Trump just walked back his claim that there was 'no obstruction' in the Mueller probe in a big way

Donald Trumpresident Donald Trump speaks during an Opportunity Zone conference with state, local, tribal and community leaders, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 17, 2019 in Washington, DCMark Wilson/Getty Images

  • President Donald Trump appeared to walk back his biggest claim about obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation while speaking to reporters on Thursday.
  • After the Justice Department released the special counsel Robert Mueller's report last month, Trump repeatedly boasted that Mueller found "no collusion" and "no obstruction," and that the report was a "total and complete exoneration" of him.
  • On Thursday, however, Trump said that there was "essentially" no obstruction.
  • The remark came after Trump went on a lengthy rant about how long the former White House counsel, Donald McGahn, spent testifying to Mueller's team about his interactions with the president.
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President Donald Trump was unequivocal after the special counsel Robert Mueller's findings in the Russia investigation were released last month.

There was "no collusion" and "no obstruction," Trump repeatedly said, adding that Mueller's report represented to a "total and complete exoneration" of him.

On Thursday, the president added an important qualifier, telling reporters there was "essentially" no obstruction of justice.

In its report, Mueller's team wrote that it declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether the president sought to thwart the Russia inquiry.

But it emphasized that this finding "does not exonerate" Trump.

Mueller's team added that it would not draw a conclusion on the question of obstruction because it was constrained by the Justice Department policy that states a sitting president cannot be indicted.

But prosecutors laid out an extensive road map of all the evidence they had collected in the investigation, which included 11 possible instances of obstruction of justice by the president.

Read more: Here are 11 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump outlined in the Mueller report

Mueller's team also indicated that it believed Congress would be well suited to investigate the question of obstruction using the evidence laid out in the final report. But Attorney General William Barr concluded before the report was released that Trump was not guilty of obstruction.

Trump's statement on Wednesday that there was "essentially" no obstruction came after he went on a lengthy rant about how long the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, spent testifying to Mueller's team.

McGahn was a critical witness in the obstruction probe, and the president has long been frustrated over what he told prosecutors.

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