Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) took a step toward siding with special counsel Robert Mueller over President Donald Trump.
The Ohio Republican refused to call the 448-page Mueller report an "exoneration" of the president, as many conservatives and GOP lawmakers have, and even criticized Trump's behavior documented in the special counsel's findings, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
"The report confirms there was no conspiracy or collusion to violate the U.S. law between Russia and the Trump campaign," Portman said in a statement released Friday.
"Second, while the report documents a number of actions taken by the president or his associates that were inappropriate," he added, "the special counsel reach no conclusion on obstruction of justice. Attorney General Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein have concluded that the Special Counsel’s investigation did not include sufficient evidence to warrant any obstruction of justice charges."
Republicans have seized on the fact that Mueller wrapped up his investigation last month without issuing any new indictments or documenting conclusive evidence of a conspiracy with Russia, and the special counsel examined 10 episodes of possible obstruction without charging Trump.
So Portman's criticism stands out, even though it's far milder than characterizations by most Democrats, and he called on Congress to prevent Russia from engaging in efforts in future elections that were documented in Mueller's investigation of the 2016 campaign.
"There are new details about the extent to which the Russians worked to undermine our democracy," said Portman, who is traveling with other senators in Vietnam, "and I hope that the House and Senate review these findings carefully and continue to work together to ensure this type of election interference never, ever happens again."