President Trump, upon first learning of the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, cursed and declared, “this is the end of my presidency,” according to the redacted 400-page report by Mueller released Thursday by the Justice Department.
The release of the report followed a news conference at which Attorney General William P. Barr said neither Trump nor his campaign colluded with Russia and that none of Trump’s actions rose to the level of obstruction of justice, despite Mueller leaving that question unanswered in his report.
Mueller's key findings
● Mueller rejects the argument that the president is shielded from obstruction laws.
●Trump, when told of appointment of special counsel Mueller, said: “This is the end of my presidency.”
● “Substantial evidence” supports Comey over Trump in account of Flynn meeting.
●Trump campaign attempted to obtain Hillary Clinton’s private emails.
● Campaign expected to benefit from stolen information released by the Russians.
● Mueller probe spawned 14 other investigations, including two unidentified cases that remain ongoing.
● Putin stepped up outreach to Trump after election.
● Special counsel team concluded Trump intended to obstruct probe in tweeting support for Manafort.
● Mueller appears to kick obstruction question to Congress.
7:30 p.m.: Barr’s offer to view mostly unredacted report a ‘non-starter’ for congressional Democrats
Attorney General William P. Barr’s promise to let leaders of congressional committees and one staffer each review a largely unredacted copy of the Mueller report is a “non-starter,” according to congressional investigators and Democratic committee chairmen.
The committee chairs are insisting on seeing “the full report and the underlying evidence, including grand jury material.”
Barr did not promise lawmakers access to grand jury material, despite Democrats’ frequent pleas that he seek a court order to release it to them. Grand jury material is one of four categories of information redacted from the report. Investigators also complained that allowing only one staffer per member to view additional information “would hamper the ability of committees and the House generally to address questions that arise from it.”
The details in Mueller’s report have raised fresh concerns among committee investigators that witnesses including Blackwater founder Erik Prince and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner might not have been fully forthcoming in testimony before congressional panels. According to investigators, many of the revelations about contacts the Russian government sought to make with Trump’s team — such as Russian banker Kirill Dmitriev’s collaboration with a business associate of Kushner’s to get a plan for U.S.-Russian reconciliation to the transition team — were new to the Hill and will direct new lines of inquiry.
In particular, investigators want to explore the extent to which the Kremlin used proxies like Dmitriev “to see entry into the Trump world,” what led to Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort sharing internal polling data with Russian political operative Konstantin Kilimnik, and the details of efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
— Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima
6:50 p.m.: Roger Stone’s defense team highlights portions of Mueller report
Within hours of the Mueller report’s release, attorneys for Roger Stone opened a new front in their effort to portray their client as a person who was selectively prosecuted. In a court document obtained by The Washington Post, Stone’s attorneys demanded the names of Trump campaign officials who the report said lied to investigators about their “interactions with Russian affiliated individuals and related matters.”
The attorneys cite a passage in the Mueller report that says those lies “materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.” The filing asks for an explanation of how those lies impaired the investigation.
Stone’s attorneys are also asking for the names of people who the report states testified or agreed to be interviewed but “sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete.”
A Stone ally, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss defense strategy, characterized the request as “going to the heart of Stone’s selective prosecution claim.”
— Manuel Roig-Franzia
6:00 p.m.: Trump lawyer attacks obstruction part of Mueller report
White House lawyer Emmet Flood criticized the obstruction part of the Mueller report on a call with surrogates Thursday afternoon, according to people on the call. The purpose of the call was to get people to attack the report on TV and in the news media and defend Trump, people familiar with the call said.
Flood called the report a “political document” and said he took issue with its length, according to people on the call. He said that Attorney General William P. Barr had already declared that Trump did not obstruct justice.
At one point, Silk from Diamond and Silk, a pair of social media personalities who often defend Trump, asked Flood a question about the intent of Hillary Clinton and other officials, the people said. Flood dodged the question, these people said.
— Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany
5:55 p.m.: A ‘false story’
On the day Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted angrily to reporters that the dismissal was solely on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and came because of Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton investigation, among other issues.
In the Mueller report, Rosenstein said that was a “false story” and said he rebuffed the request from the White House to have a news conference.
— Josh Dawsey
5:45 p.m.: Trump says he ‘could have fired everyone, including Mueller’
While Trump didn’t address reporters as he left the White House, he had some thoughts to share via Twitter on his way to Mar-a-Lago.
“I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted,” he tweeted. “I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn’t!”
The tweet suggests that Trump is dismissing concerns that firing the special counsel would have amounted to obstruction of justice.
— Felicia Sonmez
5:10 p.m.: McCabe praises Mueller as ‘tribute to the hard work’ of the FBI
Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe called the Mueller report “a remarkable document — detailed, thorough, objective, and full of facts rather than rhetoric.”
“It stands as a tribute to the hard work of the team of FBI agents and lawyers who, despite the endless stream of attacks on law enforcement from this Administration, worked for two years to find the facts and the truth amidst a swamp of lies and misinformation,” he said in a statement.
— Matt Zapotosky
5 p.m.: Russian businessman told Cohen he had ‘stopped flow of tapes’ involving Trump, but they were fake
Mueller’s report makes a passing reference to perhaps the most salacious allegation from the entire Russia investigation — but does so in a way that sheds little light upon it and leaves more questions than answers.
In a footnote, Mueller mentions “the [Christopher] Steele reporting’s unverified allegation that the Russians had compromising tapes of the President involving conduct when he was a private citizen.” The allegation included that Trump had hired prostitutes in Moscow and that Russia had the tape, which compromised Trump.
The footnote states: “On October 30, 2016, Michael Cohen received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said, ‘Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know . . . .’ ”
It adds: “Cohen said he spoke to Trump about the issue after receiving the texts from Rtskhiladze. . . . Rtskhiladze said he was told the tapes were fake, but he did not communicate that to Cohen.”
Cohen said in his congressional testimony that he had been part of an effort to chase down rumored tapes of Trump — including one involving a supposed altercation in an elevator with his wife, which Cohen said wasn’t something Trump would do. He said he didn’t have any knowledge of their actual existence.
“I’ve heard about these tapes for a long time,” Cohen said. “I’ve had many people contact me over the years. I have no reason to believe that that tape exists.”
— Aaron Blake
4:40 p.m.: Hoyer says impeaching Trump is ‘not worthwhile’
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) sounded less than enthusiastic about the prospect of impeaching Trump, in contrast with some other members of his party.
“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point,” Hoyer said in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash. “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment.”
The statement prompted outrage from some liberal Democrats — as well as calls to support Hoyer’s primary challenger, Mckayla Wilkes.
— Felicia Sonmez
4:20 p.m.: Trump leaves the White House without taking questions
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump emerged from the White House holding hands early Thursday evening. The president waved but did not answer questions from reporters about the Mueller report. The two boarded Marine One and minutes later departed for Joint Base Andrews and then on to Mar-a-Lago.
— Seung Min Kim
4 p.m.: Sarah Sanders’s claim that ‘countless’ FBI agents had lost faith in Comey was baseless, report says
In May 2017, then-deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed that the White House had heard from “countless members of the FBI” who had lost faith in FBI Director James B. Comey.
According the Mueller report, Sanders’s statement was baseless.
“The President told Comey at their January 27 dinner that ‘the people of the FBI really like [him],’ no evidence suggests that the President heard otherwise before deciding to terminate Comey, and Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything,” the report reads.
— Felicia Sonmez
3:15 p.m.: Nadler says impeachment is a ‘possibility’
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference that lawmakers “have to get to the bottom of what happened and take whatever action seems necessary at that time.”
Asked by a reporter whether impeachment is on the table, Nadler responded, “That’s one possibility. There are others.”
Nadler also said the Mueller report shows that there is “clear evidence” Trump engaged in obstruction of justice, despite Barr’s statement Thursday morning. He pointed to Trump’s refusal to be interviewed by the special counsel and his associates’ alleged destruction of evidence.
“The responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions,” Nadler said.
— Felicia Sonmez
2:45 p.m.: 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.”
(Volume I, Part IV, pgs. 146-147, 166-167, 173)
— Karoun Demirjian
2:30 p.m.: 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 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.
(Vol. 1, pg. 23)
— Sean Sullivan
2:30 p.m.: Kellyanne Conway says today is ‘the best day’ since Trump got elected
In an exchange with reporters Thursday afternoon, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump is in a “great mood” and that today is “really the best day since he got elected.”
“We’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them,” she said.
Conway also pushed back against parts of the Mueller report showing that Trump was concerned about the end of his presidency.
“I was very surprised to see that, because that was not the reaction of the president that day,” she said, adding that Trump “never once” conveyed those feelings to her.
— Felicia Sonmez
2:25 p.m.: 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.”
(Vol. 1, pgs. 167-172)
— Karoun Demirjian
2:25 p.m.: 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.
(Vol. 1, pgs. 145 and 163-165)
— Karoun Demirjian
2:20 p.m.: ‘Kill the story’: Trump’s anger over Post column rattles Flynn
Former 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 David Ignatius’s Jan. 12 column, which noted 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.
(Vol. 2, pgs. 29-40)
— Robert Costa
2:20 p.m.: Mueller probe spawned 14 other investigations, including two unidentified cases that remain ongoing
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.
(Appendix D, page 2)
— Spencer Hsu
2:15 p.m.: 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 unique 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 former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to urge 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.”
(Vol. 2, pages 156-181)
— Greg Miller
2:05 p.m.: 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.”
(Vol. 2, page 130)
— Carol Leonnig
2 p.m.: 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.”
(Vol. 2, pgs. 80-95)
— Robert Costa
2 p.m.: 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 two days . . . because the DNC is approaching. . . . conflict between Bernie and Hillary is interesting.”
(Vol. 1, page 45)
— Ellen Nakashima
1:55 p.m.: 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.
— Tom Hamburger
1:50 p.m.: Attorneys for indicted Russian company say Mueller report’s release deprives it of its right to a fair trial
In a statement, attorneys for Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian firm indicted with the Internet Research Agency of St. Petersburg and accused of conspiring to wage a 2016 social media disinformation campaign to assist Trump’s election, alleged that statements by Barr and the release of the Mueller report Thursday “specifically discuss evidence in the case and . . . are conclusions of guilt as to the defendants.”
The disclosures “have deprived Concord of its right to a fair trial,” Concord attorney Eric A. Dubelier said, adding, “We will seek relief for these violations from the U.S. District Court.”
— Spencer Hsu
1:45 p.m.: WikiLeaks founder Assange expressed opposition to Clinton in 2015
In November 2015, Julian Assange wrote to other WikiLeaks colleagues that “we believe it would be much better for GOP to win.”
He called Democrat Hillary Clinton “a bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath,” according to a Twitter group chat obtained by the special counsel.
In March 2016, WikiLeaks released a searchable archive of some 30,000 Clinton emails that had been obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation. One WikiLeaks associate explained the reason for building the archive to another associate: “We want this repository to become ‘the place’ to search for background on hillary’s plotting at the state department during 2009-2013 . . . Firstly because it’s useful and will annoy Hillary, but secondly because we want to be seen to be a resource/player in the US election, because eit [sic] may encourage people to send us even more important leaks.” That was according to a Twitter direct message obtained by Mueller.
(Volume 1, page 4445)
— Ellen Nakashima
1:45 p.m.: Schumer, Pelosi say Mueller report ‘appears to undercut’ Barr on obstruction
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said “the differences are stark” between what Barr and Mueller said on potential obstruction of justice by Trump — a sign that congressional Democrats will press further on the issue.
“As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller’s report appears to undercut that finding,” they said.
— Felicia Sonmez
1:40 p.m.: 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 both 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.”
(Vol. 1, pages 149-158)
— Karoun Demirjian
1:40 p.m.: Why Mueller’s team concluded it could not bring criminal charges related to the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting
The report’s two volumes include multiple pages of discussion of the now-famous 2016 meeting in Trump Tower attended by a Russian lawyer offering negative information about Hillary Clinton.
The report says that the Office of Special Counsel concluded that it would not be able to obtain a conviction because the government could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the attendees “willfully” violated the law. The report also noted that prosecutors would have difficulty showing that accepting opposition research from a foreign actor was a violation of law, in part because of First Amendment concerns.
In the days before the June 9, 2016, meeting, the report states that campaign adviser Rick Gates recalled Donald Trump Jr. telling a meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members “that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation.”
According to Gates, Manafort warned the group that the upcoming meeting “likely would not yield vital information and they should be careful.” Some campaign officials including Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks said they did not recall hearing about the June 9 meeting at this session.
Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, recalled being in Donald Trump’s office on June 6 or 7 when Trump Jr. told his father that a meeting to obtain adverse information about Clinton was going forward. The report says that Cohen did not recall Trump Jr. stating that the meeting was connected to Russia but that from the tenor of the conversation, Cohen believed that Trump Jr. had previously discussed the meeting with his father. However, in an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump Jr. stated that he did not inform his father about the upcoming meeting.
The report says that President Trump told the Office of Special Counsel, in written answers to questions, that he has “no recollection of learning at the time” that his son, Manafort or “Kushner was considering participating in a meeting in June 2016 concerning potentially negative information about Hillary Clinton.”
(Vol. 1, pages 110-116 and 186-187)
— Tom Hamburger
1:35 p.m.: Mueller did not establish Page worked with Russia but could not fully determine his activities in Moscow
The report contains new revelations about Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy adviser who visited Moscow in July 2016.
A federal judge approved a secret surveillance order against Page in October 2016. Many Republicans believe the monitoring was inappropriate and that the FBI relied too heavily on work from former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to obtain the warrant.
According to the report, the Mueller investigation “did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” But it contains new information about why Page fell under investigation.
Twice before the campaign, Page had interactions with Russian intelligence officers. It was previously known that he interacted with a Russian operative in New York in 2013. The report reveals that he also had interactions in 2008 with Alexander Bulatov, a Russian government official who worked at the Russian consulate in New York, and Page later learned that Bulatov was also a Russian intelligence officer.
Mueller reveals that Page was interviewed by investigators five times. They indicate that they obtained emails showing that Russian government officials, including Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, were aware of Page’s visit to Moscow in July 2016 and discussed whether they should meet with him. Peskov wrote dismissively, “I have read about [Page]. Specialists say that he is far from being the main [adviser]. So I better not initiate a meeting in the Kremlin.” Still, Mueller writes that investigators had difficulty getting additional evidence about Page’s trip to Moscow, so his activities in Russia were “not fully explained.”
(Vol. 1, page 101)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
1:30 p.m.: Mueller appears to kick obstruction question to Congress
Mueller, while refusing to answer the question of whether Trump obstructed justice, appeared to suggest that Congress could impeach the president if it worried about “corrupt use of his authority.”
“With respect to whether the president can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller’s team wrote.
Muller, while noting that the president has a “constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws,” went on to say “the separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source.”
“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of the office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,” Mueller wrote.
House Democrats have been looking for a sign that Mueller wanted them — not Barr — to answer the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by investigating and through impeachment proceedings.
(Vol. 2, page 8)
— Rachael Bade
1:30 p.m.: 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.”
(Vol. 1, paqe 34)
— Craig Timberg
1:25 p.m.: 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 U.S. — but according to the special counsel’s probe, the Russians “appeared not to have preexisting 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 own business interests were on the line because the United States was considering additional sanctions on Russia.
Putin would make suggestions only 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.
(Pages 144-146 of the report.)
— Karoun Demirjian
1:20 p.m.: HBO rebukes Trump for ‘Game of Thrones’-themed tweet
HBO was not amused by Trump’s tweet earlier Thursday, which featured “Game of Thrones”-style imagery.
“Though we can understand the enthusiasm for Game of Thrones now that the final season has arrived, we still prefer our intellectual property not be used for political purposes,” the cable network said in a statement.
— Brian Fung
1:15 p.m.: 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 the 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.
Nonetheless, 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.
(Vol. 1, Page 41)
— Ellen Nakashima
1:05 p.m.: 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 an account in the New York Times that he sought to fire special counsel Mueller, even though McGahn recounted that the president did want to fire the special counsel, 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 chief of staff John F. 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 said he might fire McGahn, and 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.”
Trump again 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.”
(Vol. 2, pages 114-120)
— Josh Dawsey
1 p.m.: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, to communicate privately with reporters and other U.S. persons, 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, they sent a link and password to a nonpublic DCLeaks page to a reporter via Facebook. On Sept. 14, 2016, they sent reporters direct messages on Twitter with passwords to another nonpublic part of the website. The site was operational until March 2017.
(Vol. 1, page 42)
— Ellen Nakashima
12:55 p.m.: Trump pressured Sessions to protect him, investigators found
Trump repeatedly berated then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to his face and criticized him to others while urging him to reverse his recusal from the Russia probe, and investigators tried to determine whether the president committed obstruction.
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 Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails during an October 2017 meeting, according to the special counsel’s report, and told him he would be a “hero” if he reversed his recusal during a December 2017 meeting.
“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.
(Voll 2, pages 109-111)
— Josh Dawsey
12:50 p.m.: 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 lawyer Michael Cohen in April 2018, Trump called Cohen to show support, the report said.
Trump said he wanted to “check in” and asked Cohen if he was okay. 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.
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.
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, an attorney, 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 “you are loved. Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.”
(Vol. 2, page 145)
— Carol D. Leonnig
12:45 p.m.: 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.
(Vol. 1, page 32)
— Craig Timberg
12:55 p.m.: House Intelligence Committee wants to hear from Mueller, too
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) has invited Mueller to testify before his panel “at the earliest opportunity.”
Earlier Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) released a letter to the special counsel seeking an appearance before his panel “no later than May 23.”
Schiff told Mueller that his committee “is prepared to work with you to secure a mutually agreeable date in May.”
— John Wagner
12:55 p.m .: Trump weighed installing a senior DOJ person to end the Russia investigation, aide says
Trump repeatedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “unrecuse” himself and weighed installing Rachel Brand, then the Department of Justice’s number three 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 Department of Justice and is a top official at Walmart.
Trump instructed Porter to ask Brand about the job and keep in touch with her but he 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.”
(Vol. 2, pages 107-108)
— Josh Dawsey
12:50 p.m .: 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 U.S. Mifsud was also in contact that spring, they write, with an Internet account linked to an employee of the Russian ministry of defense that had overlapping contacts with accounts that were publicizing hacked emails through DCLeaks.
(Vol. 1, page 85)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
12:50 p.m. 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 guilty 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 if 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.”
(Vol. 2, pages 122-133)
— Philip Rucker
12:50 p.m.: 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 also 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.”
(Vol. 1, page 198)
— Greg Miller
12:45 p.m. Swalwell calls for Barr to resign
Newly-minted presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) called for Barr to resign in the wake of his news conference about the Mueller report, citing what he called Barr’s “misconduct regarding the full report of Special Counsel.”
“You can be the President’s defense attorney or America’s Attorney General, but you can’t be both. William Barr was tainted from the moment he sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department panning Robert Mueller’s obstruction investigation, way back in June 2018,” Swalwell said in his statement.
— Chelsea Janes
12:45 p.m. On Trump Tower meeting, report finds presidential lies but no obstruction
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 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.
(Vol. 2, pages 99-106)
— Josh Dawsey
12:40 p.m.: 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 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.”
(Vol. 2, page 143)
— Carol D. Leonnig
12:40 p.m.: 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, once again inviting Trump to attend the event, which takes place in June. She declined, noting Trump’s busy campaign schedule, but added, he would otherwise “have gladly given every consideration to attending such an important event.”
Around the same time, a New York city investment banker named Robert Foresman reached out to 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 Burnette.
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 was merely the invitation to the economic forum.
(Vol. 1, pages 78-79)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
12:40 p.m.: 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 away from even 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.
(Vol. 2, page 2)
— Matt Zapotosky
12:35 p.m.: 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 cares 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.
(Vol. 2, page 121)
— Philip Rucker
12:35 p.m.: Trump lawyer told him 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 false statements. 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 together 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.
(Vol. 2, page 138)
— Carol D. Leonnig
12:30 p.m.: The Trump campaign’s ignorance became a barrier to prosecute Trump Jr.
The special counsel concluded that the Trump campaign was likely 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, 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 lawful.”
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.
(Vol. 1, page 187)
— Greg Miller
12:30 p.m.: 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 “[i] f 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 stranger economic, business and cultural relationship” between the U.S. and Russia.
The report indicates that Cohen declined to pursue Rtskhiladze’s proposal but instead decided to work with Sater.
(Vol. 1, page 70)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
12:30 p.m.: Roger Stone’s attorney claims vindication
In a statement emailed to The Post, Roger Stone’s attorney, Grant Smith, said, “Attorney General Barr’s press conference confirmed what Roger Stone has said from the outset: He was not involved in any collusion. We look forward to being provided the unredacted report per our request to the Court.”
Stone has asked for a full, unredacted copy of the Mueller report, but the judge in his case has yet to rule on the request. Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress. His trial is scheduled for November.
12:25 p.m.: 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.
(Vol. 2, page 75)
— Carol D. Leonnig
12:20 p.m.: 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 B. Comey spoke privately with Trump about the salacious Steele dossier.
Comey assured Trump that the FBI was not investigating him personally, but 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.
(Vol. 2, page 27)
— Philip Rucker
12:20 p.m.: 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 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 nationals 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.
(Vol. 1, page 175)
— Craig Timberg
12:15 p.m.: White House counsel said Trump’s original memo to fire Comey ‘should not see light of day’
When Trump told his aides he planned to fire Comey on May 8, White House Counsel Donald 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 insisted 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 any 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.”
(Vol. 2, page 68)
— Carol D. Leonnig
12:15 p.m.: Donald Trump Jr.’s direct interaction with WikiLeaks during 2016 campaign
On Sept. 20, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. emailed senior campaign staff 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 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.
(Vol. 2, pages 59-60)
— Ellen Nakashima
12:15 p.m.: 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. They 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. They note the interview with Rykov’s publication never took place.
(Vol. 1, page 66)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
12:15 p.m.: 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 staff 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 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 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.
(Vol. 2, page 24)
— Philip Rucker
12:10 p.m.: 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. 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 herself had previously tried to find the emails.
Months earlier, Ledeen had written to Smith that Clinton’s server had likely 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 if 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 only found 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 adviser 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.”
(Vol. 1, pages 62-65)
— Shane Harris
12:10 p.m.: The testimony that got FBI Director Comey fired
After Comey refused to answer a senator’s question about whether the FBI had ruled out the president as a subject of the Russia investigation in his May 3 testimony on the Hill, Trump was privately seething. He railed at his attorney general “This is terrible Jeff. It’s all because you recused.... You left me on an island. I can’t do anything.”
That weekend, he left for his private Bedminster golf club and worked with aide Stephen Miller to draft a termination letter to fire Comey. The president worked through several rounds of draft letters and insisted at first that they open the letter by saying Trump was not under investigation.
(Vol. 2, page 62)
— Carol D. Leonnig
12:10 p.m.: 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 DNC 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, 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 whose details 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.
(Vol. 1, pages 53-54)
— Spencer S. Hsu
12:05 p.m.: ‘Substantial evidence’ supports Comey over Trump in account of Flynn meeting
“Substantial evidence” corroborates former FBI director James B. 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 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 DOJ 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 DOJ 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.
(Vol. 2, pages 43-45)
— Josh Dawsey
12:05 p.m.: 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.
(Vol. 1, page 13)
— Tom Hamburger
12:00 p.m.: Meeting in Seychelles was to set up backchannel ‘link’ between Russia and Trump administration
The special counsel report provides significant new information that a secretive meeting in the Seychelles islands between a Russian oligarch and Erik Prince was part of an effort to set up a communications channel with Moscow, not a random occurrence as Prince has insisted.
The meeting was arranged by businessman and lobbyist George Nader, who told Prince in January 2017 that “the Russians were looking to build a link with the incoming Trump administration,” and proposed an encounter with Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Nader then sent documents about Dmitriev to Prince while he was at Trump Tower meeting with Kellyanne Conway and others for three hours.
Prince booked a ticket to the remote islands in early January and the next day Nader wrote to him that he had a “pleasant surprise” in store — a meeting with the Russian oligarch that, when exposed by The Post, would add to swirling questions about Trump contacts with Russia.
(Vol. 1, page 151)
— Greg Miller
12:00 p.m.: Trump’s legal team declares ‘total victory,’ knocks Comey
In a statement, Trump’s legal team declared “total victory” and alleged he was victim of “a scheme to derail the president” by former FBI director James B. Comey and other officials.
The Trump lawyers accused Comey, who was fired by Trump in 2017, of “pushing a twisted narrative claiming he was guilty until proven innocent.”
“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,” said the statement by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Jay A. Sekulow, Jane Serene Raskin and Martin R. Raskin.
— John Wagner
12:00 p.m.: Trump saw intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference as his ‘Achilles heel’
During the transition period, President-elect Trump viewed the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as his “Achilles heel” because people might think Russia helped him win, adviser Hope Hicks told the special counsel.
Other aides to Trump shared similar recollections with investigators. Reince Priebus, who would become White House chief of staff, said that when the intelligence assessment came out Trump was concerned people would question the legitimacy of his win. Sean Spicer, who went on to be White House press secretary, said Trump thought the Russia story was developed to undermine the legitimacy of his election, as did Rick Gates, a former top campaign official.
(Vol. 2, page 23)
— Philip Rucker
11:55 a.m.: Trump asked K.T. McFarland to defend his Flynn account
President Trump asked former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland in February 2017 to draft an internal memo saying that the president had not instructed former national security adviser Michael Flynn to discuss sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
But McFarland was uncomfortable with the request passed down by former chief of staff Reince Priebus, saying she did not know if that was accurate and that the request put her in an untenable position.
According to the report, she then consulted White House lawyer John Eisenberg, telling him she’d been fired from her job as deputy national security adviser but offered an ambassadorship in Singapore, “and the president and Priebus wanted a letter from her denying that the President directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak.”
Eisenberg warned her against writing such a memo, according to the report, saying it would be a “bad idea” to create a statement for the record and it could look like a “quid pro quo” for the ambassador job.
Eventually, Priebus told McFarland, according to the report, “to forget he even mentioned it.”
(Vol. 2, pages 41-43)
— Josh Dawsey
11:55 a.m.: 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, 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.
(From page 61 of the report)
— Carol D. Leonnig
11:55 a.m.: After firing Flynn, Trump sent signals he should “stay strong”
After Michael Flynn was fired as national security adviser, Trump asked former chief of staff Reince Priebus to call Flynn “to let him know that the president still cared about him.” Priebus told Flynn in a phone call that he was an “American hero.”
Later, Trump asked former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland “to pass a message to Flynn telling him the president felt bad for him and that he should stay strong.”
After learning Flynn had offered to cooperate, Trump tweeted saying he should ask for immunity.
(From page 43 of the report)
— Josh Dawsey
11:50 a.m.: Barr to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) announced Thursday morning that his panel would interview Barr on May 1, one day before the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee plans to speak with him.
Graham made the announcement while acknowledging that the committee had “received Special Counsel Mueller’s report,” noting that “the committee’s review of the report is ongoing.”
Graham has spoken highly of Barr, and supported him throughout his politically divisive confirmation process, during which Senate Democrats questioned whether Barr would be impartial enough to oversee the conclusion of Mueller’s report, especially when it came to matters of obstruction of justice.
Barr had suggested in a memo he wrote before his nomination that Mueller would be stretching the obstruction of justice standard too far if he applied it in Trump’s case. In the end, Mueller made no determination on whether Trump should be charged with obstruction, but Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein elected not to.
“Once again, I applaud attorney general Barr for his commitment to transparency and keeping the American people informed, consistent with the law and our national security interests,” Graham said in a statement.
— Karoun Demirjian
11:45 a.m.: Trump yelled at McGahn about Sessions recusal
On March 3, 2017, Trump yelled at White House Counsel Donald McGahn when he told him that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was planning to recuse himself from the Russia probe, and told McGahn he wanted him to get Sessions to reconsider.
The president complained about a policy that frowned on him talking to Sessions or Justice officials himself about investigations. “You’re telling me that Bobby and Jack didn’t talk about investigations? Or Obama didn’t tell Eric Holder who to investigate?”
Senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon said Trump was as mad at he had ever seen Trump and “screamed at McGahn about how weak Sessions was.”
(From page 51 of the report)
— Carol D. Leonnig
11:40 a.m.: Trump, after learning of Mueller’s appointment: ‘This is the end of my presidency’
In May 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had just appointed Mueller as special counsel. Trump slumped back in his chair, according to notes from Jody Hunt, Sessions’s chief of staff. “Oh my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,” Trump said. Trump further laid into Sessions for his recusal, saying Sessions had let him down.
“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,” Trump said, according to Hunt’s notes. “It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
The next morning, Trump tweeted, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
(Vol. 2, page 78)
— Drew Harwell
11:40 a.m.: 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” before 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 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.
(Vol. 2, page 2)
— Rosalind S. Helderman
11:35 a.m.: Trump repeatedly ordered others not to reveal truth about Trump tower meeting
The Mueller investigation found that Trump actively sought to prevent subordinates from providing the public accurate information about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between the then-candidate’s son and close advisers with an attorney claiming to possess damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
“On at least three occasions” in late June and early July of 2017, as the story was surfacing publicly in the press, Trump “directed” spokeswoman Hope Hicks and others “not to publicly disclose information” about the meeting at Trump Tower.
This was after Hicks had warned Trump that “the email setting up the June 9 meeting were ‘really bad,’ and the story would be ‘massive.’”
Trump told Hicks and his son-in-law Jared Kushner to “leave it alone.”
(Vol. 1, pages 100-101)
— Greg Miller
11:30 a.m.: Trump campaign interested in WikiLeaks’ releases
In a heavily redacted section of the special counsel’s report, Mueller writes that, “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 of the details are redacted under the heading of “Harm to Ongoing Matter.”
According to former Trump campaign adviser Gates, then campaign manager 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, Manafort 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.”
(Vol. 1, pages 51 - 60)
-Craig Timberg, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris
11:25 a.m.: 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 supported 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.”
(Vol. 1, page 7)
— Matt Zapotosky
11:25 a.m.: Trump declares victory at event for wounded soldiers
Trump used an appearance at an event celebrating the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride to declare victory shortly after the redacted Mueller report became public.
“I’m having a good day, too,” he said at the event in the East Room of the White House. “It’s called no collusion, no obstruction.”
“This should never happen to another president again, this hoax,” Trump said.
The event celebrated a multiday bicycle ride designed to empower veterans and service members recovering from the physical and psychological wounds of war.
— John Wagner
11:20 a.m.: Mueller considered Trump’s written answers ‘inadequate’ but knew subpoena would impose ‘substantial delay,’ report says
The report said investigators struggled with both the legal implications of investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, and the motives behind a range of his most alarming actions, from seeking the ouster of former officials to ordering a memo that would clear his name.
“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” the report stated. “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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
The special counsel team also wrote that Trump stated more than 30 times he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’ “ of information investigators asked about.
But they wrote that they chose not to pursue a subpoena because of the “substantial delay” that such a step would cause. They also decided they have “sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.”
— Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky
11:15 a.m.: Trump campaign ‘expected it would benefit’ from information released by Russia, report says
The report on coordination is extremely detailed with only modest redactions — painting a far less-flattering picture for Trump than the attorney general has offered and revealing new details about interactions between Russians and Trump associates.
Mueller’s team wrote that although their investigation “did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” that assertion was informed by the fact that coordination requires more than two parties “taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.”
And Mueller made abundantly clear: Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take it.
“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller’s team wrote.
The report detailed a damning timeline of contacts between the Trump campaign and those with Russian ties — much of it already known, but some of it new. For example, Mueller’s team asserted that in August 2016, Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has assessed as having ties to Russia, met with Paul Manafort “to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a ‘backdoor’ way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine.”
The special counsel wrote that both men believed the plan would “require candidate Trump’s assent to success (were he elected President).”
“They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states,” the special counsel wrote. “Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting.”
— Matt Zapotosky
11 a.m.: Mueller report has been released to Congress
The redacted version of the Mueller report has been transmitted to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The Justice Department has also made the report available to the public on its website here.
— Felicia Sonmez
10:45 a.m.: Capitol Hill reaction splits along party lines
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) wants Mueller to testify before his panel “no later than May 23,” he wrote to the special counsel on Tuesday in a letter released just moments after Barr’s news conference.
“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler wrote on Twitter. “We cannot take Attorney General Barr’s word for it. We must read the full Mueller report, and the underlying evidence. This is about transparency and ensuring accountability.”
Nadler’s comments are a sign that Democrats will not be satisfied by Barr’s promise to make the full contents of the report, absent grand jury information, available to a select group of committee heads and senior lawmakers.
The overall reception to Barr’s news conference was also divided along political lines, as Democrats accused him of being a Trump apologist, while Republicans echoed and expanded on the attorney general’s words, cheering him on.
“No collusion! No obstruction!” House Oversight Committee ranking Republican member Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) wrote on Twitter. “Complete cooperation from the president. No executive privilege asserted.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), a member of the House panel seeking Trump’s tax returns, bemoaned on Twitter that “watching that gray apparatchik drone and spin it’s impossible not to feel dystopian dread at what Trump and his enablers are trying to do.”
— Karoun Demirjian
10:30 a.m.: Barr’s decision to share advance copy with White House departs from Starr precedent in 1998
In his news conference, Barr indicated that the Justice Department shared a copy of the special counsel’s report with the White House and the president’s attorneys to be “consistent with long-standing practice” and “to be consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an Independent Counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication.”
However, Barr’s decision differed sharply from that of independent counsel Ken Starr in 1998, as he prepared to release a report about whether President Bill Clinton obstructed justice and lied in the investigation.
On Sept. 7, 1998, Clinton’s attorney David Kendall wrote a letter to Starr to ask for a “brief opportunity” to review Starr’s report before it was transmitted to Congress. “We make this request to ensure that this first step in the most serious process contemplated in our Constitution is taken with due consideration for fundamental fairness.”
Two days later, Starr responded: No dice.
“As a matter of legal interpretation, I respectfully disagree with your analysis,” he wrote. Starr said the independent counsel law under which he operated required the transmission of his report directly to Congress. That law has now expired, and regulations governing Mueller’s work are different. Nevertheless, the difference in deference paid to the White House and the president is stark.
— Rosalind S. Helderman
10:25 a.m.: Barr abruptly ends news conference after question on ‘spinning’ report
Barr concluded his news conference after facing two final skeptical questions from reporters — one on why Mueller was not present at the event, and the other on whether it was improper for the attorney general to be “spinning” the report.
“There’s a lot of public interest in the absence of the special counsel and the members of his team,” one reporter asked. “Was he invited to join you up on the podium? Why is he not here? This is his report, obviously, that you’re talking about today.”
Barr replied that the report — which has long been referred to as the “Mueller report” — was not, in fact, Mueller’s.
“No, it’s not,” Barr said. “It’s a report he did for me as the attorney general. He is required under the regulation to provide me with a confidential report. I’m here to discuss my response to that report and my decision — entirely discretionary — to make it public, since these reports are not supposed to be made public. That’s what I’m here to discuss.”
Another reporter asked Barr whether there was “an impropriety for you to come out and sort of — what appears to be — sort of spinning the report before the public has a chance to read it?”
“No,” Barr replied curtly, before gathering his papers and leaving the briefing room.
— Felicia Sonmez
10:25 a.m.: Transcript of Barr’s remarks at news conference
A transcript of Barr’s introductory statement at his news conference is available here.
10:25 a.m.: 2020 candidates call Barr presser ‘a disgrace’
Barr was 20 minutes into his news conference when the first Democratic candidate for president took to social media to express his displeasure.
The icebreaker was Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), known in part for his unabashed Twitter critiques of Trump’s relationship with Russia, tweeted “No one is above the rule of law…unless you’re frustrated that is,” and added an emoji.
Swalwell continued with a stream of tweets in which he demanded to see the “full, unredacted report” to prevent Russian interference in the 2020 election, then said, “If Barr believed in the rule of law, he’d let the report speak for itself, not hold a news conference to spin it on the President’s behalf.”
His fellow candidates echoed those sentiments. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted “The American People deserve the truth. Not spin from a Trump Appointee.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the news conference “a disgrace.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released a video through her Twitter feed, requesting that America have the chance to hear “from Mueller himself.”
A few minutes after Barr wrapped up his comments, more statements rolled in. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.) tweeted, “It’s a disgrace to see an Attorney General acting as if he’s the personal attorney and publicist for the President of the United States.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-N.Y.) issued an official statement to her campaign press list in which she called the news conference “propaganda” and “a complete farce.”
— Chelsea Janes
10:05 a.m.: ‘Game Over,’ Trump says in a tweet
Moments after Barr wrapped up his news conference, Trump tweeted a graphic yet again declaring that there was “no collusion” and “no obstruction.”
“For the haters and the radical left Democrats — Game Over,” the tweet read.
— Felicia Sonmez
9:55 a.m.: Barr says he has no objection to Mueller testifying to Congress
Prompted by a reporter, Barr responded to a call earlier Thursday from the top two Democrats in Congress to have Mueller appear before House and Senate committees.
“I have no objection to Bob Mueller personally testifying,” Barr said.
In a letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they wanted testimony “as soon as possible” from Mueller.
After the news conference, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) released a letter to Mueller seeking his testimony no later than May 23.
During the news conference, Barr also defended his decision that Trump had not obstructed justice, an issue on which Mueller did not reach a conclusion.
Barr called it “my perogative as attorney general to make that decision.”
He added that Mueller gave no indication that he intended for that decision to be left to Congress, as some Democrats have suggested.
Barr said the point of the investigation was to reach a conclusion.
“We don’t go though this process just to collect information and throw it out to the public,” he said.
— John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez
9:45 a.m: Barr says report examines 10 instances of potential obstruction by Trump
As his news conference continued, Barr said that the special counsel’s report takes a look at 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump.
Barr maintained that Trump “took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation,” and that Trump had “non-corrupt motives.”
Barr said he and Rosenstein disagreed with “some of the special counsel’s legal theories” but ultimately found the evidence was “not sufficient” to allege the president engaged in criminal obstruction. He defended Trump’s actions, saying the president was frustrated and angry about the probe.
Barr also confirmed that the White House and Trump’s personal attorneys got an early look at a final version of the redacted report, and that Trump agreed he would not exert executive privilege over the document.
“There is 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,” Barr said.
— Felicia Sonmez
9:40 a.m.: Trump campaign did not assist Russia with election interference, Barr says
Barr took the podium Thursday morning and said that while the special counsel report “makes clear” that Russian operatives sought to interfere in the 2016 election, it did not find that the Trump campaign conspired with them to do so.
“As you will see, the special counsel’s report states that his ‘investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,’” Barr said.
Barr thanked Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who stood to Barr’s left side, and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
— Felicia Sonmez
8:54 a.m.: Trump shares White House ‘no collusion’ video
Trump shared a White House video on Twitter that shows him proclaiming “no collusion” on more than 10 different occasions.
The minute-long video, set to sweeping music, also includes headlines following Barr’s four-page letter to Congress that said Mueller had not found evidence of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, as well as select pundits discussing that finding on cable television.
“This was an illegal takedown that failed,” Trump says toward the end of the video.
The video makes no mention of Mueller’s finding on obstruction of justice.
The special counsel wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” according to Barr’s summary.
— John Wagner
7:54 a.m.: Trump calls probe a ‘hoax’ in spate of morning tweets
In anticipation of the report’s release, Trump went on Twitter, calling the Mueller investigation the “Greatest Political Hoax of all time” and pushing his argument that Democrats should be investigated for their role in starting the probe.
“Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats,” Trump alleged, without citing evidence, in one tweet.
“PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he said in another, using a term he’s used before to describe efforts by House Democrats to investigate his administration.
The Greatest Political Hoax of all time! Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2019
PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2019
In more than a half-dozen other tweets and retweets, Trump then promoted views of conservative allies related to the Mueller probe and the FBI investigation in 2016 of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server while secretary of state.
— John Wagner
7:45 a.m.: Barr to address executive privilege, other issues at news conference
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Barr plans to address a number of issues during his morning news conference, including how senior Trump administration officials decided whether to invoke executive privilege over some of the report’s contents, the interactions between the White House and the Justice Department in the weeks since Mueller filed his report, and how Barr made his redaction decisions.
— Devlin Barrett
6:20 a.m.: Giuliani says Trump’s team ‘ready to rumble’ with counter-report
In texts sent shortly after 5 a.m., Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani said he is “ready to rumble” with a counter-report to the Mueller report.
Giuliani said his team has been preparing a document that runs “30 or so” pages “without appendix.” Other people close to the president say it’s not clear the team will decide to issue a lengthy rebuttal.
— Jacqueline Alemany and Carol D. Leonnig
6:15 a.m.: Democratic leaders call for public testimony from Mueller
Hours before Barr was set to hold his news conference, the top two Democrats in Congress called on Mueller to testify directly to the House and Senate “as soon as possible.”
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) accused Barr of “partisan handling of the Mueller report.”
The two leaders said that Barr’s “indefensible plan to spin the report in a news conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality.”
“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” they added. “The American people deserve to hear the truth.”
A spokesman for Mueller has said that neither he nor any representatives of the special counsel’s office plan to attend Barr’s news conference.
— John Wagner
6:00 a.m.: Mueller report will be lightly redacted, revealing a detailed look at obstruction-of-justice investigation
The Justice Department plans to release a lightly redacted version of Mueller’s report Thursday, offering a granular look at the ways in which Trump was suspected of having obstructed justice, people familiar with the matter said.
The report — the general outlines of which the Justice Department has briefed the White House — will reveal that Mueller decided he could not come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction because it was difficult to determine Trump’s intent and because some of his actions could be interpreted innocently, these people said.
But it will offer a detailed blow-by-blow of the president’s alleged conduct — analyzing tweets, private threats and other episodes at the center of Mueller’s inquiry, they added.
Read more here.
— Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Devlin Barrett
6:00 a.m.: Key members of Congress will get more-complete version of the Mueller report than the public, prosecutors tell judge
The Justice Department plans to provide key members of Congress with a more-complete version of Mueller’s report than what will be made public on Thursday, prosecutors told a federal judge on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors described the plan to provide nonpublic material to Congress — where Democratic lawmakers have been pushing to receive an unredacted version of the report — in a court filing made Wednesday in the case against Trump confidant Roger Stone.
Read more here.
— Rosalind S. Helderman
6:00 a.m.: Four categories of information were redacted from the report
Barr has said he plans to redact four types of information from Mueller’s nearly 400-page report.
The first, grand jury material, has been defined differently by various courts but is generally considered any material such as testimony or documents produced specifically for grand jurors. The second category is any information that would compromise ongoing investigations if it was released now. Third, the attorney general said he will shield any details that could compromise intelligence-gathering techniques or sources. Finally, Barr has said he wants to redact information that would harm the reputation or privacy interests of “peripheral” people who were caught up in Mueller’s investigation.
The redactions will be color-coded and come with “explanatory notes” so people can see why various sections of the report are not being disclosed, Barr told Congress last week. But those redactions will not be the final word on the matter — Barr has signaled a willingness to talk to lawmakers about which redactions could be reviewed in private, or made public at a later time.
— Devlin Barrett
6:00 a.m.: Mueller’s probe led to the indictments of 25 Russians for attempts to influence the 2016 White House race
Mueller’s investigation resulted in indictments against Russians for interfering in the 2016 election. In February 2018, 13 Russians and three companies were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and other felonies related to a broad campaign to pose as Americans online and spread disinformation and divisive political messages via Twitter, Facebook and other sites.
In July, 12 Russian military intelligence officers were charged with helping to hack Democratic Party email accounts, including those of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and release stolen material via WikiLeaks.
— Rosalind S. Helderman
6:00 a.m.: Mueller’s investigation did not establish there was a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia
The attorney general has said that Mueller’s team did not establish that Trump or anyone associated with his campaign conspired or coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the election.
A Washington Post analysis found that at least 14 Trump associates had contact with Russian nationals during the campaign and transition.
For instance, investigators gathered evidence about a meeting the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., hosted at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who he believed would provide damaging information about Clinton. Mueller’s prosecutors have not referred to the episode in any public court filing.
Among those under scrutiny was onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who was under secret federal surveillance beginning in October 2016 after he traveled to Moscow and met with a government official.
Mueller’s team also investigated the actions of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russian ambassador.
In addition, special counsel prosecutors examined contacts between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his Russian employee Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI said has ties to Russian intelligence. A prosecutor told a judge in February that Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnik in 2016 — which included sharing 2016 polling data — went to the “heart” of the special counsel investigation.
— Rosalind S. Helderman
6:00: Mueller left open the question of whether Trump sought to obstruct the Russia investigation
The obstruction-of-justice investigation of Trump began days after he fired FBI Director James B. Comey on May 9, 2017, The Post has reported. Comey’s firing led Rosenstein to appoint Mueller to take over the Russia investigation later that month.
According to Barr, the special counsel team conducted a “thorough factual investigation” about various actions by the president that raised concerns that Trump may have committed obstruction of justice.
Mueller left unresolved what he viewed as “difficult issues” of law and fact about the president’s intent, according to Barr’s summary.
The attorney general indicated that “most” of the episodes Mueller investigated have been the subject of public reporting — meaning at least some of them have not been known.
— Rosalind S. Helderman