Special counsel Robert Mueller wrote in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign that although he lacked sufficient evidence to clear or charge President Trump on possible obstruction of justice, Congress could take up the issue.
“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 wrote in his 448-page report, a redacted version of which was released by the Justice Department Thursday.
Mueller made clear in his report that he did not believe his investigation cleared the president of much.
“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,” Mueller wrote.
Still, Mueller wrote that Trump was, for the most part, unsuccessful in influencing the outcome of the investigation.
“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 release of the report was the first chance for the public to hear directly from the special counsel himself. Days after Mueller submitted his findings to William Barr, the attorney general wrote a four-page summary of them, portraying the conclusions in a favorable light for Trump.
While the president concluded that Barr’s summary proved his complete and total exoneration, Mueller’s report itself is far less definitive.
The special counsel wrote that “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.”
After describing the rationale on whether to charge the president with a crime, Mueller laid out a damning series of events detailing the contacts between the Trump campaign, the president’s family members and former lawyer Michael Cohen and the Russian government.
“In approximately Sept 2015, Cohen obtained approval to negotiate with [Russian real estate company] from candidate Trump... Cohen also discussed the Trump Tower Moscow project with Ivanka... and Donald J. Trump Jr.”
After Trump's election,"the most senior levels of the Russian govt" encouraged efforts to "make inroads" w/ the new administration. Key player: Kirill Dmitriev, chief of Russian sovereign wealth fund, who met with Eric Prince in Seychelles.
— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) April 18, 2019
Mueller was also resolute on the role the Russian government played in helping elect Trump.
“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” the report states.
Specifically, Mueller found clear evidence that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency.
“The investigation identified two different forms of connections between the IRA and members of the Trump Campaign. (The investigation identified no similar connections between the IRA and the Clinton Campaign.) First, on multiple occasions, members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign promoted—typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting—pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA or through IRA-controlled social media accounts. Additionally, in a few instances, IRA employees represented themselves as U.S. persons to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign in an effort to seek assistance and coordination on IRA-organized political rallies inside the United States,” the report states.
Mueller also lays out a scene in which Trump directed former White House communications director Hope Hicks to lie about a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son Donald Trump Jr., other high ranking campaign officials and Russians who had promised dirt on Clinton.
“On the flight home from the G20 on July 8, 2017, Hicks obtained a draft statement about the meeting to be released by Trump Jr. and brought it to the President,” the report stated. “The draft statement began with a reference to the information that was offered by the Russians in setting up the meeting: ‘I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign.’ Hicks again wanted to disclose the entire story, but the president directed that the statement not be issued because it said too much. The president told Hicks that Trump Jr. took a brief meeting and it was about Russian adoption.”
The report also reveals that Ivanka Trump was briefed ahead of time about the infamous Trump Tower meeting attended by her brother, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian-born lobbyist and others.
On the question of obstruction, Trump, Mueller wrote, “engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel's investigation and prevent the disclosure of evidence to it, including through public and private contacts with potential witnesses.”
That contradicts Barr’s assertion Thursday that the president “fully cooperated” with the investigation.
Regarding Trump’s remark during the 2016 campaign that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails” Clinton was said to have deleted from her private server, Mueller said that wish was granted by Moscow.
“Within approximately five hours of Trump's statement [on July 27, 2016 that Russia find Clinton's emails], GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton's personal office,” the report says.
The president realized the appointment of the special counsel spelled trouble for his presidency. According to notes contained in the report, “when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f***ed.'"
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