposed on Russia.”

German Chancellor Merkel has been much more cautious.  However she has also signalled that Putin’s proposal has her backing, subject to Putin’s agreement – which she secured in a telephone conversation with Putin on 11th September 2017 – that the proposed UN peacekeepers should be able to go anywhere within the conflict zone that the OSCE observers go, and not just the contact line.  Here is how the Kremlin’s website describes this part of the conversation

Vladimir Putin spoke in detail on the Russian initiative to establish a UN mission to aid the protection of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM). Taking into account the views communicated by Angela Merkel, the Russian leader expressed readiness to add to the functions of the above-mentioned UN mission proposed in the Russian draft resolution of the Security Council.

The protection of OSCE observers by the UN is envisioned not only on the contact line after the disengagement of the forces and equipment of both sides, but also in other places where the OSCE SMM conducts its inspection visits in accordance with the Minsk Package of Measures.

However for the same reasons that Putin made the proposal Ukraine opposes it.  Just as the Russians want to secure a ceasefire in the Donbass, so Ukraine adamantly opposes a ceasefire since that might increase pressure on Ukraine to fulfil the political provisions of the February 2015 Minsk Agreement, which are totally unacceptable to Ukraine.

Beyond this there are two points about Putin’s proposal which the Ukrainians must find especially infuriating.

The first is the demand in Putin’s proposal that the remit of the UN peacekeepers be agreed through direct negotiations between the Ukrainian government and the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

Direct talks between the Ukrainian government and the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics were in fact envisaged by the February 2015 Minsk Agreement, which Ukraine has signed.  Such direct talks have however never happened.  The Ukrainian government adamantly opposes them since it correctly sees such talks as conferring legal recognition on the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as parties to the conflict, thereby admitting that it is an internal Ukrainian conflict (as the Russians say) and not a case of aggression against Ukraine by Russia (as the Ukrainians say).

The Ukrainian stance has been well explained by Oleg Nemenensky, a senior researcher at Russia’s Institute of Strategic Studies.  In an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia partly republished by TASS he explained the reasons for Ukraine’s negative reaction to Putin’s proposal in this way

This means that the conflict in Ukraine is recognized as internal, which is inadmissible for the Kiev authorities, since it destroys the whole ideological of its policy. In addition, to introduce peacekeepers to the line of demarcation, it is necessary to recognize the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic as parties to the conflict. That contradicts the entire propaganda system built on the fact that the war is being waged with Russia,

The second reason for Ukrainian anger is that Putin’s proposal, by referring to “UN peacekeepers”, sought to preempt Western opposition to the proposal by using language previously proposed by Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has been lobbying for years for a “UN peacekeeping force” to be deployed along the border between Russia and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.  Russia has consistently rejected this proposal, pointing out correctly that it is the contrary to the provisions of the 2015 Minsk Agreement.

Behind Russian opposition to this Ukrainian proposal is the belief in Moscow – which is almost certainly correct – that its purpose is to ‘seal’ the border between Russia and the two People’s Republics, cutting off the militia’s supply lines to Russia so as to enable the Ukrainian army to carry out an operation similar to Operation Storm: the military offensive in 1995 by the Croatian army, which led to the destruction of the Serb republic of Krajina.

Recently the Ukrainians have been re floating their longstanding proposal, leading possibly to calculations in Moscow that if some of the language of the Ukrainian proposal were used it would defuse Western opposition to Putin’s proposal, which is in reality a completely different one.

With the Germans this appears to have worked up to a point.  However, perhaps contrary to Russian hopes, the Trump administration – or perhaps more accurately the hardliners currently in the ascendant within it – has sided with Ukraine.

The result is that the negotiations in the UN Security Council on Putin’s proposal appear to be deadlocked, with the Ukrainians making a counter-proposal that refers to Russia as the “aggressor”.  As Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesman, has pointed out, such language cannot be accepted by Russia, and is clearly intended to wreck the proposal

While commenting on the wording suggested by Kiev, he said it was unacceptable. “If they take such a position and claim that Russia is an aggressor, then it leaves little room to manoeuvre,” Peskov said. According to him, such position “disregards the actual situation” as Russia is not a party to the conflict but one of the guarantors of the Minsk Agreements, “which are the basis of the settlement process.”

The Kremlin spokesman pointed out that “Russia and President Putin have more than once expressed readiness to do everything possible to achieve a compromise, but any compromise has its degree of reasonableness and acceptability.” When asked if the Kremlin had studied the Kiev-drafted resolution, Peskov said that diplomats were working on that.

Given the stance Ukraine is taking, Putin’s proposal is now all but dead.  Its only prospect for implementation is if the two other states involved in the Minsk Agreement – Germany and France – put pressure on Ukraine to accept it.  As to that, though the Germans and the French have frequently expressed exasperation at Ukraine’s intransigence – especially in private – they have in practice always drawn back from putting on Ukraine the sort of pressure that might force it to compromise.  Unfortunately that looks unlikely to change.

If deadlock was always the likeliest outcome to the Russian proposal, why did Putin make it?

The Russians have been receiving conflicting signals from the Trump administration about the Ukrainian conflict, and it may be that the proposal was in part floated in order to flush the Trump administration out: to see whether or not it is genuinely interested in a negotiated settlement of the Ukrainian conflict.  If so then the Russians have their answer: for the moment the hardliners within the Trump administration are in the ascendant, with US support for Ukraine’s Maidan government as strong as ever.

However the likeliest reason is that the Russians made their proposal with an eye to the German elections, which are due on Sunday.

The Russians have undoubtedly noticed the growing weariness in Germany with Merkel even if she is still likely to win the election on Sunday, and they have undoubtedly noticed the anger in Germany over the latest sanction law passed by the US Congress.

Putin’s proposal seems to have been pitched to underline the point – widely known in Germany, though publicly resisted by Merkel – that it is Ukraine’s intransigence not Russia’s ‘aggression’ which is prolonging the conflict.  With AfD, FDP and SDP politicians in the run up to the elections all making publicly known their deep skepticism about Merkel’s policy, and with doubts about the policy known to exist deep within Merkel’s CDU and – rather more openly – in the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the CSU, the Russians presumably felt that there was no harm in floating a proposal which would again show where the real obstacle to peace in Ukraine lies.

In other words the Russians are now starting to look beyond Merkel, assessing – almost certainly correctly – that even if she wins the election on Sunday as everyone expects, her time as Germany’s Chancellor is ending.

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K Pomeroy
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K Pomeroy

This article is wrong in many details. I believe Putin was not the first to suggest an OSCE mission in Ukraine. That suggestion came from the OSCE itself, when it composed the original Minsk agreements. Also, the OSCE do not need to be armed. Only one OSCE observer has ever died on the job: George Bishop, an American who was killed when his vehicle hit a landmine on the LPR side of the contact line in April 2017. There is much evidence that landmine was planted by Ukrainian saboteurs. Arming the OSCE, or “protecting” them with “lightly armed” UN “peacekeepsers”,… Read more »

Terry Ross
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Terry Ross

The OSCE did NOT compose the Minsk agreements. This was a hard fought negotiation over several days involving Ukraine and DPR/LPR, Russia and OSCE. As Forbes (from a US perspective) put it: The text of the agreement raises as many questions as it answers and sidesteps the thorniest issues. First, it calls for the “pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under OSCE supervision (and) the disarmament of all illegal groups.” Sounds good, but all other provisions are subject to strict timelines. This one is not. No deadline is given—I doubt… Read more »

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Both of the suggesed motivations — flush out the Trump Admin and a nod (shhh!, not “interference in the German election campaign!), are viable, and together. First, Putin made a move. The entire German “establishment” welcomed the move behind the scenes. They all want to get off the American coat-tails. Merkel even made her own move: she would be willing to mediate in the Korean crisis, and Putin welcomed that move. The Germans don’t like Trump’s bluster on Korea, and they don’t want US “lethal weapon aid” to Kiev. It is German-all-too-German, and therefore rather illusory, but the German view… Read more »

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Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part I – cold, hard reality

The full text of Attorney General William P Barr’s summary is here offered, with emphases on points for further analysis.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The conclusion of the Russiagate investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was a pivotal media watershed moment. Even at the time of this writing there is a great deal of what might be called “journalistic froth” as opinion makers and analysts jostle to make their takes on this known to the world. Passions are running very high in both the Democrat / anti-Trump camps, where the reactions range from despondency to determined rage to not swallow the gigantic red pill that the “no collusion with Russia” determination offers. In the pro-Trump camp, the mood is deserved relief, but many who support the President are also realists, and they know this conflict is not over.

Where the pivot will go and what all this means is something that will unfold, probably relatively quickly, over the next week or two. But we want to offer a starting point here from which to base further analysis. At this time, of course, there are few hard facts other than the fact that Robert Mueller III submitted his report to the US Attorney General, William Barr, who then wrote and released his own report to the public Sunday evening. We reproduce that report here in full, with some emphases added to points that we think will be relevant to forthcoming pieces on this topic.

The end of the Mueller investigation brings concerns, hopes and fears to many people, on topics such as:

  • Will President Trump now begin to normalize relations with President Putin at full speed?
  • In what direction will the Democrats pivot to continue their attacks against the President?
  • What does this finding to to the 2020 race?
  • What does this finding do to the credibility of the United States’ leadership establishment, both at home and abroad?
  • What can we learn about our nation and culture from this investigation?
  • How does a false narrative get maintained so easily for so long, and
  • What do we do, or what CAN we do to prevent this being repeated?

These questions and more will be addressed in forthcoming pieces. But for now, here is the full text of the letter written by Attorney General William Barr concerning the Russia collusion investigation.

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:
As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.
The Special Counsel’s Report
On Friday, the Special Counsel submitted to me a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c). This report is entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.
The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public. Below, I summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel’s report.
Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
The Special Counsel’s report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans including individuals associated with the Trump campaign joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The Special Counsel’s investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.
The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.
Obstruction of Justice.
The report’s second part addresses a number of actions by the President most of which have been the subject of public reporting that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion one way or the other as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
Status of the Department’s Review
The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel’s report will be a “confidential report” to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038, 37,040-41 (July 9, 1999). As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
Based on my discussions with the Special Counsel and my initial review, it is apparent that the report contains material that is or could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to “matter[s] occurring before grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B) Rule 6(e) generally limits disclosure of certain grand jury information in a criminal investigation and prosecution. Id. Disclosure of 6(e) material beyond the strict limits set forth in the rule is a crime in certain circumstances. See, e.g. 18 U.S.C. 401(3). This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.
Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. Separately, I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices. As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
* * *
As I observed in my initial notification, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” notifications to your respective Committees “would be in the public interest.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.9(c). I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.
Sincerely,
William P. Barr
Attorney General

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