Mueller Report

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The Mueller Report, formally titled Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, is the official report documenting the findings and conclusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 United States presidential election, allegations of conspiracy or coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, and allegations of obstruction of justice. The report was submitted to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019,[1] and a redacted version of the 448-page report was publicly released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 18, 2019. It is divided into two volumes.

Volume I of the report concluded that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election did occur "in sweeping and systematic fashion" and "violated U.S. criminal law".[2][3][4] It listed two methods by which Russia attempted to influence the election: firstly, a social media campaign by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) which supported the Trump presidential campaign, attacked the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, and aimed to "amplify political and social discord",[5][6][7] and secondly, Russian intelligence GRU conducting computer hacking and strategic releasing of damaging material from the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations.[8][9][10] The report identified links between Trump campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government,[11] about which several persons connected to the campaign made false statements and obstructed investigations.[12] However, the investigation did not establish that the campaign "coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities", and did not pursue any charges under conspiracy statutes and statutes governing foreign agents, with the exception of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates who were found guilty of criminal offenses stemming from their prior lobbying work for the Ukrainian Party of Regions.[12][13]

Volume II of the report addressed obstruction of justice. The investigation intentionally took an approach that could not result in a judgment that Trump committed a crime.[14][15][16] It also refrained from charging him because investigators abided by an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that a sitting president cannot stand trial,[17][18][19] and feared that charges would affect Trump's governing and possibly preempt impeachment.[15][18][20] Meanwhile, investigators felt it would be unfair to accuse Trump of a crime without charges and without a trial in which he could clear his name.[17][18][21] As such, the investigation "does not conclude that the President committed a crime"; however, "it also does not exonerate him".[6][22] This was because investigators were not confident that Trump was innocent after examining his intent and actions.[23][24][25][26] The report describes ten episodes where Trump could potentially have obstructed justice while president and one before he was elected,[27][28] noting he privately tried to "control the investigation" in multiple ways, but mostly failed to influence the investigation because his subordinates or associates refused to carry out his instructions.[29][30][31] The Special Counsel's office also concluded that Congress can decide whether Trump obstructed justice,[15] as Congress has the authority to take action against a president[32][33] in reference to potential impeachment proceedings.[34][35]

On March 24, Barr described the conclusions of the report to Congress in his letter, stating: "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",[36][37] further stating that "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".[38][39] On March 27, Mueller privately wrote to Barr, stating that the March 24 Barr letter "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of [the special counsel's] office's work and conclusions", resulting in "public confusion about critical aspects of the results of [the] investigation". Mueller requested Barr release the Mueller Report's introductions and executive summaries ahead of the report; Barr declined. On March 28, Mueller, in a call to Barr, reportedly expressed concerns about public misunderstandings of the obstruction investigation.[40] On May 1, Barr testified that he "didn't exonerate" Trump on obstruction;[41] and that neither he nor Rosenstein had reviewed the underlying evidence in the report.[42]

Contents

Background

The letter from United States Attorney General William Barr dated March 22, 2019, notifying leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees about the conclusion of the investigation

Impetus for investigation

On May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump dismissed the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, who had been leading an ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation into links between Trump associates and Russian officials.[44][45] This investigation began in July 2016 due to information[which?] on foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos of the Trump campaign.[46][47]

Over 130 Democratic lawmakers of the United States Congress called for a special counsel to be appointed in reaction to Comey's firing.[48] CNN reported that within eight days of Comey's dismissal, an FBI investigation on Trump for obstruction of justice was opened by the acting FBI Director at the time, Andrew McCabe, who cited multiple reasons including Comey's firing.[49] After McCabe was later fired from the FBI, he confirmed that he had opened the obstruction investigation, and gave additional reasons for its launch.[50]

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing his recusal of the Special Counsel investigation in March 2017

Eight days after Comey's dismissal, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller, under 28 CFR § 600.1, as special counsel to take over and expand an existing FBI counterintelligence investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, as well as the FBI investigation into links between Trump associates and Russian officials that Comey was leading.[45][51][52] The special counsel also took over the FBI investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice with Comey.[49] Rosenstein's authority to appoint Mueller arose due to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' March 2017 recusal of himself from investigations into the Trump campaign.[45][52][53]

Scope and mandate

According to its authorizing document,[43] which was signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on May 17, 2017, the investigation's scope included allegations that there were links or coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government[54][55] as well as "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation".[43] The authorizing document also included "any other matters within the scope of 28 CFR § 600.4(a)";[43] enabling the special counsel "to investigate and prosecute" any attempts to interfere with its investigation, "such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses".[56]

Proceedings of investigation

The Special Counsel investigation ran from May 17, 2017, to March 22, 2019, and resulted in thirty-four indictments, including against several former members of the Trump campaign and many of which are still being tried. The investigation issued over 2,800 subpoenas, executed almost 500 search warrants, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.[57]

Criminal investigation referrals

The Mueller Report included references to 14 criminal investigations that were referred to other offices, 12 of which were completely redacted. The other two related to Michael Cohen and Gregory Craig, cases that were already public.[58]

Events before public release

The special counsel concluded its investigation and submitted its report to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019.[1] Barr assumed oversight of the investigation on February 14, 2019, after being approved by the Senate and sworn in as Attorney General.[59][60] Barr had been previously critical of the investigation before Trump announced his intent to nominate Barr for Attorney General on December 7, 2018.[61][62][63] Barr's predecessor, Jeff Sessions, resigned on November 7, 2018, writing that it was at Trump's request.[64][65][66]

Barr letter

File:AG March 24 2019 Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees.pdf
The letter from Attorney General William Barr (known as the Barr letter) on March 24, 2019, to leaders of the House and Senate judiciary committees describing the principal conclusions of the special counsel's investigation.[67]

On March 24, 2019, Attorney General Barr sent Congress a four-page letter describing the special counsel's conclusions regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and obstruction of justice.[67] Barr relayed two ways in which Russia interfered in the election: firstly, "disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord"; and secondly, hacking computers for emails from the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic Party organizations.[67][68] Barr also quoted the report that the "investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities".[69]

On obstruction of justice, Barr wrote that the special counsel "did not draw a conclusion" on obstruction[70][71] and that "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".[72] Barr continued: "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".[73][74]

On Barr's decision to clear him on obstruction, Trump said in late April 2019 that Barr read the Mueller Report "and he made a decision right on the spot. No obstruction".[75][76]

After the release of the Barr Letter, media commentators pointed out that in June 2018, prior to joining the Trump administration, Barr sent an unsolicited 19-page memo to the Department of Justice and White House attorneys asserting that Mueller's investigation of President Trump for obstruction is "legally insupportable",[77][78][79][80] and "fatally misconceived".[81][82][83] Barr also discussed the memo with some of Trump's attorneys.

On March 27, 2019, Mueller wrote to Barr discussing the Barr letter. This was first reported on April 30, 2019. Mueller thought that the Barr letter "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of the findings of the special counsel investigation that he led. "There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation". Mueller also requested Barr release the Mueller Report's introductions and executive summaries.[40][84][85]

On March 28, 2019, Mueller, in a call to Barr, reportedly expressed concerns about public misunderstandings of the obstruction investigation due to media coverage.[40] On April 30, 2019, a spokeswoman from the Justice Department described the March 28 call between Mueller and Barr: "the Special Counsel emphasized that nothing in the Attorney General's March 24 letter was inaccurate or misleading. But, he expressed frustration over the lack of context and the resulting media coverage regarding the Special Counsel's obstruction analysis". Although they discussed whether more context could be provided via Barr releasing more of the report, Barr "ultimately determined that it would not be productive to release the report in piecemeal fashion".[40][86]

On March 29, 2019, Barr sent a subsequent letter to Congress in which he said that his March 24 letter was not a summary of the Mueller Report, but merely presented the report's principal conclusions. Barr also wrote that he would be volunteering to testify before Congress in early May.[40]

Barr testimony of April 9 and 10

On April 9, Attorney General Barr appeared in a congressional hearing before the House. There, Representative Charlie Crist described media reports that "members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24 letter, that it does not adequately or accurately portray the [Mueller] report's findings". Crist asked Barr: "Do you know what they are referencing with that?", Barr replied: "No, I don't. I think – I think – I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries".[87][88]

On April 10, Attorney General Barr appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee. There, Senator Chris Van Hollen asked Barr regarding obstruction: "Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?" Barr replied: "I don't know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion."[87][88]

Barr press conference

On April 18, Attorney General Barr held a press conference discussing the report 90 minutes before it was released to Congress and the public.[89] The press conference discussed redacted portions, and "ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense."[90][74]

Barr gave the following elaboration on his decision that the evidence was insufficient to warrant an obstruction of justice charge for Trump: "Although the deputy attorney general [Rod Rosenstein] and I disagreed with some of the special counsel's legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision. Instead, we accepted the special counsel's legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the special counsel in reaching our conclusion".[91]

Barr also mentioned that Trump's legal team received the redacted version of the report earlier in the week, adding that the president's lawyers "were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions".[74][92]

In the press conference, Barr asked that people look into the context, stating that President Trump "faced an unprecedented situation [...] federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates. [...] There was relentless speculation in the news media about the President's personal culpability", even though there was, according to Barr, "no collusion". Barr continued that there was "substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks".[93][94][95]

Also in the press conference, Barr said that he had asked Mueller "whether or not [Mueller] was taking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion" that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Barr continued that Mueller "made it very clear, several times, that he was not taking a position – he was not saying but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime".[96]

Some, including Chris Wallace of Fox News, observed that Barr appeared to behave more as Trump's defense attorney than as an attorney general in this press conference.[97][98][99][100][how?]

Following the Barr press conference, The New York Times noted that Barr wrote a 19-page memo to the Justice Department while not working for the government, in which he criticized this investigation for "proposing an unprecedented expansion of obstruction laws" that would result in "grave consequences" for the institution of the presidency. The New York Times continued that Barr had an "untrammeled view of executive power", and that the 2018 Barr memo "turned out to be an accurate road map to Mr. Barr's handling of the Mueller report".[101]

Public release of redacted report

On April 18, 2019, a redacted version of the special counsel's report was released to Congress and the public. About one-eighth of the lines are redacted.[90][102][103] The report is 448 pages long across two volumes and four appendices. It contains about 200,000 words and over 1100 footnotes. About 11% of the text is redacted.[104] 40% of the pages had at least one redaction,[105] and there were over 900 redacted text blocks in all.[106][107]

Barr described the four kinds of redactions in the released report: "harm to ongoing matter" (HOM) in Template:Redacted content, "personal privacy" (PP) in Template:Redacted content, "investigative technique" (IT) in Template:Redacted content, and "grand jury" material in Template:Redacted content.[108] Of those, only the grand jury redactions are required by law due to 6(e) of United States criminal procedure.[109][110][111] Barr characterized the report as being "lightly redacted".[112]

Volume I

Volume I starts on page 1 of the report. It focuses on Russian interference and allegations of conspiracy.[113]

Russian interference

The Mueller Report found that the Russian government "interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion" and "violated U.S. criminal law".[3][4][114] The report relayed two methods by which Russia attempted to influence the election.[67][68]

Social media campaign

The first method of Russian interference was done through the Internet Research Agency (IRA), waging "a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton."[6] The IRA also sought to "provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States".[5][115]

By February 2016, internal IRA documents showed an order to support the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, while IRA members were to "use any opportunity to criticize" Hillary Clinton and the rest of the candidates.[116] From June 2016, the IRA organized election rallies in the U.S. "often promoting" Trump's campaign while "opposing" Clinton's campaign.[117] The IRA posed as Americans, hiding their Russian background, while asking Trump campaign members for campaign buttons, flyers, and posters for the rallies.[118] The Mueller Report detailed that the IRA spent $100,000 for over 3,500 Facebook advertisements, which included anti-Clinton and pro-Trump advertisements.[118]

The report lists IRA-created groups on Facebook to include "purported conservative groups" (e.g. 'Tea Party News'), "purported Black social justice groups" (e.g. 'Blacktivist') "LGBTQ groups" (e.g. 'LGBT United'), "and religious groups" (e.g. 'United Muslims of America').[118] The IRA Twitter accounts included @TEN_GOP (claiming to be related to the Tennessee Republican Party), @jenn_abrams, and @Pamela_Moore13 (both claimed to be Trump supporters and both had 70,000 followers).[119] Several Trump campaign members (Donald J. Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Michael Flynn) linked or reposted material from the IRA's @TEN_GOP Twitter account listed above. Other people who responded to IRA social media accounts include Michael McFaul, Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, and Michael G. Flynn (Michael Flynn's son).[120]

Hacking and release of material

The second method of Russian interference saw the Russian intelligence service, the GRU, hacking into email accounts owned by volunteers and employees of the Clinton presidential campaign, including that of campaign chairman John Podesta, and also hacking into "the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC)". As a result, the GRU obtained hundreds of thousands of hacked documents, and the GRU proceeded by arranging releases of damaging hacked material via the WikiLeaks organization and also GRU's personas "DCLeaks" and "Guccifer 2.0".[10][8][9]

Conspiracy or coordination

To establish whether a crime was committed by members of the Trump campaign with regard to Russian interference, investigators "applied the framework of conspiracy law", and not the concept of "collusion", because collusion "is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law."[121][122] They also investigated if members of the Trump campaign "coordinated" with Russia, using the definition of "coordination" as having "an agreement – tacit or express – between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference." Investigators further elaborated that merely having "two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other's actions or interests" was not enough to establish coordination.[123][124]

The investigation found there were numerous contacts between Trump campaign advisors and individuals affiliated with the Russian government, before and after the election, but the evidence was insufficient to show an illegal conspiracy.[125] The New York Times estimated as many as 140 contacts between "Mr. Trump and his associates and Russian nationals and WikiLeaks or their intermediaries" in the report.[126]

The special counsel identified two methods the Russian government tried to communicate with the Trump campaign. "The investigation identified two different forms of connections between the IRA and members of the Trump Campaign. [...] First, on multiple occasions, members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign promoted – typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting – pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA through IRA-controlled social media accounts. Additionally, in a few instances, IRA employees represented themselves as U.S. persons to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign in an effort to seek assistance and coordination on IRA-organized political rallies inside the United States", the report states.[114] The special counsel found that Donald Trump's sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, cited or retweeted content from IRA-controlled social media accounts.

Secondly, the report details a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016. The intent of the meeting was to exchange "dirt" on the Clinton campaign. There was speculation that Trump Jr. told his father. However, the special counsel could not find any evidence that he did.[114] The office declined to pursue charges for two reasons: the office "did not obtain admissible evidence" that would meet the burden of proof principle beyond a reasonable doubt that the campaign officials acted with general knowledge about the illegality of their conduct; secondly, the office expected difficulty in valuing the promised information that "exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation" of $2,000 for a criminal violation and $25,000 for a felony punishment.[127]

Volume II

Volume II starts on page 208 of the report. It details potential instances of obstruction of justice.[128][112][129]

Trump's reaction to Mueller appointment

According to the report, upon learning that Mueller had been appointed as Special Counsel, Trump said "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked", to Jeff Sessions when they were having a meeting in the Oval Office.[130][131] "You were supposed to protect me", Sessions recalled Trump telling him. "Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me", Trump later said, according to Sessions and Jody Hunt, Sessions' then-chief of staff.[131]

Obstruction of justice

Regarding obstruction of justice, the report stated that the investigation "did not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference", but investigators wrote that obstruction of justice could still occur "regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong".[132][133]

On obstruction of justice, the report "does not conclude that the President committed a crime, [and] it also does not exonerate him". Since the special counsel's office had decided "not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment", they "did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President's conduct". The report "does not conclude that the president committed a crime",[6] as investigators decided "not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the president committed crimes".[14][32][15] Investigators did not charge Trump with a crime, for two main reasons: Firstly, the investigation abided by DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion written in 2000 that a sitting president cannot be indicted, a stance taken from the start of the investigation.[17][18][134] Secondly, investigators did not want to charge Trump because a federal criminal charge would hinder a sitting president's "capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct",[135] with a footnote reference to impeachment.[136] Even if charges were recommended in a secret memo or a charging document sealed until Trump's presidency ended, the information could still be leaked.[15][18][114] In addition, the special counsel's office rejected the alternative option of accusing Trump of committing a crime without bringing a charge. Investigators felt that this alternative option would be unfair to Trump, as there would be no trial in which Trump could clear his own name.[17][18][29]

The special counsel's office did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice because they were not confident that Trump was clearly innocent, after examining "evidence [they] obtained about the President's actions and intent".[23][24][25][34] The report noted that once Trump was aware that he was personally being investigated for obstruction of justice, he started "public attacks on the investigation and individuals involved in it who could possess evidence adverse to the president, while in private, the president engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation."[29] However, President Trump's "efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests." This prevented further obstruction of justice charges "against the President's aides and associates beyond those already filed".[137][29][30][138]

The report notes that Congress has the authority to decide if Trump obstructed justice, and then take further action if obstruction occurred, with investigators writing: "The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law." This phrase was interpreted as a possible reference to Congress potentially initiating impeachment proceedings against President Trump.[15][29][32][34][139]

Episodes of alleged obstruction

Some sources such as FactCheck.org, PBS NewsHour, and The New York Times describe the report as detailing eleven episodes where Trump could have possibly obstructed justice; one episode as a presidential candidate or president-elect, and ten episodes while Trump was president:[27][28][140]

Attorney General William Barr stated that there are ten episodes of potential obstruction.[141] Other sources such as The Washington Post and The Hill also report ten episodes; both omit the episode when Trump was a presidential candidate or president-elect.[23][91] CBS News counts ten episodes, omitting the one involving Corey Lewandowski.[142]

Quinta Jurecic, the managing editor of Lawfare, created a chart to simplify and summarize Mueller's analysis of these episodes in the report. Jurecic does not analyze the episode that occurred when Trump was a presidential candidate or president-elect.[143]

Trump campaign's response to Russian support

The report states the first possible obstruction case during the 2016 presidential campaign, when questions "arose about the Russian government's apparent support for candidate Trump". The report states that while Trump was publicly skeptical Russia had released emails from Democratic officials, Trump and his aides were also trying to obtain information about "any further planned WikiLeaks releases".[144][142] According to the report, shortly after a WikiLeaks release,[which?] Rick Gates, then Deputy Campaign Chairman, was going to LaGuardia Airport with Trump when Trump took a phone call. After the call, "candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming".[145][27] The report also notes that Trump consistently said that he had no business connections to Russia, despite his company trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. "After the election, the President expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia's election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election".[146][142][147]

President's conduct in Michael Flynn investigation

The report outlines Michael Flynn's, Trump's first national security advisor, contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, shortly after the Obama Administration imposed sanctions against Russia on December 29, 2016.[148][149] Later that day, K. T. McFarland, "who was slated to become the Deputy National Security Advisor ... talked by phone about what, if anything, Flynn should communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions".[150] The report details that based on those conversations, "McFarland informed Flynn that incoming Administration officials at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation". Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus "recalled that McFarland may have mentioned at the meeting that the sanctions situation could be 'cooled down' and not escalated".[151][152] Priebus recalls that President-Elect Trump viewed the sanctions "as an attempt by the Obama Administration to embarrass him by delegitimizing his election".[153][152] Later that evening, Flynn called Kislyak and requested how Russia should respond to the newly-placed U.S. sanctions: "only in a reciprocal manner, without escalating the situation".[154][155][156] Afterwards, Flynn briefed McFarland on the call. Flynn said that the Russian response to the sanctions "was not going to be escalatory because Russia wanted a good relationship with the Trump Administration".[157][156] On December 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia "would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time and would instead "plan . . . further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration".[158] Trump responded to the news by tweeting "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!"[158][159] The report details that Trump was warned by Don McGahn and Priebus to not discuss about the Russian investigation with Comey, but Trump did so anyway.[160]

President's reaction to the FBI's Russia investigation being publicized

After Trump learned that his then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions planned to recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation, Trump sought to prevent Session's move. "After Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at Sessions for the decision and then privately asked Sessions to "unrecuse".[161][23][162] On May 20, Comey publicly disclosed the FBI's Russia investigation.[163] "In the days that followed, the President contacted Comey and other intelligence agency leaders and asked them to push back publicly on the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort in order to 'lift the cloud' of the ongoing investigation", the report says.[164][165]

Dismissal of James Comey

"In the week leading up to Comey's May 3, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, the President told Don McGahn that it would be the last straw if Comey did not set the record straight and publicly announce that the President was not under investigation, despite repeated requests that Comey make such an announcement," the report states.[166][167] Trump told his aides that he was going to fire Comey on May 5, and did so on May 9. The report notes that Trump fired Comey before he received a recommendation by the Justice Department. "Substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the President's decision to fire Comey was Comey's unwillingness to publicly state that the President was not personally under investigation, despite the President's repeated requests that Comey make such an announcement", the report reads.[166][168] Trump boasted about the firing of Comey to the Russian foreign minister and U.S. Ambassador of Russia in an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, saying: "I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off".[169]

President's efforts to remove the special counsel

When Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Special Counsel investigation, the report notes that Trump said something along the lines of: "that it was the end of his presidency and that Attorney General Sessions had failed to protect him and should resign. Sessions submitted his resignation, which the President ultimately did not accept".[170][171] The report notes that on June 14, 2017, "the press reported that the President was being personally investigated for obstruction of justice and the President responded with a series of tweets criticizing the Special Counsel's investigation".[172][168] The following weekend, Trump called McGahn and "directed him to have the Special Counsel removed because of asserted conflicts of interest".[173] McGahn did not act on the request "for fear of being seen as triggering another Saturday Night Massacre and instead prepared to resign", which McGahn did.[174][173]

President's efforts to curtail the Special Counsel investigation

On June 19, 2017, two days after Trump tried have to Don McGahn fire the special counsel, Trump went to Sessions. Trump had a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office with Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager who was not working for the government. Trump wanted Lewandowski to deliver a message to Sessions that would "have had the effect of limiting the Russia investigation to future election interference only".[175][176] The report relays that Trump told Lewandowski "that Sessions was weak and that if the President had known about the likelihood of recusal in advance, he would not have appointed Sessions".[177][178] Trump dictated the following message meant for Sessions, and Lewandoski noted it down: "I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS . .. is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn't have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn't done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn't do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history".[179][180] The message goes on in which Sessions would meet with the Special Counsel and limit its jurisdiction to future election interference. "Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. I am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections".[181][180] Trump reportedly said that "if Sessions delivered that statement he would be the 'most popular guy in the country.'"[182] Lewandowski arranged a meeting with Sessions, but it was cancelled "due to a last minute conflict".[183]

On July 19, 2017, Trump again met Lewandowski in the Oval Office, and inquired if Lewandowski passed the message to Sessions. Lewandowski replied that it would be done soon. The report continues: "Lewandowski recalled that the President told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired".[184][185] Immediately after this second meeting, Lewandowski passed the message to White House official Rick Dearborn to relay to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and chose not to not pass the message, although the report quotes Dearborn as telling Lewandoski that he had "handled the situation".[186][27][34][187]

President's efforts to prevent disclosures about Trump Tower meeting

The report cites three different occasions between June 29 and July 9, 2017, when Trump directed Hope Hicks, former White House Communications Director, and others to not disclose information about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. These requests were directed to the press and could have constituted obstructive only if Trump "sought to withhold information from or mislead congressional investigations or the Special Counsel".[176][188] The Special Counsel could not find any evidence to establish that Trump intended on preventing the Special Counsel or Congress from obtaining the emails or information referring to meeting.[189][190] Rick Gates, then Deputy Campaign Chairman, recalled that Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Jared Kusnher, Ivanka Trump, Paul Manafort, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, were meeting.[191] The purpose of the meeting was to exchange "dirt" on the Clinton presidential campaign. Gates testified that Trump Jr. announced at a regular planned meeting that he "had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation".[192][193][194] Gates recalled Manafort saying at the meeting that the Trump Tower meeting "likely would not yield vital information and they should be careful".[191][195] The Special Counsel found Manafort to be correct, as the "dirt" was information regarding the Ziff brothers doing tax evasion and money laundering in Russia and "donated the illegal profits to the DNC or the Clinton Campaign".[196][176] There was speculation that Trump Jr. told his father. However, the Special Counsel could not find any evidence that he did.[114][194]

The office declined to pursue charges for two reasons: the office "did not obtain admissible evidence" that would meet the burden of proof principle beyond a reasonable doubt that the campaign officials acted with general knowledge about the illegality of their conduct; secondly, the office expected difficulty in valuing the promised information that "exceeded the threshold for a criminal violation" of $2,000 for a criminal violation and $25,000 for a felony punishment.[197][127]

President's efforts to have Attorney General control investigation

The report notes that between 2017–2018, Trump tried to convince Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal over the Special Counsel investigation. Trump also tried to convince Sessions to launch an investigation into Hillary Clinton and prosecute her.[176] "On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation of Hillary Clinton ... There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President's conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that could restrict its scope. [...] A reasonable inference from those statements and the President's action is that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation".[165][198][176]

President orders McGahn to deny reports

After the news broke out in late January 2018, that Trump ordered Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller in June 2017, Trump pressured McGahn to deny the reports. "After the story broke, the President, through his personal counsel and two aides, sought to have McGahn deny that he had been directed to remove the Special Counsel," the report reads.[199][168] Trump told then-White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to tell McGahn to create a record that makes clear Trump never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. "Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file 'for our records' and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a 'lying bastard' and said that he wanted a record from him".[200][176] Porter recalled Trump "saying something to the effect of "If he doesn't write a letter, then maybe I'll have to get rid of him".[201][176]

President's pressuring of Flynn, Manafort, and "redacted name"

The report details that Trump took actions "directed at possible witnesses in the Special Counsel's investigation".[202][168] The report notes that actions taken by Trump and his counsel "could have had the potential to affect Flynn's decision to cooperate, as well as the extent of that cooperation. Because of privilege issues, however, we could not determine whether the President was personally involved in or knew about the specific message his counsel delivered to Flynn's counsel".[203][204] For Manafort, the report details by saying: "With respect to Manafort, there is evidence that the President's actions had the potential to influence Manafort's decision whether to cooperate with the government".[205][204]

President's pressuring of Michael Cohen

The final instance of potential obstruction concerns Michael Cohen, a former personal lawyer of Trump's. "There is evidence that could support the inference that the President intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen's information would shed adverse light on the President's campaign-period conduct and statements", the report states.[206][207] The report continues by detailing that Trump encouraged Cohen to "stay strong": "After the FBI searched Cohen's home and office in April 2018, the President publicly asserted that Cohen would not "flip" and privately passes messages of support to him".[208][142] However, the report notes that when Cohen began cooperating with the government in the summer of 2018, Trump publicly criticized him: "Cohen also discussed pardons with the President's personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message, he would get a pardon or the President would do "something else" to make the investigation end. But after Cohen began cooperating with the government in the summer of 2018, the President publicly criticized him, called him a "rat", and suggested that his family members had committed crimes".[208][209]

Appendices

Four appendices were included in the report:

  • Appendix A: Order 3915-2017 from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.[210][43]
  • Appendix B: Glossary of terms used in the report containing "names and brief descriptions of individuals and entities referenced in the two volumes of [the] report".[211]
  • Appendix C: President Trump's written answers to the special counsel.[212]
  • Appendix D: Special counsel's office transferred, referred, and completed cases.[213]

Possible future releases

A less-redacted version of the report "with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information", which is required to be redacted by federal law,[109][110][111] is expected to be available two weeks after the initial public release, to "a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees".[90][214][215]

On April 19, 2019, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler issued a subpoena for the fully unredacted report.[216] A DOJ spokesperson called Nadler's subpoena "premature and unnecessary", citing that the publicly released version of the report had "minimal redactions" and that Barr had already made arrangements for Nadler and other lawmakers to review a version with fewer redactions.[217][218]

Analysis

Redacted report findings compared to Barr letter

After the release of the redacted report, the Barr letter was criticized as a deliberate mischaracterization of the Mueller Report and its conclusions.[123][219][35][220] Numerous legal analysts accused Barr of glossing over the report, identifying significant discrepancies between Barr's characterizations of its contents and the report's actual findings, while others called for Barr's resignation.[221][222][223][224] The New York Times reported instances in which the Barr letter omitted information and quoted sentence fragments out of context in ways that significantly altered the findings in the report, including:[123]

  • Omission of language that indicated Trump could be subject to indictment after leaving office, inaccurately suggesting that Trump was "totally exonerated".[225][226][227]
  • A sentence fragment described only one possible motive for Trump to obstruct justice, while the Mueller Report listed multiple possible motives.
  • Omission of words and a full sentence that twice suggested there was knowing and complicit behavior between the Trump campaign and Russians that stopped short of direct coordination, which may constitute conspiracy.

CNN wrote that while Barr in his letter took it upon himself to deliver a ruling on whether Trump had committed obstruction, the redacted report indicates that Mueller intended that decision to be made by Congress, not Barr.[228]

Numerous other political and legal analysts, including Bob Woodward[229] and Brian Williams,[230] observed significant differences in what Barr said about Mueller's findings in his March 24 summary letter, and in his April 18 press conference, compared to what the Mueller Report actually found. This commentary included a comparison of Barr to Baghdad Bob, calling him "Baghdad Bill".[230][221][231][232]

Barr wrote that his letter provided "the principal conclusions" of the Mueller Report. Ryan Goodman, a professor at the New York University School of Law and co-editor of Just Security, observed that in 1989 Barr also wrote a letter which he stated contained "the principal conclusions" of a controversial legal opinion he worked on as head of the OLC. Barr declined to provide the full opinion to Congress, but it was later subpoenaed and released to the public, showing that the summary letter did not fully disclose the principal conclusions.[233][234]

Redacted report findings compared to Barr press conference

In the Barr press conference on April 18, prior to the release of the redacted report, Barr said that "the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel's investigation". However, Factcheck.org describes that this was "contradicted in the report", which stated that Trump had attacked the investigation in public, tried to control the investigation in private, and encouraged witnesses not to cooperate both in public and private. Factcheck.org also describes the report as saying that President Trump did not fully cooperate for interview requests by investigators, then in written responses answered that he did not remember to over 30 questions, while other answers were "incomplete or imprecise". Investigators protested that the written responses denied them the opportunity to ask follow-up questions, but Trump denied another request for an interview.[27]

Also the Barr press conference on April 18, Barr said that "Special Counsel Mueller did not indicate that his purpose was to leave the decision [on obstruction by Trump] to Congress". The Washington Post described that "the report does not say Mueller intended to leave obstruction-related decisions to Barr", and instead "uses suggestive language about Congress's role", that Congress can subject President Trump to obstruction laws, and made a reference to not wanting to preempt impeachment.[35]

Analysis of redactions

Attributes of the report's text, and its redactions in particular, received significant news coverage and was a noted talking point.[104] Redactions were concentrated on areas about Russian government interference in the elections.[105] The four types of redactions had the following statistics:

  • "Harm to ongoing matter" – over 400 redactions and about 45% of the redacted text overall.[107][106]
  • "Personal privacy" – an estimated 5–7% of the redactions.[106]
  • "Investigative technique" – an estimated 8–10% of the redactions.[106][107]
  • "Grand jury" – over 300 redactions and about 38% of the redacted text overall.[106]

False and misleading public statements by the Trump administration

Politifact published a list of eight notable public assertions Trump and his administration made that the Mueller Report showed to be false or misleading:[235]

  • Mueller had conflicts of interest and was turned down to become FBI director.[236]
  • Trump asserted he hadn't thought about firing Mueller.[237]
  • Press secretary Sarah Sanders asserted that Trump fired James Comey because "countless" FBI agents told her they had lost faith in him.[238]
  • Sanders asserted that a DOJ internal review had prompted Comey's firing.[239]
  • Sanders claimed Trump "certainly didn't dictate" a statement by Donald Trump Jr. regarding the Trump Tower meeting.[240]
  • Trump asserted that the Steele dossier triggered the initial FBI investigation and the investigation "was a plan by those who lost the election".[235][241]
  • Trump's repeated assertions that he had no business involvement in Russia.[242]
  • Trump claimed Comey sought a dinner with him when actually Trump invited Comey for dinner.[243]

Vox reported that the Mueller Report showed Sanders and her predecessor, Sean Spicer, made false statements about the circumstances surrounding the firings of Comey and Michael Flynn.[244]

The Mueller Report showed that despite assertions by Hope Hicks and Jason Miller in September 2016 that Carter Page never had any involvement with the campaign, Page actually produced work for the campaign, traveled with Trump to a campaign speech and "Chief policy adviser Sam Clovis expressed appreciation for Page's work and praised his work to other Campaign officials".[245][246][247]

Press coverage

The Associated Press and Slate observed that the Mueller Report mostly corroborated press coverage of the investigation. Kyle Pope, editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, remarked that "The media looks a lot stronger today than it did before the release of this report," asserting that Mueller's report absolved the media of its coverage of the investigation, the fairness, accuracy, and objectivity of which was repeatedly derided by President Trump and his allies as "fake news" and a part of a concerted "Witch-Hunt".[248][249] The Washington Post stated that the report "offered a rich portrait of Trump's efforts as president to undermine the investigation and mislead the public".[250]

The Washington Post reported that while some press reports on the investigation proved wrong, or at least were not confirmed by the Mueller Report, "the Mueller report was by and large an affirmation of the mainstream media's investigative reporting. Almost all the big stories were confirmed in the report". Notable reports that were not confirmed to be true by the report included:[251]

  • Trump had "directed" Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
  • Cohen was in Prague in 2016.
  • Russian Alfa Bank server was communicating with a Trump Organization server.
  • Paul Manafort secretly met with Julian Assange.
  • The 2016 Republican platform eased its policy on Ukraine at the behest of Trump or Russia.

Other findings

The Mueller Report devoted over a dozen pages to refute an argument made by Trump's attorneys, and by Barr before he joined the Trump administration, that it was impossible for Trump to obstruct the investigation, regardless of his intentions, due to his presidential authority[which?] to oversee federal law enforcement – an interpretation that some legal scholars characterized as dubious because it suggests a president is above the law.[252][253][254]

The report confirmed significant aspects of reporting, primarily by The Wall Street Journal, of efforts by Republican activist Peter Smith to locate deleted Clinton emails, including his communications about it with Michael Flynn and campaign co-chair Sam Clovis, as well as Flynn's actions to spearhead the effort at Trump's repeated requests. In at least one email to an undisclosed list of recipients, Smith claimed to know WikiLeak's schedule about releasing the Clinton emails, writing there was a "tug-of-war going on within WikiLeaks over its planned releases in the next few days", and that WikiLeaks "has maintained that it will save its best revelations for last, under the theory this allows little time for response prior to the U.S. election November 8."[255][256] In a document Smith circulated to recruit and fundraise, he listed multiple members of the Trump campaign, including Flynn and Clovis, as well as Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.[why?]

The report confirmed significant parts of reporting regarding a January 2017 meeting in Seychelles between Erik Prince, George Nader, and Putin confidant Kirill Dmitriev, among others. Despite Prince's prior congressional testimony that he had no role in the Trump campaign or transition, the report found that Nader had represented Prince to Dmitriev as "designated by Steve [Bannon] to meet you! I know him and he is very very well connected and trusted by the New Team".[257][258] The Mueller Report stated, "According to Nader, Prince had led him to believe that Bannon was aware of Prince's upcoming meeting with Dmitriev, and Prince acknowledged that it was fair for Nader to think that Prince would pass information on to the Transition Team. Bannon, however, told the Office that Prince did not tell him in advance about his meeting with Dmitriev".[259][258] Prince testified to the House Intelligence Committee that "I didn't fly there to meet any Russian guy",[260] although the Mueller Report found that he and Nader made significant preparations to meet Dmitriev.[261][262] Although Prince had previously characterized a second meeting between him and Dmitriev in a bar as a chance encounter of no consequence,[260] the Mueller Report found the meeting was actually pre-arranged after Prince had learned from communications back home that Russia had positioned an aircraft carrier off Libya and he wanted to convey that the United States would not accept any Russian involvement in Libya.[258] House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff announced on April 30, 2019 that he was sending a criminal referral to the Justice Department alleging Prince had provided false testimony to the committee.[263][264]

The special counsel sought to interview Trump for more than a year, advising his attorneys that "it is in the interest of the Presidency and the public for an interview to take place" and offering "numerous accommodations to aid the President's preparation and avoid surprise".[265][266] Trump's attorneys resisted these requests, which the special counsel accepted written responses to questions.[267] The Mueller Report stated that Trump asserted more than thirty times that he could not remember information that had been asked, and that other answers were "incomplete or imprecise".[268][269] The special counsel considered subpoenaing Trump's testimony but decided against it because it would likely result in protracted constitutional litigation that would delay conclusion of the investigation, and because investigators had by then acquired information they sought by other means.[270][271]

The Mueller Report elaborated on earlier reporting regarding communications between Felix Sater and Michael Cohen during 2015–2016 to pursue construction of Trump Tower Moscow, at a time Trump denied any business involvement in Russia.[142] The report found that Sater, a former Trump business associate, asserted to Cohen that he had Russian contacts who could gain Vladimir Putin's support for the project, adding "I think I can get Putin to [praise Trump's business acumen] at the Trump Moscow press conference", and "We can own this election. Michael my next steps are very sensitive with Putin's very very close people, we can pull this off".[272][273] The report also found that Cohen had discussed particulars of the project with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.[274][275] According to Cohen, he did not consider the political import of the Trump Moscow project to the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the time. Cohen also did not recall candidate Trump or anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign discussing the political implications of the Trump Tower Moscow project with him. However, Cohen recalled conversations with Trump in which the candidate suggested that his campaign would be a significant "infomercial" for Trump-branded properties".[276][13]

The Mueller Report did not conclude Cohen had been in Prague, as had been described in the Steele dossier and reported by the McClatchy Company, citing his testimony to investigators.[277][251]

Reactions

President Donald Trump

On March 25, when the Barr letter had been released but not the report itself, President Trump said of the special counsel's findings, "It's one hundred percent the way it should have been." He went on to say of witnesses who cooperated in the investigation, "There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things," adding that they would need to be "looked at".[lower-alpha 1][278]

Upon the redacted report's release on April 18, President Trump commented publicly by saying:

It was called, "No collusion. No obstruction." I'm having a good day. There never was, by the way, and there never will be. And we do have to get to the bottom of these things, I will say. [...] This should never happen to another president again, this hoax.[lower-alpha 2][279][280]

The President also tweeted several times about the news, including a tweet that mimicked promotional material for the television series Game of Thrones with the words "No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats – Game Over" superimposed over an image of President Trump with his back turned, surrounded in mist.[281] HBO, owners of the rights to the series, commented that they "prefer our intellectual property not be used for political purposes". Trump had made comparable posts on Twitter and Instagram on previous occasions, to HBO's misgivings.[282][283][284]

The following day, on April 19, President Trump changed his position on the special counsel's findings, labeling the report "crazy" and arguing that some of the quotes attributed to him were "total bullshit" and "fabricated and totally untrue". Calling for a new counter-investigation, the president tweeted: "It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason."[285][286][287]

On April 23, the president conversely told the press, "The Mueller Report was great. It could not have been better. It said, 'No obstruction. No collusion.'" He also said of the investigation, "I don't believe our country should allow this ever to happen again. This will never happen again. We cannot let it ever happen again." He went on to insinuate that "treasonous acts" were performed by "the West Wing of the Obama White House" against him.[lower-alpha 3][288]

On April 24, Trump attacked the report's writers as "Angry Democrats and Trump Haters", tweeting: "If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court." Legal experts responded that Trump had misunderstood the Constitution, as impeachment is constitutionally within Congress' abilities and responsibilities and not the within that of the courts.[289]

On April 25, President Trump denied the report's claim that he ordered former White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller. President Trump said on Twitter:

As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so. If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn't need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself. Nevertheless, Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work on what I, and many others, say was an illegal investigation (there was no crime), headed by a Trump hater who was highly conflicted, and a group of 18 VERY ANGRY Democrats. DRAIN THE SWAMP![290][291]

Trump's personal lawyers

Trump's lawyers said in a statement: "After a 17-month investigation, testimony from some 500 witnesses, the issuance of 2,800 subpoenas, the execution of nearly 500 search warrants, early morning raids, the examination of more than 1.4 million pages of documents, and the unprecedented cooperation of the President, it is clear there was no criminal wrongdoing...This vindication of the President is an important step forward for the country and a strong reminder that this type of abuse must never be permitted to occur again."[292][293]

It has been reported since July 2018, that Trump's personal lawyers are creating a "counter report" to contest the special counsel's findings on obstruction of justice.[294] According to Rudy Giuliani, they are finalizing the report and putting finishing touches.[295] Giuliani has said that the counter report is about 45 pages long and consists of two sections.[296] Giuliani told The Daily Beast in an interview that the contents were: the legitimacy of the Special Counsel investigation due to alleged conflict of interests surrounding Mueller, and alleged coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia including obstruction of justice.[297] Originally, according to Trump, the counter report was 87 pages long: "It has been incorrectly reported that Rudy Giuliani and others will not be doing a counter to the Mueller Report. That is Fake News.[lower-alpha 4] Already 87 pages done, but obviously cannot complete until we see the final Witch Hunt Report".[299][300]

Since the public release of the Mueller Report, Giuliani has suggested that they might not release the report for now: "There's probably a point at which we will use it. Right now we think the public debate is playing out about as well as it can. Why confuse it – it raises a lot of issues that maybe we didn't have to respond to", Giuliani said.[301]

On April 21, Giuliani accused that the special counsel's team "came close to torturing people", and described a lawyer on the special counsel's team as a "hitman". Giuliani also stated: "There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians. It depends on where it came from".[302] Also on April 21, Giuliani falsely stated that "nothing was denied" by the Trump administration to investigators (Factcheck.org notes that the report stated Trump refused interviews). Giuliani additionally falsely stated that "you read that" Don McGahn "gave three different versions" of his conversation with Trump regarding firing Mueller (Factcheck.org also notes that the report stated McGahn only gave one version, and that Trump gave another version).[303]

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

On April 11, 2019, in his first interview since the conclusion of the Special Counsel he appointed, with The Wall Street Journal, Rosenstein defended Attorney General Barr's handling of the conclusions of the Special Counsel investigation.[304] "He's being as forthcoming as he can, and so this notion that he's trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre", Rosenstein said.[305] Rosenstein also supported Barr's four-page letter by saying: "It would be one thing if you put out a letter and said, 'I'm not going to give you the report.'" What he said is, 'Look, it's going to take a while to process the report. In the meantime, people really want to know what's in it. I'm going to give you the top-line conclusions.' That's all he was trying to do".[306]

On April 25, 2019, Rosenstein spoke at the Armenian Bar Association's Public Servants Dinner in New York City.[307] Rosenstein said that as a result of the investigation, there was now "overwhelming evidence that Russian operatives hacked American computers and defrauded American citizens, and that is only the tip of the iceberg of a comprehensive Russian strategy to influence elections, promote social discord, and undermine America, just like they do in many other countries [...] our nation is safer, elections are more secure, and citizens are better informed about covert foreign influence schemes."[308][309]

Rosenstein discussed the result of the special counsel investigation, saying that he did agree to oversee it correctly and to its completion, but: "I did not promise to report all results to the public, because grand jury investigations are ex parte proceedings. It is not our job to render conclusive factual findings. We just decide whether it is appropriate to file criminal charges".[309] However, according to Rosenstein, "not everybody was happy with [his] decision", as he went on to cite politicians who "need to evaluate everything in terms of the immediate political impact", and the media.[310][311] Rosenstein reserved particular criticism for the media as "mercenary critics" who "launch ad hominem attacks unrestricted by truth or morality. They make threats, spread fake stories, and even attack your relatives. [...] A republic that endures is not governed by the news cycle. Some of the nonsense that passes for breaking news today would not be worth the paper was printed on, if anybody bothered to print it."[307][5] Rosenstein further said: "In politics – as in journalism – the rules of evidence do not apply."[312]

Rosenstein criticized the Obama administration for failing to "publicize the full story" about the methods and the "broader strategy" of Russian interference in the American elections.[307][313] Rosenstein also criticized members of the FBI for disclosing classified material, and criticized James Comey's conduct for announcing the counterintelligence investigation while Comey was still FBI Director and alleging that "that the president pressured [Comey] to close the investigation" after Comey was fired.[307][314][312]

Special Counsel Robert Mueller

After the Special Counsel concluded its investigation on March 22, Barr sent Congress a four-page letter about the Special Counsel's conclusions on March 24. On April 30, it was reported Mueller sent a letter to Barr on March 27, that expressed concerns about his four-page letter to Congress.[315][316] Barr called Mueller to express his concerns about the letter and its contents.[317]

"The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office's work and conclusions", Mueller said in his letter to Barr. "There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations".[40]

Other Justice Department officials

On April 25, The Washington Post published a report quoting an anonymous "senior Justice Department official". The official said that the "special counsel never decided whether [obstruction of justice] is a prosecutable case [against Trump], so there's no conflict between the attorney general's decision that it's not [prosecutable] and the special counsel's report". Regarding obstruction of justice, the official said: "All the attorney general was deciding was whether this was a prosecutable offense, and we don't bring criminal charges at the department unless we believe we can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury". Regarding the President's efforts to curtail the Special Counsel investigation in the episode involving Corey Lewandowski, the official said it would be hard to justify a prosecution because the obstruction relies on multiple people in a chain all doing something" and that it was "a very attenuated chain", exacerbated "given that the note isn't even an order". The official alluded to the belief that prosecutors would not be able to prove that Trump had wanted to shut down the investigation with corrupt intent, because according to the official, there was no underlying crime to cover up.[318]

Democrats

Congressional Democratic leaders called on Mueller to publicly testify before Congress, renewing demands for the entire report to be released and raising concern over the President's conduct detailed in the report. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler announced he would issue a subpoena for the full report after the Justice Department released a redacted version. Democrats also criticized what they say were "orchestrated attempts" by the Trump administration to control the narrative surrounding the report's April 18 release.[319] Nadler issued the subpoena on April 19.[320] A DOJ spokesperson called Nadler's subpoena "premature and unnecessary", citing that the publicly released version of the report had "minimal redactions" and that Barr had already made arrangements for Nadler and other lawmakers to review a version with fewer redactions.[217][218] On the May 1 deadline of the subpoena, the DOJ rejected it as "not legitimate oversight" and that "the requests in the subpoena are overbroad and extraordinarily burdensome", adding that grand jury material cannot be released without a court order.[321]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement saying "Special Counsel Mueller's report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies, and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn't apply to him". Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin stated "The Special Counsel's findings paint a very different picture than what the President and his Attorney General would have the American people believe", and called the details of the Russian contacts with the Trump campaign and Trump's efforts to impede the investigation "troubling".[322]

Senator and 2020 United States presidential election candidate Elizabeth Warren, citing the "severity" of the "misconduct" detailed in the report, called for the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump, the first 2020 election candidate to do so post-report.[323] Senator Cory Booker, also a 2020 candidate, tweeted out a searchable version of the report, as the Justice.gov version of the report is not able to be searched digitally.[324] He also called for the full release of the report, stating in an earlier tweet: "The American people deserve the truth. Not spin from a Trump appointee. Release Mueller's full report now".[325] Notably, the Department of Justice updated the report to a searchable version on April 22.[326][327]

Republicans

Most Republican lawmakers had no immediate comments on the report due to the report coming out during Congress' spring recess.[328] House Republican leaders viewed the report as vindication of President Trump and signaled that lawmakers should move on. On April 18, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated "Nothing we saw today changes the underlying results of the 22-month-long Mueller investigation that ultimately found no collusion".[329] House Minority Whip Steve Scalise tweeted "Democrats owe the American people an apology", along with a statement declaring the probe to be dead. Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the Ranking Member on the House Oversight Committee, stated "They do want people who launched this investigation, on a false premise, they do want them held accountable", referring to retaliatory sentiment among Trump supporters about the origin of the Russia investigation, specifically the Steele dossier. "You can't have the FBI using one party's opposition research document to launch an investigation and spy on the other party's campaign. We know that took place and we do need to get to the bottom of that because it's never supposed to happen in this country", Jordan added.[330] However, the House Intelligence Committee, then controlled by Republicans, released in 2017 a report that stated that the Russia investigation had not started from information in the Steele dossier, but from information that the FBI received on George Papadopoulos.[331]

On April 19, Utah Senator Mitt Romney wrote in a statement on Twitter that he was "sickened" and "appalled" by the findings in the report, and said reading the report was a "sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and the principles of the founders".[332] Romney later expounded on his comments in a press release by saying "It is good news that there was insufficient evidence to charge the President of the United States with having conspired with a foreign adversary or with having obstructed justice. The alternative would have taken us through a wrenching process with the potential for constitutional crisis. The business of government can move on".[333][334][335]

On April 28, Senator Lindsey Graham, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Face The Nation; "I don't care what they talked about. He didn't do anything. The point is the president did not impede Mueller from doing his investigation...I don't care what happened between him and Don McGahn", Graham continued: "Here's what I care about: Was Mueller allowed to do his job? And the answer is yes".[336]

On May 1, Senator Lindsey Graham falsely stated that on "obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller left it to Mr. Barr to decide after two years, and all this time. He said, 'Mr. Barr, you decide'". Mueller had not asked Barr to make the decision, and Barr later said that he had not talked directly to Mueller about making that decision. Graham also falsely stated that the special counsel investigation "concluded there was no collusion", even when collusion was not addressed in the Mueller Report (criminal conspiracy was).[337]

Commentators

After the release of the report, media commentators again pointed out that in 2018, Barr, before rejoining government work, had authored an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department describing investigation into potential obstruction of justice by Trump was "fatally misconceived" and "overly aggressive",[228][338][339] and also noted that the Barr memo argued that a president could not be charged for acts of presidential power, such as firing officials.[340] NPR's Ron Elving, in referring to the memo, described that "we got the word on" the result on obstruction "early" because "Barr had already authored a 19-page explanation for why a president could not be charged with obstruction of justice – suggesting pointedly that Mueller should not even be thinking about it".[341]

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, who has been among Trump's staunchest defenders in some cases,[342][343] gave the report an "incomplete" on the conclusion of obstruction of justice, "C+" on legal analysis, and a "B+" on factual analysis, in an interview with Fox News.[344] Dershowitz also gave the media coverage of the report an "F"; "Even with grade inflation, I just think the media comes off awful, terrible, for the most part. I think we are seeing an elimination of the distinction between the editorial page and the news pages in some of the leading media in the country, and that's a shame. Walter Cronkite could not get a job in the media today", Dershowitz said.[345]

Fordham University law professor Jed Shugerman opined in the New York Times that: "The report's very high standard for legal conclusions for criminal charges was explicitly proof 'beyond a reasonable doubt'. So the report did not establish crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. But it did show a preponderance of conspiracy and coordination". In Shugerman's view, the preponderance of evidence standard is "relevant for counterintelligence and general parlance about facts, and closer to the proper standard for impeachment". He continues: "By the preponderance of evidence standard, the report contains ample evidence to establish conspiracy and coordination with the Russian government, sometimes through intermediaries, other times through a Russian spy". The Starr Report on President Clinton, which was organized as an "impeachment referral, not a prosecution decision", applied a lower standard of "substantial and credible information" more like the preponderance of the evidence standard. The Mueller Report explained that the ability to conclude using the criminal proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard was "materially impaired" by lies by individuals associated with the Trump campaign and deletion of e-mails, among other factors.[346]

Former Deputy Attorney General and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates remarked, "I've personally prosecuted obstruction cases on far, far less evidence than this, and yes, I believe if [Trump] were not the president of the United States, he would likely be indicted on obstruction".[347]

Polling

A public opinion poll by Reuters and Ipsos conducted between the afternoon of April 18, 2019 and the morning of April 19 found that 37 percent of adults in the United States approved of Trump's performance in office, down from 40 percent in a similar poll conducted on April 15 and matching the lowest level of the year. The approval rating was also down from 43 percent in a poll conducted shortly after the Attorney General's summary was released on March 22.[348] Among the respondents that said they were familiar with the Mueller Report, 70 percent said the report had not changed their view of Trump or Russia's involvement in the U.S. presidential race and 15 percent said they had learned something that changed their view of Trump or the Russia investigation.[349]

A poll by The Washington Post and ABC News conducted between April 22–25, after the Mueller Report was released, found that 51% of respondents believed the investigation was fair; 53% said that it did not clear Trump of all wrongdoing; 58% said that Trump lied about matters that were investigated; 56% said that impeachment should not proceed; and support for impeachment is at a new low of 37%.[350] A plurality of 47% said Trump tried to obstruct justice.[351]

Subsequent actions by Congress

Since the release of the report, Congressional committees have been wanting more answers about the process and findings of the Special Counsel investigation.

On April 18, 2019, Jerry Nadler sent Robert Mueller a letter requesting his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee "as soon as possible – but, in any event, no later than May 23, 2019".[352][353]

On April 22, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Don McGahn and any relating documents related to the committee's investigation into obstruction of justice.[354] The subpoena calls for the documents by May 7, and for McGahn to testify by May 21.[355] On April 23, 2019, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration plans to fight McGahn's subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee.[356] McGahn is expected to testify about President Trump's efforts to obstruct the Special Counsel, which McGahn was ordered to do but refused and resign.[357] The Trump administration is expected to exercise executive privilege on parts of McGahn's testimony. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said "Executive privilege is always an option, it's always on the table. But Don McGahn has already talked under oath for 30 hours. And this is just presidential harassment", Conway told Jake Tapper, adding that it is Trump's "right" to use executive privilege.[358] The Associated Press described Trump's response to post-Mueller congressional investigations as 'Just say no' and 'Resist on every legal front', noting that Trump on April 24 had declared: "We're fighting all the subpoenas. [...] I thought after two years we'd be finished with it. No, now the House goes and starts subpoenaing."[359]

On April 26, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee announced that Attorney General William Barr is to testify on May 2, regarding the Special Counsel investigation, its findings, allegations of obstruction of justice, and allegations of spying on the Trump Campaign.[360] Barr's testimony before the House comes just a day after Barr is set to testify before the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on the same topics.[361]

On April 28, 2019, it was reported that Barr might not show up to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the special counsel and its findings.[362] According to Barr, he was displeased about the format of the testimony he is expected to give.[363] Jerry Nadler, head of the House Judiciary Committee, said: "The witness [Barr] is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period," Nadler told CNN. On the prospect of Barr not showing up, Nadler stated: "Then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena".[363] On April 29, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that if Barr did not show up, he would be "obstructing Congress". "The Attorney General of the United States is not the president's personal lawyer, and he should act as the attorney general of the United States and honor his responsibilities", Pelosi said.[364] Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said "The Attorney General agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, Members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with Members on their questions regarding the Mueller report".[365]

On May 2, when Barr was to testify before the committee, Barr did not show up.[366] The House Judiciary Committee threatened to hold Barr in contempt if he did not provide a un-redacted report of the Special Counsel's by Wednesday, May 2. The report was not provided.[366] Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, specifically Democratic Representative of Tennessee Steve Cohen, mocked Barr for not showing up, calling him "Chicken Barr". Cohen also brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a chicken prop.[367]

Barr testimony of May 1

On May 1, Attorney General Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Barr said he "didn't exonerate" Trump on obstruction as that was not the role of the Justice Department.[41] Barr explained his decision that there was not enough evidence for Trump to be charged with obstruction by citing that the president did not commit an underlying crime related to Russia.[41]

Senator and former California attorney general Kamala Harris questioned why neither Barr nor Rosenstein reviewed the underlying evidence in the report. "We accepted the statements in the report as the factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate, we accepted it as accurate," Barr said. He asserted this approach was common DOJ practice.[42][368] Harris also asked Barr if Rosenstein had been cleared by ethics officials to be involved in the decision to not charge Trump of obstruction, given that Rosenstein was a witness to the investigation regarding James Comey's firing. Barr with the help of his aides concluded by saying "He was the acting attorney general on the Mueller investigation...I'm informed that before I arrived, he had been cleared by the ethics officials."[369][370]

Regarding "the situation of the President, who has constitutional authority to supervise proceedings, if in fact a proceeding was not well founded, if it was a groundless proceeding, if it was based on false allegations, the President does not have to sit there, constitutionally, and allow it to run its course," Barr said. Barr continued by saying "The President could terminate that proceeding, and it would not be a corrupt intent, because he was being falsely accused.[41][371] Barr later said that Trump "knew [the accusations against him] were false. And he felt this investigation was unfair, propelled by his political opponents and was hampering his ability to govern. That is not a corrupt motive for replacing an independent counsel".[372]

Politico described the statements above as "Barr's expansive view of presidential authority to meddle in investigations".[373] New York Magazine argued against Barr's "perverse conclusion" because first, "Trump could not possibly know that an investigation was unfounded"; second, "Mueller did not say Trump was innocent"; and third, "Trump's obstruction was quite possibly one of the reasons Mueller failed to establish underlying crimes".[374]

Also in his testimony, Barr falsely said: "The evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians [...] and accused of being treasonous. [...] Two years of his administration have been dominated by allegations that have now been proven false". However, the Mueller Report does not address collusion. On the topic of allegations being "proven false", the Mueller Report described receiving from some Trump campaign officials false, incomplete or declined testimony (the latter due to the Fifth Amendment), resulting in investigators having an incomplete picture of what had really occurred. The Mueller Report "cannot rule out the possibility" that information then unavailable to investigators would have presented different findings.[337]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented on Barr's testimony and accused of Barr lying before Congress. "What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That's a crime," Pelosi told reporters. "He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law," Pelosi said. Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded to Pelosi's remarks and said that a "baseless attack on the Attorney General is reckless, irresponsible and false."[375] According to CNBC, Pelosi's remarks were talking about Barr's comments in his April 9 testimony. Representative Charlie Crist: "Reports have emerged recently, general, that members of the special counsel's team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24 letter. ... Do you know what they are referencing with that?" Barr: "No, I don't. I think I think, I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but in my view I was not interested in putting out summaries."[375][376]

Notes

  1. Full remarks: "It's lasted a long time; we're glad it's over. It's one hundred percent the way it should have been. I wish it could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker. There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things – I would say treasonous things – against our country. And hopefully the people that have done such harm to our country – we've gone through a period of really bad things happening – those people will certainly be looked at. I've been looking at them for a long time, and I'm saying, 'Why haven't they been looked at?' They lied to Congress, many of them, you know who they are; they've done so many evil things. I will tell you, I love this country, I love this country as much as I can love anything – 'my family, my country, my God'. But what they did, it was a false narrative, it was a terrible thing. We can never let this happen to another president again. I can tell you that, I say it very strongly. Very few people I know could've handled it. We can never, ever let this happen to another president again."[278]
  2. Full relevant remarks: "I also want to thank two great congressmen for being here, and if we had room we would've had a lot more: Phil Roe and James Baird. Thank you very much." (Applause.) "Thank you, fellas. You're welcome. And they're having a good day – I'm having a good day, too." (Laughter.) "It was called, 'No collusion. No obstruction.'" (Applause.) "I'm having a good day. There never was, by the way, and there never will be. And we do have to get to the bottom of these things, I will say. And this should never happen – I say this in front of my friends, Wounded Warriors; and I just call them 'warriors', 'cause we just shook hands, and they look great; they look so good, so beautiful. But I say it in front of my friends: This should never happen to another president again, this hoax. It should never happen to another president again. Thank you."[279][280]
  3. Full remarks:
    Reporter #1: "Some Democrats, sir, are still talking about impeachment. What's your response to that?"
    Trump: "I don't think they're talking about impeachment. We have the greatest economy we've ever had, our country's in incredible shape. They and others created a fraud on our country with this ridiculous witch hunt, where it was proven very strongly, 'No collusion. No obstruction. No nothing.' We are doing so well, we've never probably had a time of prosperity like this. It's been great." (To a reporter:) "Go ahead."
    Reporter #2: "Sir, do you think the people who launched the investigation into your campaign [are guilty] of treasonous acts?"
    Trump: "Yeah."
    Reporter #2: "How high up do you think it went?"
    Trump: "I think it went very high up. I think what happened is a disgrace. I don't believe our country should allow this ever to happen again. This will never happen again. We cannot let it ever happen again. It went very high up, and it started fairly low, but with instructions from the high-up. This should never happen to a president again. We can't allow that to take place."
    Reporter #2: "Do you think it reached the West Wing of the Obama White House?"
    Trump: "I don't want to say that, but I think you know the answer."
    Reporter #3: "Mr. President, the report says while you did not commit a crime, it says that you specifically – "
    Trump: "Who said what?"
    Reporter #3: "While the Mueller Report says, according to the Barr letter, while you didn't – "
    Trump: "The Mueller Report was great. It could not have been better. It said, 'No obstruction. No collusion.' It could not have been better."[288]
  4. President Trump was referring to an article in The Atlantic, titled "The White House Has No Plan for Confronting the Mueller Report", published on December 6, 2018.[298]

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  132. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 157: "Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment. The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong."
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  135. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 1: "Given the role of the Special Counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the Special Counsel regulations, see 28 U.S.C. § 515; 28 C.F.R. § 600.7(a), this Office accepted OLC's legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction. And apart from OLC's constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President's capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct."
  136. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 1: "Second, while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President's term is permissible. The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office. OLC Op. at 255 ('Recognizing an immunity from prosecution for a sitting President would not preclude such prosecution once the President's term is over or he is otherwise removed from office by resignation or impeachment')."
  137. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 158: "The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Corney did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn's prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President's order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President's message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President's direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President's multiple demands that he do so. Consistent with that pattern, the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the President's aides and associates beyond those already filed."
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  144. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 15: "Trump also expressed skepticism that Russia had hacked the emails at the same time as he and other Campaign advisors privately sought information about any further planned WikiLeaks releases."
  145. Mueller Report, vol. I, p. 54: "According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks. Template:Redacted content while Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia Airport. Template:Redacted content, shortly after the call candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming."
  146. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 15: "After the election, when questions persisted about possible links between Russia and the Trump Campaign, the President-Elect continued to deny any connections to Russia and privately expressed concerns that reports of Russian election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election."
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  150. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 25: "Flynn, who was in the Dominican Republic at the time, and K.T. McFarland, who was slated to become the Deputy National Security Advisor and was at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida with the President-Elect and other senior staff, talked by phone about what, if anything, Flynn should communicate to Kislyak about the sanctions."
  151. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 25: "Incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus recalled that McFarland may have mentioned at the meeting that the sanctions situation could be 'cooled down' and not escalated."
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  153. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 25: "Priebus recalled that the President-Elect viewed the sanctions as an attempt by the Obama Administration to embarrass him by delegitimizing his election."
  154. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 25: "Immediately after discussing the sanctions with McFarland on December 29, 2016, Flynn called Kislyak and requested that Russia respond to the sanctions only in a reciprocal manner, without escalating the situation."
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  157. Mueller Report, vol II, p. 25: After the call, Flynn briefed McFarland on its substance. Flynn told McFarland that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because Russia wanted a good relationship with the Trump Administration.
  158. 158.0 158.1 Mueller Report, vol II, pp. 25–26: "On December 30, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time and would instead 'plan ... further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.' Following that announcement, the President-Elect tweeted, 'Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!'"
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  161. Mueller Report, vol. I, p. 48: "In early March 2017, the President learned that Sessions was considering recusing from the Russia investigation and tried to prevent the recusal. After Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at Sessions for the decision and then privately asked Sessions to 'unrecuse'."
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  164. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 48: "In the days that followed, the President contacted Comey and other intelligence agency leaders and asked them to push back publicly on the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort in order to 'lift the cloud' of the ongoing investigation."
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  171. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 77: "The Acting Attorney General appointed a Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, prompting the President to state that it was the end of his presidency and that Attorney General Sessions had failed to protect him and should resign. Sessions submitted his resignation, which the President ultimately did not accept."
  172. Mueller Report, vol. II, pp. 77–78: "On June 14, 2017, the press reported that the President was being personally investigated for obstruction of justice and the President responded with a series of tweets criticizing the Special Counsel's investigation."
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  174. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 78: "That weekend, the President called McGahn and directed him to have the Special Counsel removed because of asserted conflicts of interest. McGahn did not carry out the instruction for fear of being seen as triggering another Saturday Night Massacre and instead prepared to resign. McGahn ultimately did not quit and the President did not follow up with McGahn on his request to have the Special Counsel removed."
  175. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 90: "Two days after the President directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation. On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one with Corey Lewandowski in the Oval Office and dictated a message to be delivered to Attorney General Sessions that would have had the effect of limiting the Russia investigation to future election interference only."
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  177. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 91: "During the June 19 meeting, Lewandowski recalled that, after some small talk, the President brought up Sessions and criticized his recusal from the Russia investigation.605 The President told Lewandowski that Sessions was weak and that if the President had known about the likelihood of recusal in advance, he would not have appointed Sessions."
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  179. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 91: "I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS . .. is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn't have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn't done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn't do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history."
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  181. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 91: "Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. I am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future election."
  182. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 92: "The President said that if Sessions delivered that statement he would be the 'most popular guy in the country'. Lewandowski told the President he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do.
  183. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 91: "Lewandowski wanted to pass the message to Sessions in person rather than over the phone. He did not want to meet at the Department of Justice because he did not want a public log of his visit and did not want Sessions to have an advantage over him by meeting on what Lewandowski described as Sessions's turf. Lewandowski called Sessions and arranged a meeting for the following evening at Lewandowski's office, but Sessions had to cancel due to a last minute conflict."
  184. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 93: "President raised his previous request and asked if Lewandowski had talked to Sessions. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Lewandowski recalled that the President told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired."
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  186. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 91–92: "On July 19, 2017, the President again met with Lewandowski alone in the Oval Office. [...] the President raised his previous request and asked if Lewandowski had talked to Sessions. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Lewandowski recalled that the President told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired. Immediately following the meeting with the President, Lewandowski saw Dearborn in the anteroom outside the Oval Office and gave him a typewritten version of the message the President had dictated to be delivered to Sessions. Lewandowski told Dearborn that the notes were the message they had discussed, but Dearborn did not recall whether Lewandowski said the message was from the President. The message 'definitely raised an eyebrow' for Dearborn, and he recalled not wanting to ask where it came from or think further about doing anything with it. Dearborn also said that being asked to serve as a messenger to Sessions made him uncomfortable. He recalled later telling Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, but he did not actually follow through with delivering the message to Sessions, and he did not keep a copy of the typewritten notes Lewandowski had given him."
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  189. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 106: "Each of these efforts by the President involved his communications team and was directed at the press. They would amount to obstructive acts only if the President, by taking these actions, sought to withhold information from or mislead congressional investigators or the Special Counsel."
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  192. Mueller Report, vol. I, p. 15: "Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign chairman, stated during interviews with the Office that in the days before June 9, 2016 Trump Jr. announced at a regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation."
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  196. Mueller Report, vol. I, pp. 117–118: "Goldstone recalled that Trump Jr. invited Veselnitskaya to begin but did not say anything about the subject of the meeting. Participants agreed that Veselnitskaya stated that the Ziff brothers had broken Russian laws and had donated their profits to the DNC or the Clinton Campaign. She asserted that the Ziff brothers had engaged in tax evasion and money laundering in both the United States and Russia, (redacted)."
  197. Mueller Report, vol. I, p. 188: "The Office would also encounter difficulty proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the promised documents and information exceeds the $2,000 threshold for a criminal violation, as well as the $25,000 threshold for felony punishment. See 52 U.S.C. § 30109(d)(1). The type of evidence commonly used to establish the value of non-monetary contributions-such as pricing the contribution on a commercial market or determining the upstream acquisition cost or the cost of distribution-would likely be unavailable or ineffective in this factual setting."
  198. Mueller Report, vol. II, pp. 112–113: "On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation and prosecution of Hillary Clinton. ... There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President's conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that would restrict its scope. ... A reasonable inference from those statements and the President's actions is that the President believed that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation. For example, in early summer 2017, Sessions recalled the President asking him to unrecuse, but Sessions did not take it as a directive. When the President raised the issue again in December 2017, the President said, as recorded by Porter, 'Not telling you to do anything. ... I'm not going to get involved. I'm not going to do anything or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly.' The duration of the President's efforts-which spanned from March 2017 to August 2018 – and the fact that the President repeatedly criticized Sessions in public and in private for failing to tell the President that he would have to recuse is relevant to assessing whether the President's efforts to have Sessions unrecuse could qualify as obstructive acts."
  199. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 113: "After the story broke, the President, through his personal counsel and two aides, sought to have McGahn deny that he had been directed to remove the Special Counsel."
  200. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 115: "Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file 'for our records' and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a 'lying bastard' and said that he wanted a record from him."
  201. Mueller Report, vol. II, pp. 115–116: "Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, 'If he doesn't write a letter, then maybe I'll have to get rid of him.'"
  202. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 120: "In addition to the interactions with McGahn described above, the President has taken other actions directed at possible witnesses in the Special Counsel's investigation, including Flynn, Manafort, HOM and as described in the next section, Cohen."
  203. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 131: "Because of privilege issues, however, we could not determine whether the President was personally involved in or knew about the specific message his counsel delivered to Flynn's counsel."
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  205. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 131: "With respect to Manafort, there is evidence that the President's actions had the potential to influence Manafort's decision whether to cooperate with the government."
  206. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 155: "Intent. In analyzing the President's intent in his actions towards Cohen as a potential witness, there is evidence that could support the inference that the President intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen's information would shed adverse light on the President's campaign-period conduct and statements."
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  210. Mueller Report, Appendix A, p. A-1: "Order No. 3915-2017. Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate Russian Interference with the 2016 Presidential Election and Related Matters".
  211. Mueller Report, Appendix B, p. B-1: "The following glossary contains names and brief descriptions of individuals and entities referenced in the two volumes of this report. It is not intended to be comprehensive and is intended only to assist a reader in the reading the rest of the report."
  212. Mueller Report, Appendix C, p. C-1: "The President provided written responses through his personal counsel to questions submitted to him by the Special Counsel's Office. We first explain the process that led to the submission of written questions and then attach the President's responses."
  213. Mueller Report, Appendix D, p. D-1: "Special Counsel's Office Transferred, Referred, and Completed Cases. This appendix identifies matters transferred or referred by the Special Counsel's Office, as well as cases prosecuted by the Office that are now completed."
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  236. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 80: The President Asserts that the Special Counsel has Conflicts of Interest In the days following the Special Counsel's appointment, the President repeatedly told advisors, including Priebus, Bannon, and McGahn, that Special Counsel Mueller had conflicts of interest. The President cited as conflicts that Mueller had interviewed for the FBI Director position shortly before being appointed as Special Counsel, that he had worked for a law firm that represented people affiliated with the President, and that Mueller had disputed certain fees relating to his membership in a Trump golf course in Northern Virginia. The President's advisors pushed back on his assertion of conflicts, telling the President they did not count as true conflicts.
  237. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 82: "On June 9, 2017, the Special Counsel's Office informed the White House Counsel's Office that investigators intended to interview intelligence community officials who had allegedly been asked by the President to push back against the Russia investigation. On Monday, June 12, 2017, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of the President's, met at the White House with Priebus and Bannon. Ruddy recalled that they told him the President was strongly considering firing the Special Counsel and that he would do so precipitously, without vetting the decision through Administration officials. Ruddy asked Priebus if Ruddy could talk publicly about the discussion they had about the Special Counsel, and Priebus said he could. Priebus told Ruddy he hoped another blow up like the one that followed the termination of Corney did not happen. Later that day, Ruddy stated in a televised interview that the President was 'considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel' based on purported conflicts of interest. Ruddy later told another news outlet that 'Trump is definitely considering' terminating the Special Counsel and 'it's not something that's being dismissed.' Ruddy's comments led to extensive coverage in the media that the President was considering firing the Special Counsel."
  238. Mueller Report, vol. II, pp. 71–72: "That same morning, on May 10, 2017, the President called McCabe. According to a memorandum McCabe wrote following the call, the President asked McCabe to come over to the White House to discuss whether the President should visit FBI headquarters and make a speech to employees. The President said he had received 'hundreds' of messages from FBI employees indicating their support for terminating Comey. The President also told McCabe that Comey should not have been permitted to travel back to Washington, D.C. on the FBI's airplane after he had been terminated and that he did not want Comey 'in the building again', even to collect his belongings. When McCabe met with the President that afternoon, the President, without prompting, told McCabe that people in the FBI loved the President, estimated that at least 80% of the FBI had voted for him, and asked McCabe who he had voted for in the 2016 presidential election. In the afternoon of May 10, 2017, deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders spoke to the President about his decision to fire Comey and then spoke to reporters in a televised press conference. Sanders told reporters that the President, the Department of Justice, and bipartisan members of Congress had lost confidence in Comey, '[a]nd most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director. Accordingly, the President accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General to remove James Comey from his position.' In response to questions from reporters, Sanders said that Rosenstein decided 'on his own' to review Comey's performance and that Rosenstein decided 'on his own' to come to the President on Monday, May 8 to express his concerns about Comey. When a reporter indicated that the 'vast majority' of FBI agents supported Corney, Sanders said, 'Look, we've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.' Following the press conference, Sanders spoke to the President, who told her she did a good job and did not point out any inaccuracies in her comments. Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue'. She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made 'in the heat of the moment' that was not founded on anything."
  239. Mueller Report, vol. II, pp. 72–73: "Also on May 10, 2017, Sessions and Rosenstein each spoke to McGahn and expressed concern that the White House was creating a narrative that Rosenstein had initiated the decision to fire Comey. The White House Counsel's Office agreed that it was factually wrong to say that the Department of Justice had initiated Comey's termination, and McGahn asked attorneys in the White House Counsel's Office to work with the press office to correct the narrative."
  240. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 105: "After consulting with the President on the issue, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the media that the President 'certainly didn't dictate' the statement, but that 'he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.' Several months later, the President's personal counsel stated in a private communication to the Special Counsel's Office that 'the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.' The President later told the press that it was 'irrelevant' whether he dictated the statement and said, 'It's a statement to the New York Times ... That's not a statement to a high tribunal of judges.'"
  241. Mueller Report, vol. I, p. 6: "On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government reporting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign."
  242. Mueller Report, vol. II, p. 134: "The President's conduct involving Michael Cohen spans the full period of our investigation. During the campaign, Cohen pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project on behalf of the Trump Organization. Cohen briefed candidate Trump on the project numerous times, including discussing whether Trump should travel to Russia to advance the deal. After the media began questioning Trump's connections to Russia, Cohen promoted a 'party line' that publicly distanced Trump from Russia and asserted he had no business there. Cohen continued to adhere to that party line in 2017, when Congress asked him to provide documents and testimony in its Russia investigation. In an attempt to minimize the President's connections to Russia, Cohen submitted a letter to Congress falsely stating that he only briefed Trump on the Trump Tower Moscow project three times, that he did not consider asking Trump to travel to Russia, that Cohen had not received a response to an outreach he made to the Russian government, and that the project ended in January 2016, before the first Republican caucus or primary. While working on the congressional statement, Cohen had extensive discussions with the President's personal counsel, who, according to Cohen, said that Cohen should not contradict the President and should keep the statement short and 'tight'. After the FBI searched Cohen's home and office in April 2018, the President publicly asserted that Cohen would not 'flip' and privately passed messages of support to him. Cohen also discussed pardons with the President's personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message, he would get a pardon or the President would do 'something else' to make the investigation end. But after Cohen began cooperating with the government in July 2018, the President publicly criticized him, called him a 'rat', and suggested his family members had committed crimes."
  243. Mueller Report, vol. II, pp. 33–36: "Also on January 27, the President called FBI Director Comey and invited him to dinner that evening. Priebus recalled that before the dinner, he told the President something like, 'don't talk about Russia, whatever you do,' and the President promised he would not talk about Russia at the dinner. McGahn had previously advised the President that he should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid the perception or reality of political interference in law enforcement. When Bannon learned about the President's planned dinner with Comey, he suggested that he or Priebus also attend, but the President stated that he wanted to dine with Comey alone. Comey said that when he arrived for the dinner that evening, he was surprised and concerned to see that no one else had been invited. Comey provided an account of the dinner in a contemporaneous memo, an interview with this Office, and congressional testimony. According to Comey's account of the dinner, the President repeatedly brought up Comey's future, asking whether he wanted to stay on as FBI director. Because the President had previously said he wanted Comey to stay on as FBI director, Comey interpreted the President's comments as an effort to create a patronage relationship by having Comey ask for his job. The President also brought up the Steele reporting that Comey had raised in the January 6, 2017, briefing and stated that he was thinking about ordering the FBI to investigate the allegations to prove they were false. Comey responded that the President should think carefully about issuing such an order because it could create a narrative that the FBI was investigating him personally, which was incorrect. Later in the dinner, the President brought up Flynn and said, 'the guy has serious judgment issues.' Comey did not comment on Flynn and the President did not acknowledge any FBI interest in or contact with Flynn. According to Comey's account, at one point during the dinner the President stated, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.' Comey did not respond and the conversation moved on to other topics, but the President returned to the subject of Comey's job at the end of the dinner and repeated, 'I need loyalty.' Comey responded, 'You will always get honesty from me.' The President said, 'That's what I want, honest loyalty.' Comey said, 'You will get that from me.' After Comey's account of the dinner became public, the President and his advisors disputed that he had asked for Comey's loyalty. The President also indicated that he had not invited Comey to dinner, telling a reporter that he thought Comey had 'asked for the dinner' because 'he wanted to stay on.' But substantial evidence corroborates Comey's account of the dinner invitation and the request for loyalty. The President's Daily Diary confirms that the President 'extend[ed] a dinner invitation' to Comey on January 27. With respect to the substance of the dinner conversation, Comey documented the President's request for loyalty in a memorandum he began drafting the night of the dinner; senior FBI officials recall that Comey told them about the loyalty request shortly after the dinner occurred; and Comey described the request while under oath in congressional proceedings and in a subsequent interview with investigators subject to penalties for lying under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Comey's memory of the details of the dinner, including that the President requested loyalty, has remained consistent throughout."
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External links

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