Mueller outlines key Trump-Russia contacts and potential instances of obstruction of justice in final report

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesRobert Mueller.
  • The Justice Department released a redacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller‘s final report in the Russia investigation on Thursday.
  • The report includes key revelations about some of the most significant counterintelligence inquiries in the investigation, including motivations behind the myriad meetings and contacts between President Donald Trump’s associates and those linked to the Russian government.
  • It also includes previously unseen evidence prosecutors collected as part of their investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe.
  • Mueller said in the report that Trump was mostly unsuccessful in obstructing justice – but only because his advisers stopped him or refused to carry out his orders.
  • Attorney General William Barr previously announced Mueller’s “principal conclusions” in the investigation, telling Congress that the special counsel did not find sufficient evidence to bring a conspiracy charge against President Donald Trump or those associated with his campaign.
  • Barr also told Congress that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded Trump did not obstruct justice, even though Mueller declined to come to a conclusion on the matter.
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The Justice Department released a redacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report in the Russia investigation on Thursday.

The report’s release caps nearly two years of frenzied speculation over what the former FBI director uncovered as he investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow to tilt the race in his favour, and whether Trump obstructed justice after the public learned of the investigation.

Broadly, Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to charge Trump or anyone associated with his campaign with conspiracy. Prosecutors declined to come to a conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice, but Attorney General William Barr determined that the president did not have corrupt intent and therefore was not guilty of an obstruction offence.

Here are some of Mueller’s key findings, according to the report:

  • Trump largely failed at obstructing justice in the Russia investigation, but it was mainly because his advisers stepped in and refused to carry out many of his directives.
  • When Trump learned Mueller had been appointed special counsel, he said, “I’m f—ed. This is the end of my presidency.”
  • The Trump campaign tried to obtain deleted Hillary Clinton emails.
  • The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told Mueller she lied when she told the public that “countless” FBI agents had contacted the White House after Comey’s firing to say they had lost confidence in him.
  • The Trump campaign believed that Russia’s interference in the election would help propel Trump to the presidency.
  • In January 2018, after Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted in two separate cases in the Russia probe, Manafort told Gates he had talked to Trump’s personal lawyer and “they were going to take care of us.” Manafort then urged Gates not to plead guilty, telling him they should “sit tight” and “we’ll be taken care of.”

Read the full report here »

Mueller’s key findings in the obstruction probe

The special counsel said the president was mostly unsuccessful in obstructing justice in the investigation – but only because key aides and advisers stopped him or refused to carry out his orders.

Mueller’s team declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” about whether Trump obstructed justice, citing current DOJ guidelines that say a sitting president cannot be indicted. Apart from that, they also said a criminal accusation against a sitting president could impede his ability to govern, and that they did not want to get ahead of “constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”

But they added, “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, however, we are unable to reach that judgment,” the report said. “The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Mueller’s team went on to lay out 11 scenarios, some of which have already been reported, that could shed light on the obstruction case.

  • The Trump campaign’s response to reports about Russia’s support for Trump.
  • Conduct involving FBI director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
  • Trump’s reaction to the continuing Russia investigation.
  • Comey’s firing.
  • Mueller’s appointment and subsequent efforts to remove him.
  • Efforts to curtail Mueller’s investigation.
  • Efforts to prevent the public disclosure of evidence.
  • Further efforts to have the Attorney General [Jeff Sessions] take control of the investigation.
  • Efforts to have [former White House counsel Don McGahn] deny Trump had ordered him to remove Mueller.
  • Conduct towards Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and another person whose name was redacted.
  • Conduct involving Michael Cohen.

Barr comes under the spotlight for his oversight of Mueller’s probe

Attorney General William Barr faced intense pressure from Democratic lawmakers to release an un-redacted version of the report to Congress. But he said he is bound by federal law and DOJ guidelines to redact certain types of information from the document.

The attorney general redacted four categories from the final report:

  • information that went before a grand jury but did not result in criminal charges
  • information that could compromise intelligence sources and methods
  • information that could pertain to other ongoing investigative matters
  • information that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties”

Read more: The key Trump-Russia questions we’re hoping Mueller’s full report will answer

In an initial four-page review of the report released last month, Barr said Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to bring conspiracy charges against Trump or anyone associated with his campaign. Prosecutors declined to come to a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, but Barr, in consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, determined the president did not commit an obstruction crime.

Barr’s review – specifically, his conclusion in the obstruction inquiry – sparked outrage among Democratic lawmakers who pointed to a memo the attorney general wrote last year in which he called the obstruction investigation “legally insupportable” and said it should not be sanctioned by the Justice Department.

The memo, Democrats argued, indicated Barr was biased and was not qualified to offer his own conclusions in the investigation. They claimed, moreover, that the attorney general had usurped Congress’ oversight authority by determining Trump did not obstruct justice instead of leaving it up to lawmakers to decide.

House Democrats, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, are now locked in a fierce fight with the Justice Department over obtaining a full, un-redacted copy of Mueller’s report. Earlier this month, the committee subpoenaed the department for the report, as well as its underlying evidence and any grand-jury information contained in the document.

Barr came under further scrutiny last week after several media outlets reported that members of Mueller’s team were frustrated and dissatisfied with Barr’s characterization of their findings in the Russia investigation.

The New York Times reported that the special counsel’s findings were far more damaging to Trump than Barr’s review conveyed. And people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post they believed Barr’s letter on Mueller’s report downplayed the fact that “the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant.”

The reports also said Mueller’s team had prepared multiple summaries of their own of their conclusions and were perplexed about why Barr didn’t include more information from those summaries in his initial review, raising the stakes of the ongoing battle over the full report’s release between congressional leaders and the Justice Department.

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