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The Mueller report's biggest revelations about Trump

In his letter to Congress, Barr said Mueller declined to make a decision on obstruction, but it wasn’t for lack of evidence, according to the report.

by VICE News
Apr 18 2019, 4:51pm

The Mueller report is finally out. On Thursday, the Department of Justice released the full report, stretching over 400 pages, of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, whether the Trump campaign aided that interference, and if the president tried to stop the relationship from coming to light.

The nearly two-year investigation resulted in 34 indictments, including guilty pleas or charges against several top officials close to Trump. Some 500 witnesses were interviewed, more than 2,800 subpoenas were issued, and nearly 500 search warrants were executed.

Over and over again, President Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt” and illegal. He said this month, without evidence, that the investigation was even “treason.” Trump has also repeatedly made false statements about the investigation, including accusing Mueller’s team of working for the Democrats.

Despite all of that, Attorney General William Barr, in a controversial four-page letter published March 22, said Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian efforts to tilt the 2016 election — and that Mueller declined to charge Trump with obstruction of justice.

In a press conference Thursday, Barr defended Trump further: ”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."

Democrats, meanwhile, have accused Barr of taking part in a “staggering partisan effort by the Trump administration to spin the public’s view” of the Mueller report. And on Thursday, Democratic Rep Jerry Nadler, from New York, said he was requesting that Mueller appear before the House Judiciary Committee “as soon as possible.”

Here are some key findings:

Trump tried to obstruct the investigation 10 times

In his letter to Congress, Barr said Mueller declined to make a decision on obstruction, but based on the special counsel’s report, it wasn’t for lack of evidence.

“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,” Mueller’s team writes.

“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. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

In fact, the key point that appeared to stop Mueller from charging Trump with obstruction is the fact that he’s the president of the United States.

The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that "the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions" in violation of "the constitutional separation of powers."

Instead, Mueller wrote that Congress has the authority to pursue obstruction of justice cases against the president.

The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President 's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

"Numerous links" to Russia, but no collusion

Mueller was more conclusive when it came to the question of collusion. The report determines that “while the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.”

Mueller mentions two specific instances of intense public intrigue. First, he brings up that senior Trump aides attended a meeting in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, during which a Russian lawyer, also in attendance, said she had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Second, Mueller mentions the Trump campaign’s links to WikiLeaks.

“Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks's releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.”

Trump told Cohen to "stay strong" after raid

Trump may now refer to Cohen as a “rat,” but in the early days of his former personal lawyer’s legal trouble, Trump reached out to Cohen with clear instructions: “stay strong.”

“After the FBI searched Cohen's home and office in April 2018, the president publicly asserted that Cohen would not "flip," contacted him directly to "stay strong," and privately passed messages of support to him."

Cohen also discussed pardons with the President's personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message he would be taken care of. But after Cohen began cooperating with the government in the summer of 2018, the President publicly criticized him, called him a "rat," and suggested that his family members had committed crimes.

Trump's camp made veiled threats to Michael Flynn

When they caught wind of Flynn's cooperation with investigators, Trump, through his lawyers, tried to intimidate his former national security adviser.

"After Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement with the President and began cooperating with the government, the President's personal counsel left a message for Flynn's attorneys reminding them of the President 's warm feelings towards Flynn, which he said 'still remains,' and asking for a 'heads up' if Flynn knew 'information that implicates the President," the report states.

When Flynn's counsel reiterated that Flynn could no longer share information pursuant to a joint defense agreement, the President's personal counsel said he would make sure that the President knew that Flynn’s actions reflected "hostility" towards the President.

Trump wanted to fire Mueller

Mueller may have survived his tenure until the end of the investigation, but it wasn't for lack of trying from Trump. On that front, Trump tested then-White House Counsel Don McGhan many times — and even questioned why the attorney had to take notes during their meetings.

The President also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel's Office investigators that the President had told him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to and that his conversations with the President were not protected by attorney-client privilege. The President then asked, "What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes." McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a "real lawyer" and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The President said, "I've had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes."

Trump wanted the intelligence community to clear him

After former FBI Director James Comey told Congress in March 2017 that the FBI was investigating "the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," Trump made some interesting requests to the leaders of the intelligence community.

Trump reached out to the director of national intelligence and the leaders of the CIA and NSA to "ask them what they could do publicly to dispel the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort."

“The President also twice called Comey directly, notwithstanding guidance from McGahn to avoid direct contacts with the Department of Justice. Comey had previously assured the President that the FBI was not investigating him personally, and the President asked Comey to "lift the cloud" of the Russia investigation by saying that publicly.

Evidence was destroyed

People within the scope of the investigation — including some "associated with the Trump campaign" — also deleted "relevant communications," according to the report.

“[T]he Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated — including some associated with the Trump Campaign — deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records.

In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.”

Trump really wanted Clinton's emails

Remember when Trump asked Russia to find those emails? It went like this: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a campaign rally on July 27, 2016.

Well, he was serious, according to Mueller:

“After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would "find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails.

The Trump family and the Russian troll farm

Trump, the report states, was “among the U.S. 'leaders of public opinion' targeted by the IRA” (the Internet Research Agency). And his campaign proved profitable for the Russian Trolls.

“In total, Trump Campaign affiliates promoted dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA," Mueller's team wrote.

“Posts from the IRA-controlled Twitter account @TE N_GOP were cited or retweeted by multiple Trump Campaign officials and surrogates, including Donald J. Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Michael T. Flynn. These posts included allegations of voter fraud, as well as allegations that Secretary Clinton had mishandled classified information.

Even President Trump got caught by IRA's elaborate social media operation.

On September 19, 2017, President Trump's personal account @realDonaldTrump responded to a tweet from the IRA-controlled account @ l0_gop (the backup account of @TEN_ GOP, which had already been deactivated by Twitter). The tweet read: "We love you, Mr. President!"