Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was appointed on May 17, 2017, by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 White House race and whether the Russian government coordinated with individuals associated with Donald Trump’s campaign. The special counsel also examined whether President Trump obstructed justice by seeking to block the Russia investigation.
On March 22, 2019, the special counsel submitted a confidential report on his findings to Attorney General William P. Barr. Two days later, Barr relayed to Congress what he said were Mueller’s principal conclusions. He said that the special-counsel investigation “did not establish” that members of Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia. Barr said that Mueller declined to make a judgement as to whether Trump obstructed justice. The attorney general said that left the decision to him, and Barr concluded the evidence gathered by the special counsel “is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
Download the full PDF here or read the Post’s illustrated digital series drawn directly from episodes detailed in the Mueller report.
Volume I of II
Mueller’s team looked for tacit or express agreement with Russians — not ‘collusion’
In an executive summary, Mueller’s team clearly stated that it did not believe “collusion”—which Trump has incessantly insisted he did not commit—to be a legal term. For that reason, prosecutors did not assess whether Trump’s campaign “colluded” with Russia.
“In evaluation whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of ‘collusion,’ ” prosecutors wrote. They noted that the Justice Department had at times used the word “collusion” prior to Mueller’s appointment. “But 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,” they said.
They said they instead examined whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russians, as defined by conspiracy law. “We understood coordination to require an agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”
They noted that an agreement requires two parties taking actions “informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.”
Using that definition, they wrote, the investigation “did not establish” that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference.
— Rosalind S. Helderman
Campaign expected to benefit from stolen information released by the Russians
The precise language used in the report’s executive summaries reveals the nuance of Mueller’s findings. It notes:
1. The investigation found that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome through hacking and distributing stolen information.
2. The campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
3. The Russian hacking and social media campaign coincided with a series of contacts between Trump campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.
4. The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
(From Page 5)
— Tom Hamburger
Kushner and the Russia reconciliation plan
One of the more striking episodes of contact between Russians and Trump associates that Mueller details came in the transition period, when Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, was attempted to make contact with the incoming administration.
According to Mueller’s report, a business associate steered Dmitriev to Erik Prince, a Trump campaign supporter and friend of Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, and Dmitriev and Prince later met in January 2017 and discussed U.S.-Russia relations. Around that same time, according to Mueller’s report, a business associate introduced Dmitriev to a friend of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.
The report alleges that Dmitriev and the Kushner friend collaborated on a “short reconciliation plan for the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied had been cleared through Putin.” It says the friend “gave that report to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.”
— Matt Zapotosky
Russian interference sought to boost Bernie Sanders in 2016, report says
The report provides a fresh look at allegations that the Russian-based Internet Research Agency not only interfered in the 2016 campaign on social media on behalf of Donald Trump but also sought to help Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Internal IRA documents “referred to support for the Trump campaign and opposition to candidate Clinton,” according to the report. While much of this section of the report is redacted, it cites directions to IRA operators not to harm Sanders.
“Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),” quotes the report.
Allegations of the pro-Sanders strategy by Russian influencers came up in 2018, when the Justice Department charged 13 individuals and three companies with interfering illegally.
The Washington Post recently explored the suspect social media accounts in greater detail, in coordination with Clemson University researchers.
While Sanders had said in a previous radio interview that one of his campaign workers figured out what was going on and alerted Clinton campaign officials, his 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told The Post in a recent interview for the story that Sanders “misspoke a little bit and conflated a few of the facts. . . . He did not know, I did not know, none of us knew” that Russia was behind the efforts.
(From Page 23)
— Sean Sullivan
Russians assigned tasks to Americans, such as wearing Santa costume with Trump mask
Russian disinformation teams used social media to recruit Americans across the political spectrum to help push their themes online and also to participate in real-world political rallies and other events, Mueller found.
The recruiting of Americans started in 2014 and continued even beyond the November 2016 election. An African American “self-defense instructor” in New York offered classes for the Russian-created social media group “Black Fist” in February 2017.
Conservative activists participated in a range of political events organized by the Internet Research Agency, including in one instance appearing as Santa Claus while wearing a Trump mask in New York City.
Overwhelmingly such efforts were intended to help Trump and hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton, Mueller concluded. None of the Americans identified by the investigation were aware that they were helping a Russian disinformation effort. (From Page 32) — Craig Timberg
Russia operatives cheered when Trump tweeted about their event in Miami
Getting the Trump campaign — or better yet, Donald Trump himself — to tweet or retweet about the activities of the Russian disinformation campaign was a closely watched goal for the operatives at the Internet Research Agency, Mueller found.
The report recounts the celebration when Trump applauded an event in Miami the Russians had organized in August 2016 by tweeting: “THANK YOU for your support Miami!… TOGETHER, WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
A Russian account on Facebook, posing as an American named Matt Skiber, sent a message to an American tea party activist afterward saying: “Mr. Trump posted about our event in Miami! This is great!”
Mueller’s report noted, “IRA employees monitored the reaction of the Trump Campaign and, later, Trump Administration officials to their tweets.”
(From Page 34)
— Craig Timberg
GRU began posting stolen Democratic documents before WikiLeaks’ dump of DNC emails
Starting in June 2016, the Russian spy agency GRU posted hacked documents on the website it created under a fictitious name, DCLeaks.com, according to the report. The material came from individuals associated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, rather than the accounts of Democratic Party organizations.
The releases came a month before WikiLeaks put up its first major release of stolen Democratic emails. The Russians, hiding behind the concocted website, posted thousands of documents, including personal identifying and financial information, internal Clinton campaign correspondence, and fundraising files and information.
(From Page 41)
-- Ellen Nakashima
GRU communicated privately with U.S. reporters using American social media
Officers with the Russian spy agency GRU operated a Facebook page using a concocted name for a website they secretly operated called DCLeaks, according to the report. It used the Facebook account, as well as the Twitter account @dcleaks_ and the email account email@example.com, to communicate privately with reporters and other U.S. individuals, the report said.
Using the DCLeaks persona, the GRU “gave certain reporters early access to archives of leaked files by sending them links and passwords to pages” on the DCLeaks website before the pages went live.
For example, on July 14, 2016, it sent a link and password to a non-public DCLeaks page to a reporter via Facebook. On Sept. 14, 2016, it sent reporters direct messages on Twitter with passwords to another non-public part of the website. The site was operational until March 2017.
(From Page 42)
— Ellen Nakashima
Report details coordination efforts on stolen documents
Shortly after the Russian spy agency GRU’s first release of stolen documents through DCLeaks.com in June 2016, GRU officers using the DCLeaks persona contacted WikiLeaks about possible coordination in the future release of stolen emails, the special counsel said.
On June 14, 2016, according to Mueller, @dcleaks_ sent a direct message to @WikiLeaks noting WikiLeaks was preparing to publish more Clinton emails. “We have some sensitive information too, in particular, her financial documents,” they said. “Let’s do it together. What do you think about publishing our info at the same moment?”
Around the same time, WikiLeaks began communications with the GRU persona Guccifer 2.0 shortly after it was used to release documents stolen from the DNC, Mueller said. On June 22, 2016, a week after Guccifer 2.0’s first release of stolen DNC documents, WikiLeaks sent a direct message to Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account to suggest that Guccifer 2.0 “send any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.’’
On July 6, 2016, WikiLeaks again contacted Guccifer 2.0, saying, “If you have anything Hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days . . . because the DNC is approaching,” and adding that “conflict between bernie and Hillary is interesting.”
(From Page 45)
— Ellen Nakashima
Trump campaign interested in WikiLeaks releases
In a heavily redacted section of the special counsel’s report, Mueller writes , “The Trump Campaign showed interest in Wikileaks’ releases of hacked materials throughout the summer and fall of 2016.”
The subsequent pages mention several key Trump associates, including Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Rick Gates. But most pf the details are redacted under the heading of “Harm to Ongoing Matter.”
According to former Trump campaign adviser Gates, then-campaign chairman Manafort “expressed excitement about the release” of stolen DNC emails by WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016. Manafort told the special counsel that, shortly after the July 22 release, he also spoke with Trump. Manafort wanted to be kept apprised of developments and separately told Gates to keep in touch about future WikiLeaks releases.
The pages also mention the activities of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, but again this section features heavy redactions.
Another line in this section says, “Candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.”
(From Volume 1, Pages 51-60)
Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming from WikiLeaks in late summer 2016
According to deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort expressed excitement about the July 2016 release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails by WikiLeaks, the report said.
Manafort told prosecutors he spoke with Trump about the release shortly afterward, but the subject was redacted. Manafort “wanted to be kept apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks and separately told Gates to keep in touch [redacted] about future developments,” the report said.
Gates also told prosecutors that by late summer 2016, the campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging based on the potential release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.
While Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia Airport, shortly after a phone call the details of which were redacted, “candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming,” Gates said in an October 2018 debriefing, the report said.
(From Page 53-54)
— Spencer S. Hsu
Donald Trump Jr.’s direct interaction with WikiLeaks during 2016 campaign
On Sept. 20, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. emailed senior campaign staffers saying, “Guys I got a weird Twitter DM [direct message] from wikileaks.” He said the anti-secrecy group asked him about an unlaunched anti-Trump “conspiracy” site. “Seems like it’s really wikileaks asking me,” he said.
The next day, after the site had launched, he sent a direct message to WikiLeaks: “Off the record, I don’t know who that is but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”
On Oct. 3, WikiLeaks sent another message to Trump Jr., asking “you guys” to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton had advocated using a drone to target WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Trump Jr. replied he already “had done so” and asked, “what’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” WikiLeaks did not respond.
On Oct. 12, several days after WikiLeaks began publishing emails hacked from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s account, WikiLeaks wrote him again, saying it was “great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if mentions us wlsearch.tk.” Two days later, Trump Jr. tweeted the link.
(From Pages 59-60)
— Ellen Nakashima
Trump campaign attempted to obtain Hillary Clinton’s private emails
On July 27, 2016, Trump famously said at a campaign rally, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” referring to emails that Clinton said she had deleted from her private server.
Trump also “made this request repeatedly” during the campaign, former national security adviser Michael Flynn told the special counsel’s team. Flynn “contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails,” including Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative, and Barbara Ledeen, a Republican Senate staffer who had previously tried to find the emails.
Months earlier, Ledeen had written to Smith that Clinton’s server had probably been breached long ago and that “the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian intelligence services could ‘re-assemble the server’s email content.’ ”
After Trump’s July comments about Russia, Smith launched his own effort to find the missing emails. “He created a company, raised tens of thousands of dollars, and recruited security experts and business associates,” the investigation found. Smith also claimed that “he was in contact with hackers ‘with ties and affiliations to Russia’ who had access to the emails, and that his efforts were coordinated with the Trump Campaign,” but the special counsel couldn’t establish whether that was true.
In August, Smith wrote to Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, among others, about his efforts. “Parties with varying interests, are circling to release [the emails] ahead of the election,” Smith said. And as Smith raised thousands of dollars for his efforts, he told potential donors that he was doing his work “in coordination” with the Trump campaign, the special counsel found. The investigation found only that Smith communicated directly with Flynn and Clovis.
Ledeen later told Smith she believed she had obtained a trove of emails that might be Clinton’s. Smith wanted to authenticate them, and Erik Prince, the private military contractor and Trump supporter, “provided funding to hire a tech adviser to ascertain the authenticity of the emails. According to Prince, the tech advisor determined that the emails were not authentic,” the report found. Ultimately, the investigation did not establish that Smith, Ledeen or others in touch with the Trump campaign obtained the Clinton emails.
The special counsel also didn’t find evidence that any Trump campaign staff or associates “initiated or directed Smith’s efforts.”
(From Pages 62-65)
— Shane Harris
Russia showed early interest in Trump’s campaign
The report describes “multiple contacts” between Trump campaign officials and people with ties to the Russian government, indicating that the special counsel explored whether they amounted to an additional arm of the Russian effort to interfere in the election. Investigators concluded that they could not establish “coordination.”
A significant portion of the report is devoted to describing these contacts, with Mueller indicating that the Russians showed early interest in the Trump campaign. It reveals for the first time that an employee of a publication founded by former Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Rykov emailed Hope Hicks and requested an interview with Trump in August 2015. Two days earlier, Rykov had registered two pro-Trump websites, Trump2016.ru and DonaldTrump2016.ru. The report notes an interview with Rykov’s publication never took place.
(From Page 66t)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
Second Trump Tower Moscow project also had links to Russian government
The report describes efforts by Trump attorney Michael Cohen to launch a real estate project in Moscow during the campaign. These efforts included one project Cohen was pursuing in conjunction with Trump business associate Felix Sater. As has been previously known, the report describes how Cohen pursued the Sater project into the middle of 2016 and Cohen appealed for help moving the project forward from the Kremlin.
But the report reveals that a second proposal for a Moscow project fielded by Cohen in the fall of 2015 also had ties to the Russian government. Georgian American businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze, who was proposing the project, wrote to Cohen that “if we could organize the meeting in New York at the highest level of the Russian Government and Mr. Trump this project would definitely receive the worldwide attention.’”
Rtskhiladze also drafted a letter to the mayor of Moscow to ask for his assistance, proposing it as a “symbol of stronger economic, business and cultural relationship” between the United States and Russia.
The report indicates that Cohen declined to pursue Rtskhiladze’s proposal but instead decided to work with Sater.
(From Page 70)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
Trump declined personal invitation to visit Russia during campaign, extended from government official
According to the report, a fashion industry contact of Ivanka Trump extended invitations on behalf of a Russian deputy prime minister for Ivanka and Donald Trump to visit the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, an annual economic event. The invitations first came in December 2015. Trump assistant Rhona Graff responded to the contact that they would not attend.
However, on March 17, 2016, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko apparently emailed Graff again, inviting Trump to attend the event, which takes place in June. She declined, noting Trump’s busy campaign schedule, but added that he would otherwise “have gladly given every consideration to attending such an important event.”
Around the same time, a New York investment banker named Robert Foresman contacted Graff, indicating he’d been asked by an official in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration to ask Trump to speak at the same event. He emailed that he had received an “approach” from “senior Kremlin officials” about Trump and was connected to Graff through “Apprentice” producer Mark Burnett.
Foresman emailed more than once asking for a meeting with Trump to discuss the offer. Though he was at one point offered an alternative meeting with Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr., the special counsel concluded there was no sign Foresman got a meeting. Foresman told prosecutors in an interview that the Kremlin contacts he was referring to merely meant the invitation to the economic forum.
(From Pages 78-79)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
Mifsud had Russian contacts, including with Internet Research Agency and Russian Defense Ministry
The report contains some new information about the background of Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who told Trump adviser George Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians held dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.
In recent months, Papadopoulos has claimed that he believes Mifsud is tied to Western intelligence and that his information about the Clinton emails was a “deep state” conspiracy to plant damaging information that could be used against the Trump campaign.
But Mueller’s team instead said that Mifsud “maintained various Russian connections” while he was living in London. They write that those connections included a person who was a onetime employee of the Internet Research Agency, the company that led the social media campaign against the United States. Mifsud was also in contact that spring, they write, with an Internet account linked to an employee of the Russian Defense Ministry that had overlapping contacts with accounts that were publicizing hacked emails through DCLeaks.
(From Pages 83-85)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
Lawyer for Trump Jr. pleased with the way report handles Trump Tower meeting
Lawyers for the Trump Organization are closely reviewing the Mueller report — and one issued an early statement expressing satisfaction with the report’s discussion of the now-famous meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
“The Report confirms that the June 9, 2016 meeting was just what Don said it was, and nothing more, and that there was nothing improper about potentially listening to information,” said Alan S. Futerfas, an attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump Organization.
(From Pages 110-116 and 186)
— Tom Hamburger
Dimitri Simes, Trump transition team’s Russia whisperer
The president and CEO of the Center for the National Interest, Dimitri Simes, played a recurring role in the Trump transition team’s efforts in deciding whether and when to engage with Russian officials.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reached out to Simes for things such as reminders about the names of Russian diplomatic officials, including the ambassador, and for guidance on whether he should talk to the then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, when he reached out in mid-November 2016.
Simes told him that Kislyak was a good contact for “routine” issues but that Yuri Ushakov was better for “direct/substantial” matters. Kushner nonetheless suggested the idea of setting up a back channel at the Russian Embassy to speak with Russian generals about Syria in his Nov. 30 Trump Tower meeting with Kislyak, a suggestion the ambassador “quickly rejected.”
But Simes’s closeness to Kushner made him a go-to contact for others tapped by Russians hoping to make inroads with Trump’s team.
When Russian oligarch and Alfa Bank board member Petr Aven approached former U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Burt about contacting the Trump transition team, Burt viewed the request as “unusual and outside the normal realm of his dealings with Aven.”
But he reached out to Simes for help — telling Aven that Simes was a “very influential person” and could help with Aven’s effort to establish a communications channel with the Trump team. Burt said that while Simes seemed interested in the effort, he wasn’t sure the Trump transition team was, too.
(From Pages 145 and 163-165)
— Karoun Demirjian
Putin wanted Trump to win, but Russians did not appear to have pre-election contacts with Trump team
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “preference was for candidate Trump to win,” a Russian oligarch told his contact in the United States – but according to the special counsel’s probe, the Russians “appeared not to have pre-existing contacts” with Trump’s campaign before the election “and struggled to connect with senior officials around the president-elect.”
In fact, when Trump communications director Hope Hicks received a call on election night from a foreign-sounding voice claiming to be making a “Putin call,” she was skeptical – and when the Russian Embassy official followed up with an email from his personal Gmail account, she worried to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner that the team might “get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!”
To remedy that state of affairs, Putin swiftly dispatched businessmen instead of politicians to reach out to the Trump team after his win, Mueller’s probe found – appealing to oligarchs to make contacts with the Trump transition team — and warning them that their business interests were on the line because the United States was considering additional sanctions on Russia.
Putin would just make suggestions during his meetings with oligarchs, Petr Aven, chairman of the board at Alfa Bank, told Mueller’s team, but it was clear they were “directives” and it was understood that “there would be consequences” if they did not follow through.
(From Pages 144-148)
— Karoun Demirjian
Putin stepped up outreach to Trump, hoping to make contacts with Trump transition team
After the election, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to escalate efforts to work through oligarchs with an “all-hands” meeting with Russia’s top businessmen in December 2016, as sanctions were approaching, Alfa Bank board member Petr Aven told Mueller’s team.
Putin had been meeting one-on-one with Russian oligarchs toward the end of 2016, appealing to his country’s most influential businessmen to make contacts with the Trump transition team and letting it be understood that “there would be consequences” if they did not deliver, according to what Aven told the team.
But as Aven, Kirill Dmitriev and other oligarchs scrambled to make inroads with the transition team, it appears that Russian political officials also began to use their personal influence.
In December 2016, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich also stopped by a dinner in Moscow to speak to former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, asking him “if he could facilitate connecting Dvorkovich with individuals involved in the transition to begin a discussion of future cooperation.”
Yet these “multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government” failed to establish in the eyes of the investigation “that the campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”
“In some instances, the campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances, the campaign officials shied away,” the special counsel wrote in the report. “Ultimately the investigation did not establish that the campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”
(From Pages 146-147, 166-167, 173)
— Karoun Demirjian
The Seychelles meetings and what Trump’s team knew
A meeting in the Seychelles between an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Blackwater founder Erik Prince was one product of Putin’s efforts to reach out to the Trump transition team through business contacts, according to the report.
Russian Direct Investment Fund chief Kirill Dmitriev tapped lobbyist and United Arab Emirates adviser George Nader the morning after the 2016 election to make inroads with Trump’s transition team, telling him he wanted to pitch Trump’s advisers on improving U.S.-Russia ties — a plan very important to his “boss,” Putin.
Nader first introduced him in late November 2016 to Rick Gerson, a friend of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The two would work for the next two months “on a proposal for reconciliation between the United States and Russia” that they delivered to Kushner just two days before Trump’s inauguration. Kushner gave it to Stephen K. Bannon and incoming secretary of state Rex Tillerson, but neither followed up before Trump and Putin spoke later in January.
In January 2017, Dmitriev also met twice in the Seychelles with Prince, whom he had been assured by Nader was a “trusted associate” of the Trump transition team. Nader had told Dmitriev that Bannon personally dispatched Prince to meet with him — a claim Prince and Bannon denied. Prince said he did brief Bannon on the meeting after it happened, but Bannon said that conversation never happened, and the special counsel was not able to reconcile their conflicting accounts.
Dmitriev sought the first Seychelles meeting, which lasted 30 to 45 minutes. But Prince requested the second meeting to tell Dmitriev the United States “could not accept any Russian involvement in Libya” after learning a Russian aircraft carrier had sailed there. Dmitriev left the meeting disappointed and “insulted” by some of Prince’s words, Nader said, though Dmitriev told Gerson the meeting was “positive.”
(From Pages 149-158)
— Karoun Demirjian
Michael Flynn and Russian sanctions
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn believed his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak “made a difference” in Russia deciding not to retaliate when the Obama administration issued additional sanctions in late December 2016 — but he told the special counsel he never expressly told the Russians not to make any moves at all.
On Dec. 29, 2016, after the Obama administration announced the sanctions earlier that day, Flynn requested in a phone call with Kislyak “that Russia not escalate the situation . . . and only responds to the sanctions in a reciprocal manner.”
Flynn had held off on conversing with Kislyak, despite his attempt to speak with Flynn on Dec. 28, after reports emerged suggesting the Obama administration would issue additional sanctions imminently. He told Mueller’s team that “he chose not to communicate with Kislyak about the sanctions until he had heard from the team at Mar-A-Lago,” though he informed the transition team Kislyak had been trying to contact him.
The week before, Flynn had been less successful in similar efforts to get Russia to back the Trump transition team’s efforts to delay or block a U.N. Security Council vote on Israeli settlements. Despite Flynn’s outreach, Kislyak told Flynn that when the matter came to a vote, “Russia would not vote against it.”
(From Pages 167-172)
— Karoun Demirjian
Mueller decided against indicting Americans involved in Russian disinformation efforts
The special counsel identified several occasions in which Americans affiliated with the Trump campaign had contact with Russian teams pushing election disinformation over social media. But none of those Americans were aware of the Russian operation, so Mueller declined to prosecute them.
This echoes information from the Mueller’s February 2018 indictment of the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, which spearheaded the Russian effort. That indictment details occasions in which Russian operatives, posing as American political activists, urged people affiliated with the Trump campaign to stage rallies or participate in them.
The Mueller report said of the decision not to charge these Americans: “Although members of the IRA had contact with individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign, the indictment does not charge any Trump Campaign official or any other U.S. person with participating in the conspiracy. That is because the investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. person who coordinated or communicated with the IRA knew that he or she was speaking with Russian national engaged in the criminal conspiracy.”
There was one exception, however. American Richard Pinedo pleaded guilty to a single count of identity fraud for supplying “false or stolen” bank account numbers to the Russian operation. But Mueller found that Pinedo also was not aware that he was helping a foreign disinformation effort. “The investigation did not establish that Pinedo was aware of the identity of the IRA members who purchased bank account numbers from him,” Mueller wrote.
(From Page 175)
— Craig Timberg
The Trump campaign’s ignorance became a barrier to prosecution of Trump Jr.
The special counsel concluded that the Trump campaign was probably accepting something of value when it welcomed a meeting with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, a key hurdle to determining whether Trump’s son, his campaign chairman and others present had violated the law.
But investigators ultimately decided against prosecuting those involved in the episode, largely because of concerns it would be too difficult to cross another legal barrier: proving those participants’ intent.
The government would “unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”
The special counsel provides a similar rationale in other episodes where the facts suggest laws were broken but the difficulty of ascertaining motive seemed too great to overcome.
(From Page 187)
— Greg Miller
Special counsel investigated Sessions but couldn’t prove he had committed perjury
The Mueller team found evidence that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not only met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign but that the two had discussed the presidential race on at least one occasion.
But investigators concluded that the false statements Sessions made in congressional testimony about those contacts were too narrow or imprecise to prove that he had committed perjury.
The decision is outlined in a section of the report that makes clear for the first time how much scrutiny Sessions faced from the special counsel over interactions that ultimately forced him to recuse himself from the Russia probe, triggering Trump’s fury.
Despite three meetings with Kislyak in 2016, Sessions testified during his confirmation hearing in January 2017 that he “did not have communications with the Russians” during the campaign. Even though his statement was not true, the Mueller report said, investigators lacked evidence to prove that he “gave knowingly false answers to Russia-related questions in light of the wording” of the questions he faced from lawmakers.
In his meetings with investigators, Sessions said that he thought he had been asked narrowly about interactions with Russians that “involved the exchange of campaign information.” The special counsel found that explanation “plausible.”
(From Page 198)
— Greg Miller
Volume II of II
Mueller seemed heavily influenced by Justice Department guidance that president can’t be indicted
Mueller’s report suggests his obstruction-of-justice investigation was heavily informed by a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion that says a sitting president cannot be indicted – a conclusion Mueller’s team wrote that it accepted.
“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,” Mueller’s team wrote.
That decision, though, seemed to leave investigators in an unusual spot. Mueller’s team wrote that they “determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes.” They seemed to shy even from producing an internal document that alleged the president had done wrong – essentially deciding that they wouldn’t decide:
“Although a prosecutor’s internal report would not represent a formal public accusation akin to an indictment, the possibility of the report’s public disclosure and the absence of a neutral adjudicatory forum to review its findings counseled against determining ‘that the person’s conduct constitutes a federal offense.’ ”
Barr said at his new conference that department officials asked Mueller “about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion.”
“He 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,” Barr said.
(From Volume 2, Page 2)
— Matt Zapotosky
Flynn called Russian ambassador twice about sanctions
On Dec. 29, 2016, less than one month before Trump took office, incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn had two phone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about which he later lied to Trump administration officials.
The Obama administration that day announced it was imposing sanctions and other measures to punish Russia for its election interference. Flynn was in the Dominican Republic at the time, and his deputy, K.T. McFarland, was with the president-elect and other staffers at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. They spoke by phone, and McFarland informed Flynn that incoming Trump administration officials did not want Russia to escalate the situation.
McFarland then met with Trump and senior officials and briefed them on the sanctions and Russia’s possible responses. Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, told investigators he recalled that Trump viewed the sanctions as an attempt by the Obama administration to embarrass him by delegitimizing his election.
Flynn called Kislyak and asked for Russia not to escalate the situation with its response to the sanctions, and he later told McFarland that Russia wanted a good relationship with the Trump administration. After Russian President Vladimir Putin said the next day that Russia would not take retaliatory measures, Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
On Dec. 31, Kislyak called Flynn to say that his request had been received at the highest levels and was why Russia had chosen not to retaliate. McFarland told investigators that Flynn thought his call to Kislyak had made a difference.
(From Volume 2, Page 24)
— Philip Rucker
Trump asked intelligence leaders to publicly refute Steele dossier allegations
On Jan. 6, 2017, after U.S. intelligence officials briefed President-elect Trump on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had interfered in the election, FBI Director James Comey spoke privately with Trump about the salacious Steele dossier.
Comey assured Trump that the FBI was not investigating him personally, but he recalled that he did not want the president-elect to think of the conversation as a “J. Edgar Hoover move.”
Five days later, after BuzzFeed published information compiled by Steele, Trump expressed concern to intelligence community leaders about the leak and asked whether they could make public statements refuting the dossier’s allegations.
(From Volume 2, Pages 27-28)
— Philip Rucker
‘Kill the story’: Trump’s anger over Post column rattled Flynn
Incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn’s private conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after the 2016 election eventually sparked a series of interactions between Trump and Justice Department officials that raised questions about whether the president was obstructing justice.
Mueller, who had Flynn’s cooperation in the probe, details how Flynn did discuss sanctions with Kislyak and repeatedly lied about those exchanges.
Mueller traces Flynn’s decision to lie and obfuscate back to a phone call Flynn had with then-chief of staff Reince Priebus about Washington Post writer David Ignatius’s Jan. 12, 2017, column noting that Flynn and Kislyak discussed sanctions on the same day the Obama administration announced new sanctions.
Flynn was told by Priebus that the president wanted Flynn to “kill the story,” referring to the Ignatius column. Rattled, Flynn “felt a lot of pressure” and “directed” his aide, K.T. McFarland, to call Ignatius and “inform him that no discussion of sanctions had occurred.”
Trying to contain the fallout, Flynn insisted in the coming days to officials that no discussions of sanctions had occurred, including Vice President Pence and then-press secretary Sean Spicer.
But instead of containing the situation and his standing, Flynn inflamed it. The report says his lies to others in the administration “alarmed senior DOJ officials, who were aware that the statements were not true.”
Flynn’s career in the Trump White House came to an end when the scrutiny intensified. Trump asked Flynn in early February about the phone calls with Kislyak, and “Flynn responded that he might have talked about sanctions,” another example of the administration’s public and private remarks diverging.
(From Volume 2, Pages 29-40)
— Robert Costa
‘Substantial evidence’ supports Comey over Trump in account of Flynn meeting
“Substantial evidence” corroborates former FBI director James Comey’s recollection that Trump shooed others out of the room in February 2017 before pressuring Comey to let former national security adviser Michael Flynn off easy, according to the Mueller report. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump allegedly told Comey.
Trump denied large parts of the meeting, saying that he did not shoo others out of the room and that he did not remember having a one-on-one conversation with Comey.
“While the President has publicly denied these details, other Administration officials who were present have confirmed Comey’s account of how he ended up in a one-on-one meeting with the President,” the report says. “And the President acknowledged to Priebus and McGahn that he in fact spoke to Comey about Flynn in their one-on-one meeting.”
Mueller’s investigators said that Trump’s decision to clear the room also “signals that the President wanted to be alone with Comey, which is consistent with the delivery of a message of the type that Comey recalls.”
That Comey later told Justice Dept. officials that he did not want to be left alone with Trump again was also verified by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and two other senior department officials, according to the report.
The report also says Comey did not tell other FBI officials about his February meeting with Trump, so they wouldn’t be biased by the president’s request.
(From Volume 2, Pages 43-45)
— Josh Dawsey
White House counsel said Trump’s original memo on firing Comey ‘should not see light of day’
When Trump told his aides he planned to fire Comey on May 8, White House counsel Don McGahn and deputy Uttah Dhillon urged the president to let Comey resign, but Trump was adamant that he be fired. The group discussed whether Rosenstein and Sessions could provide additional arguments for firing Comey, and the president agreed, asking Rosenstein to write a memo and insisting he wanted it first thing the next morning.
Trump urged Rosenstein to include in his memo that he was not personally under investigation in the Russia probe, but Rosenstein said the Russia probe was not part of his logic for feeling Comey had engaged in improper action. Trump said he would appreciate it if Rosenstein “put it in anyway.”
Notes that an aide took on the discussion indicate that the White House counsel’s position was that the president’s original termination letter for Comey “should not see the light of day.”
(From Volume 2, Page 68)
— Carol D. Leonnig
Trump wanted an attorney general who could protect him
Mueller found that Trump took several acts and made many threats because he wanted to dispel the notion that he was under investigation or had links to Russia.
In early March 2017, Trump attempted to keep Sessions from recusing himself from the probe, and he even pulled Sessions aside and urged him to “unrecuse.” After Comey confirmed the existence of the FBI’s probe in congressional testimony on March 20, 2017, Trump was “beside himself” and was furious that Comey didn’t clarify that Trump himself was not under investigation.
— Carol D. Leonnig (From Volume 2, Page 69)
Mueller concluded Trump fired Comey because he wouldn’t clear him in public
“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,” Mueller’s report stated.
Trump’s complaints about Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation, including Rosenstein’s memo, was a fig leaf, according to the report. “The President’s other stated rationales for why he fired Comey are not similarly supported by the evidence,” it states.
(From Volume 2, Page 75)
— Carol D. Leonnig
Trump asked Lewandowski to deliver a sharp message to Sessions: Back off investigating the 2016 election
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a confidant of Trump, was told by Trump on June 19, 2017, to deliver a sharp message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Meet with the special counsel to limit its jurisdiction to future election interference, rather than focus on the 2016 election.
“He shouldn’t have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Lewandowski wrote in his notes at the time, after being told by the president to take down his dictation. “He didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history.”
Lewandowski tried and failed to set up a meeting with Sessions, eventually asking veteran Sessions associate and White House aide Rick Dearborn to deliver the message. Dearborn declined to deliver it.
Dearborn later told 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.”
(From Volume 2, Pages 80-95)
— Robert Costa
On Trump Tower meeting, presidential lied but no obstruction, Mueller finds
The report says Trump repeatedly directed aides not to disclose emails about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials and Russians, and then dictated a misleading statement about the meeting, rejecting a proposal from his son “that would have acknowledged” the meeting was set up for campaign material.
Additionally, his attorneys and aides gave statements that were not true about the meeting and the president drafted a statement that was not truthful, even though his son suggested a more honest answer.
“But the evidence does not establish that the president took steps to prevent emails or other information about the June 9 meeting from being provided to Congress or the Special Counsel,” the report says, differentiating between lying to the press and obstructing justice.
The special counsel’s office describes an elaborate plan to mislead the public about the meeting and frustrations from the president that the emails existed – and that too many people knew about them.
The president said he did not want people to know about the emails about the meeting and did not even want to see them himself, rejecting an entreaty from Jared Kushner to look at the emails. Former spokeswoman Hope Hicks told investigators she was “shocked” at the emails because they looked “really bad.” The president told Hicks that too many people knew about the emails and that she should not comment on them.
“Over the next several days, the President’s personal counsel repeatedly and inaccurately denied that the President played any role in drafting Trump Jr’s statement,” the report says.
(From Volume 2, Pages 99-106)
— Josh Dawsey
Trump weighed installing a senior Justice Dept. figure to end the Russia investigation, aide says
Trump repeatedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “unrecuse” himself and weighed installing Rachel Brand, then the Justice Department’s No. 3 official, to lead the Russia probe.
“The president asked Staff Secretary Rob Porter what he thought of Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. Porter recalled that the president asked him if Brand was good, tough and ‘on the team,’ ” the report says. Brand has since left the Justice Department and is a top official at Walmart.
Trump instructed Porter to ask Brand about the job and keep in touch with her, but Porter did not, because he was “uncomfortable with the task,” the report says. Trump continued to ask about it, Porter recalled to investigators. “In asking him to reach out to Brand, Porter understood the president to want to find someone to end the Russia investigation or fire the special counsel, although the president never said so explicitly.”
(From Volumne 2, Pages 107-108)
— Josh Dawsey
Trump pressured Sessions to protect him, investigators found
Trump repeatedly berated then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to his face and to others while urging him to reverse his recusal from the Russia probe, and investigators tried to determine whether the president committed obstruction in doing so.
Their determination: Trump hoped another attorney general would follow his wishes more closely and end the investigation, while opening others. For example, he pressured Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails during an October 2017 meeting, according to the special counsel’s report, and during a December 2017 meeting told him he would be a “hero” if he reversed his recusal.
“The president believed that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation,” the Mueller investigators concluded.
(From Volume 2, Pages 109-111)
— Josh Dawsey
Trump told McGahn to oust Mueller and then pressured McGahn to deny it
Trump urged White House lawyer Donald McGahn to oust Mueller on June 17, 2017, according to the Mueller report.
Trump, calling McGahn twice on a Saturday from Camp David, told McGahn that he should call Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts of interest and could not serve.
McGahn declined to do so, viewing the conflicts as “silly” and “not real.”
“You gotta call Rod,” Trump said, according to McGahn’s account.
Trump later told his lawyer to deny news accounts that he sought to fire special counsel Mueller, even though McGahn recounted that the president did want to fire Mueller, according to the Mueller report.
“Each time he was approached, McGahn responded that he would not refute the press accounts because they were accurate,” the report says.
The president met with McGahn, with then-chief of staff John Kelly present, and ordered him to deny the report.
“In that same meeting, the president challenged McGahn for taking notes of his discussions with the president and asked why he had told Special Counsel investigators that he had been directed to have the Special Counsel removed,” the report says.
The president later told then-aide Rob Porter that McGahn “leaked to the media to make himself look good” and called him a “lying bastard.” He wanted McGahn to write a letter denying the story or else he might fire him, and he told Porter to deliver the message.
McGahn declined to write the letter, saying the “optics would be terrible if the President followed through with firing him on that basis.”
He met with McGahn again to pressure him to reject the story, and the president and McGahn argued about what Trump said.
“I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn,” Trump said. “He did not take notes.”
Eventually, the president left the matter alone. But investigators concluded that Trump behaved the way he did “for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the president’s conduct toward the investigation.”
(From Volume 2, Pages 114-120)
— Josh Dawsey
Once Flynn began cooperating with Mueller, Trump’s attorney saw hostility
In the days following Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, President Trump privately asked aides to deliver messages of support to Flynn and to tell him that the president still cared about him and encouraged him to stay strong.
But once Flynn began cooperating with the special counsel in November 2017 and cut off confidential communications with the White House, Trump’s personal attorney conveyed a message of indignation to Flynn’s attorney.
Trump’s attorney said that he interpreted the move as a reflection of Flynn’s hostility to Trump and that he planned to inform the president of that interpretation. Flynn’s attorneys told investigators that they understood that statement to be an attempt to make them reconsider their cooperation with the special counsel.
(From Volume 2, Pages 120-122)
— Philip Rucker
Manafort tells Gates not to plead guilty, because Trump is ‘going to take care of us’
After a grand jury indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, Manafort told Gates that it was stupid to plead because he had spoken to the president’s personal attorney and they were “going to take care of us.”
Gates, who cooperated with Mueller, told investigators that Manafort told him that after speaking with Trump’s attorney he thought they should “sit tight” and “we’ll be taken care of.” Gates added that he asked Manafort outright whether anyone mentioned pardons and Manafort said no one used that word.
Meanwhile, Trump discussed with White House aides whether Manafort might be cooperating with the Mueller investigation and whether he knew any information that might be harmful to the president. And despite telling aides he did not like Manafort, Trump repeatedly voiced sympathy for Manafort in public appearances, and he and his advisers made clear they did not want Manafort to “flip” and cooperate with Mueller.
In its analysis, the special counsel writes that there is evidence Trump’s actions had the potential to influence Manafort’s decision whether to cooperate with the government, as well as the potential to influence the trial jury.
“Evidence concerning the President’s conduct towards Manafort indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government,” the report reads.
The report also says, “The President’s comments also could have been intended to continue sending a message to Manafort that a pardon was possible.”
(From Volume 2, Pages 122-133)
— Philip Rucker
Special-counsel team concluded evidence of Trump’s intent in tweeting support for Manafort was clear: To obstruct probe
Mueller’s team concluded that it couldn’t be sure of Trump’s intent in his public statements and tweets about his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. That was partly because the team could not gain certain evidence about Trump’s role in Flynn ultimately agreeing to cooperate with investigators.
The evidence about how Trump handled Manafort, his former campaign chairman, was more clear to the investigators.
“Evidence concerning the President’s conduct towards Manafort indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government,” the report stated. “Before Manafort was convicted, the President repeatedly stated that Manafort had been treated unfairly. One day after Manafort was convicted on eight felony charges and potentially faced a lengthy prison term, the President said that Manafort was ‘a brave man’ for refusing to ‘break’ and that ‘flipping’ ‘almost ought to be outlawed.’ ”
The report said that Trump privately told aides he disliked Manafort, but he publicly called Manafort “a good man” and said he had a “wonderful family.”
(From Volume 2, Page 132)
— Carol Leonnig
Trump lawyer told Cohen he wouldn’t be protected if he ‘went rogue’ in investigation
Trump’s longtime aide and “fixer” Michael Cohen said that he was sticking to informal “talking points” that Trump’s advisers had developed to indicate Trump’s plans to develop a tower in Moscow ended in January 2016. Cohen said he knew that was false but played along.
When Cohen began drafting his testimony to Congress in August 2017, he knew the statement contained several falsehoods. He said Trump’s personal lawyer “assured him that ... if he stayed on message the investigation would come to an end soon.” Cohen said the president’s personal lawyer told he that their joint defense agreement was working well and that “Cohen was protected, which he wouldn’t be if he ‘went rogue.’”
Cohen said the president’s personal lawyer reminded him that “the president loves you” and told him that if Cohen stayed on message, the president had his back.
(From Volume 2, Page 138)
— Carol D. Leonnig
Trump attorney told Cohen not to contradict the president’s account
Michael Cohen said he talked regularly with Trump’s personal lawyer while preparing his testimony and warned the lawyer that some parts of his statement were false and that the discussions to pursue a Trump Tower project went far beyond January 2016. Trump’s attorney is not identified, but the account matches the description of conversations Cohen had with Jay Sekulow.
Cohen stated that the president’s personal counsel responded that it was not necessary to elaborate or include those details, because the project did not progress and that Cohen should keep his statement short and “tight” and that the matter would soon come to an end. “Cohen recalled that the president’s personal counsel said ‘his client [Trump]’ appreciated Cohen, that Cohen should stay on message and not contradict the President, that there was no need to muddy the water, and that it was time to move on. Cohen said he agreed because it was what he was expected to do.”
(From Volume 2, Page 143)
— Carol D. Leonnig
Trump floods Cohen with messages of support after FBI search warrant
A few days after the FBI arrived to search the apartment and office of former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen in April 2018, Trump called Cohen to show support, the report says.
Trump said he wanted to “check in” and asked Cohen whether he was all right. Cohen told Mueller’s investigators that the president told him to “hang in there” and “stay strong.” Other friends who were in touch with the president also called Cohen after the FBI searches to relay Trump’s support for him.
One close friend of Trump’s, whose name is redacted, called Cohen to say “The Boss” was in Mar-a-Lago but wanted the friend to communicate to Cohen that “he loves you” and not to worry.
A Trump Organization representative, who is also not identified, told Cohen that “the boss loves you” in this time period. Another close friend of Trump’s told Cohen “everyone knows the boss has your back.”
Roughly a week later, a lawyer, Robert Costello, spoke with Cohen and said he was very close to Rudolph Giuliani, one of the president’s legal advisers, and could provide Cohen with a “back channel” to Trump’s legal team.
Cohen soon after saw a tweet from Trump saying: “Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!”
Cohen got an email that same day from Costello telling him that “you are loved. Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.”
Cohen said he took these messages to mean that if he “continued to toe the party line,” he would continue to have his legal fees paid by the Trump Organization and have the power of the president to protect him.
(From Volume 2, Page 146) — Carol D. Leonnig
Mueller rejects argument that Trump is shielded from obstruction laws
The special counsel categorically rejected arguments advanced by Trump’s lawyers that the president is shielded from obstruction-of-justice laws by his constitutional role and powers.
“The Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize the president,” the Mueller report said in a dense section of legal analysis that suggested that investigators found abundant evidence that Trump had in fact repeatedly sought to undermine the probe.
The report even describes a “significant change in the president’s conduct” after firing FBI Director James B. Comey, facing the formation of the special counsel and realizing that investigators were focusing on whether his behavior amounted to obstruction.
The report makes clear that investigators saw ample evidence of both action and intent — noting, for example, that Trump instructed White House lawyer Donald McGahn to have the special counsel removed at the same time he was telling Sessions to limit the scope of the probe to campaign interference by Russia.
The “temporal connection . . . suggests that both acts were taken with a related purpose,” the report said.
The 25-page section dispenses with a series of arguments that Trump defenders have raised for months for presidential immunity, saying it doesn’t matter whether there was any underlying crime or whether Trump’s conduct — dangling pardons, attacking investigators — was in plain view for the public.
Nor was Mueller’s team swayed by the argument that Trump ultimately allowed investigators to finish their work, noting that his efforts to undermine the probe failed “largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.” Comey, for example, did not stop investigating Flynn.
The section and its seeming certainty about the obstruction evidence and that Trump was not immune add to the mystery of why Mueller ultimately opted not to render judgment on the matter. The team appears to have decided that the Justice Department opinion that a sitting president can’t be indicted meant that the report should leave the issue of whether to pursue an obstruction charge to Congress.
The section concludes with an endorsement of the adage that “no person is above the law” and that “while the report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
(From Volume 2, Pages 156-181)
— Greg Miller
Mueller’s team couldn’t rule out that Trump criminally obstructed justice
Mueller stated in his report that his investigators disagreed strenuously with the president’s lawyers that the president had broad powers under the Constitution and that the special counsel could not investigate his conduct.
The special-counsel team members said they found it their duty to investigate the president’s actions because of their responsibility to protect the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person. But they had to consider the law and facts, and both were complicated.
Based on the legal policy that prohibits prosecuting a sitting president, the team members concluded they had to leave the decision to Congress about how to handle their evidence of Trump engaging in obstruction, rather than make a decision about whether to accuse a sitting president. Based on the facts, also, it was difficult to make a conclusion about the president’s intent.
“At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report said. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
(From Volume 2, Page 182)
— Carol D. Leonnig
Report says two transferred investigations remain ongoing, 12 matters referred to other prosecutors
Two investigations transferred by the special counsel’s office to other Justice Department prosecutors remain ongoing and were not identified, the report stated.
Mueller’s office also referred 12 other unidentified matters to others in which it found evidence of potential criminal activity outside its jurisdiction.
The latter dozen come in addition to prosecutions of two known referrals by Mueller, involving Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, and Gregory B. Craig, a former Obama administration White House counsel who worked with Paul Manafort with Ukraine clients, the report stated in an appendix.
Information about two transferred cases was redacted, but prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for the District have confirmed one is a continuing grand-jury investigation in connection with a foreign state-owned mystery company that refused to comply with a Mueller subpoena.
(From Appendix, D-2)
— Spencer Hsu