Special counsel Robert Mueller’s has now been released. Those who expected it would provide a detailed smoking gun and would legally implicate Trump and help lead to his removal from office won’t be happy. Those who predicted it’ll have a ton of information that would shock and disgrace Trump won’t be happy. And those who say the report completely exonerates Trump and that the President didn’t engage in questionable practices regarding the investigation will not be accurate or will be lying. Plus: it does not charge or make the case that Trump colluded with Russia. Now it’s likely each side will pick and choose the parts that bolster their arguments, but the reality is different.
The report — now being read in a frenzy by reporters (it came in the form of an unsearchable PDF) does suggest there is indeed a not-pleasing smell coming from the Oval Office and particularly his press team, but not enough to be defined with legal specificity to bring charges. Read the full text of the redacted reporter HERE. Here’s a round up of some of the news stories and reaction:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy report made public Thursday reviewed President Donald Trump’s attempts to muddy the investigation, including efforts to tamper with witnesses, but decided not to charge the president with obstruction because there was no underlying crime and many of the attempts were carried out in plain view.
But Mueller said the decision not to charge Trump was a difficult one, and that it was not clear he was innocent of obstructing justice. If the special counsel’s office had been certain that Trump did not commit crimes, Mueller said, it would have said so in the report.
Trump, the 448-page report reveals, was panicked when he first found out about Mueller’s appointment, saying: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked,” citing testimony from then Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff.
“How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump continued, telling Sessions something to the effect of, “You were supposed to protect me. … This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Mueller’s office says it weighed charging Trump with obstruction, but didn’t in part because “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 process for addressing presidential misconduct.”
Investigators had looked at Trump’s response to reports about Russia’s support of his campaign, his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his behavior about charges against his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and his efforts to get rid of Mueller himself.
That included Trump ordering then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that “Mueller has to go.”
“McGahn spoke with the President twice and understood the directive the same way both times, making it unlikely that he misheard or misinterpreted the President’s request. In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit,” the report says. “He called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed up his office, prepared to submit a resignation letter with his chief of staff, (and) told (then-White House Chief of Staff Reince) Preibus that the President had asked him to ‘do crazy shit,'” the report continues.
“McGahn ultimately did not quit and the President did not follow up with McGahn on his request to have the Special Counsel removed.”
In the report, special counsel Robert Mueller outlined why obstruction by President Trump failed. It failed because others refused to “carry out orders.”
“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” the report said.
“(James) Comey did not end the investigation of (Michael) Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. (Don) McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the special counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. (Corey) Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President ‘s message to (Jeff) Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the special counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so. Consistent with that pattern, the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the President’s aides and associates beyond those already filed,” the report said.
On the same page, CNN lists these highlights:
–Trump told his White House lawyer to remove Mueller. He refused.
–Mueller describes previously unknown effort by Trump to get Sessions to curtail investigation
–Trump on Mueller appointment: “This is the end of my Presidency”
Thus far, there are no real surprises.
Rather than new revelations, we’re mostly getting a lot of color and nuance.
Mataconis included these bullets from the report and other reports:
Trump’s lawyers massaged Michael Cohen’s testimony, but there is no evidence Trump told him to lie. Mueller says obstruction laws apply to presidents who use their executive powers corruptly. The report explicitly states that the investigation did not clear the president [of obstruction of justice–jhj]. The report indicates that Michael D. Cohen never traveled to Prague to meet with Russians. Barr heavily redacted evidence about the Trump campaign’s outreach to WikiLeaks. The special counsel found evidence of plenty of other crimes and made 14 referrals. Trump ordered the White House counsel to claim that stories about the president wanting to fire Mueller were false. After Michael T. Flynn’s lawyer refused to share information about what he was telling the special counsel’s team, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer said the president would be informed of Flynn’s ‘hostility.’ Trump called the appointment of Mueller the ‘end of my presidency.’ Mueller found several prominent Trump-Russia contacts — and a Republican platform change — were innocuous. Mueller identified ‘numerous’ Trump campaign-Russia contacts, but the evidence did not rise to the level of a crime. George Papadopoulos suggested that Russia wanted to coordinate with Trump campaign. Trump called McGahn at home and ordered him to dismiss Mueller, but McGahn balked. To find evidence of coordination, both Russia and the Trump campaign would have had to agree to act. Mr. Trump likely fired James B. Comey for refusing to clear the president’s name.
A detailed report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III said investigators struggled with both the legal implications of investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice and the motives behind a range of his most alarming actions, from seeking the ouster of 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.”
Since Mueller ended his investigation last month, a central question facing the Justice Department has been why Mueller’s team did not reach a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice. The issue was complicated, the report said, by two key factors — the fact that, under department practice, a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, and that a president has a great deal of constitutional authority to give orders to other government employees.
Trump ultimately submitted written answers to the investigators. The special counsel’s office considered them “inadequate” but did not press for an interview because doing so would cause a “substantial delay,” the report says.
The report said investigators felt they had “sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.”
A copy of the report was delivered to Congress on Thursday morning.
Trump’s legal team called the report “a total victory” for the president.
“The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning — there was no collusion — there was no obstruction,” they said.
In their statement, Trump’s lawyers also attacked former leaders at the FBI for opening “a biased, political attack against the President — turning one of our foundational legal standards on its head.”
If Mueller’s report was a victory for the president, it was an ugly one.
The investigators paint a grim, unflattering portrait of a president who believes the Justice Department and the FBI should answer to his orders, even when it comes to criminal investigations.
During a meeting in which the president complained about then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump insisted that past attorneys general had been more obedient to their presidents, referring to the Kennedy brothers and the Obama administration.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.