The Mueller Report, formally titled Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, is the official report documenting the findings and conclusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 United States presidential election, allegations of conspiracy or coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, and allegations of obstruction of justice. The report was submitted to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019, and a redacted version of the 448-page report was publicly released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 18, 2019. It is divided into two volumes.
INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME IEdit
- The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. ...In June , the Democratic National Committee [DNC]... announced that Russian hackers had compromised its computer network. Releases of hacked materials—hacks that public reporting soon attributed to the Russian government—began that same month. Additional releases followed in July through the organization WikiLeaks, with further releases in October and November.
- [S]oon after WikiLeaks's first release of stolen documents, a foreign government contacted the FBI about... Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to... Hillary Clinton. That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government...
- That fall, two federal agencies jointly announced that the Russian government "directed recent compromises of e-mails... intended to interfere with the US election process." After the election... the United States imposed sanctions... By early 2017, several congressional committees were examining Russia's interference...
- [I]nvestigatory efforts... led to the May 2017 appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III. The order... authorized him to investigate "the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.
- Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First... a social media campaign... favored... Trump and disparaged... Clinton. Second, ...computer-intrusion operations against... the Clinton Campaign and... then released stolen documents.
- The investigation... identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency... 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.
- Vol I, pp. 1-2.
- A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.
- Vol I, p. 2.
- In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of "collusion." ...But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability... in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For those reasons, the Office's focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy... we addressed the factual question whether members of the Trump Campaign "coordinat[ed]"—a term that appears in the appointment order—with Russian election interference activities. Like collusion, "coordination" does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other's actions or interests. We applied the term coordination in that sense when stating... that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
- Vol I, p. 2.
- Volume I describes the factual results of the Special Counsel's investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and its interactions with the Trump Campaign. Section I describes the scope of the investigation. Sections II and III describe the principal ways Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Section IV describes links between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign. Section V sets forth the Special Counsel's charging decisions.
- Volume II addresses the President's actions towards the FBI's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and related matters, and his actions towards the Special Counsel's investigation. Volume II separately states its framework and the considerations that guided that investigation.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TO VOLUME IEdit
RUSSIAN SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNEdit
- The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified...—a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA... received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prigozhin is widely reported to have ties to... Putin.
- In mid-2014, the IRA sent employees to the United States on an intelligence-gathering mission...
- The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord... through... "information warfare." The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed... to undermine the U.S. electoral system... The IRA' s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies... To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials... Section II... details... the Russian social media campaign.
RUSSIAN HACKING OPERATIONSEdit
- [T]he Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. ...the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations. ...The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. ...disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas " DCLeaks" and "Guccifer 2.0." The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks.
- The ...("Trump Campaign" or "Campaign") showed interest in WikiLeaks's releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton.
- WikiLeaks began releasing Podesta's stolen emails on October 7, 2016, less than one hour after a U.S. media outlet released video considered damaging to candidate Trump. Section III... details... Russian hacking operations, as well as other efforts by Trump Campaign supporters to obtain Clinton-related emails.
RUSSIAN CONTACTS WITH THE CAMPAIGNEdit
- The social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials... 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...
- The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet... invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations.
- Section IV of this Report details the contacts between Russia and the Trump Campaign...
- 2015. Some of the earliest contacts were made in connection with a Trump Organization... project... Trump Tower Moscow. Candidate Trump signed a Letter of intent for Trump Tower Moscow by November 2015, and in January 2016... Michael Cohen emailed and spoke about the project with the office of Russian government press secretary Dmitry Peskov. The Trump Organization pursued the project through at least June 2016, including by considering travel to Russia by Cohen and candidate Trump.
- Spring 2016. Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos made early contact with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who had connections to Russia and traveled to Moscow in April 2016. Immediately upon his return to London from that trip, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton...
- One week later, in the first week of May 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton. Throughout... and for several months thereafter, Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and two Russian nationals to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. No meeting took place.
- Summer 2016. Russian outreach to the Trump Campaign continued... as... Trump was becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.... On June 9, 2016, for example, a Russian lawyer met with senior Trump Campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to deliver... "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary." The materials were offered to Trump Jr. as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." ...the Campaign anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump's electoral prospects, but the Russian lawyer's presentation did not provide such information.
Days after the June 9 meeting... a cybersecurity firm and the DNC announced that Russian government hackers had infiltrated the DNC and obtained access to opposition research on candidate Trump, among other documents.
- In July 2016, Campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page traveled... to Moscow and gave the keynote address at the New Economic School. Page had lived and worked in Russia between 2003 and 2007. After returning... Page became acquainted with at least two Russian intelligence officers... Page's July 2016 trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russian foreign policy drew media attention. The Campaign then distanced itself from Page and, by late September 2016, removed him from the Campaign.
- On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks posted thousands of internal DNC documents revealing information about the Clinton Campaign. ...[W]ithin a week of the release, a foreign government informed the FBI about its May 2016 interaction with Papadopoulos and his statement that the Russian government could assist the Trump Campaign. On July 31, 2016... the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.
- August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver... a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged... was a "backdoor" way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump's assent to succeed (were he to be elected President). They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort's strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states. Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period... after...
- Fall 2016. On October 7, 2016, the media released video of candidate Trump speaking in graphic terms about women years earlier... considered damaging to his candidacy. Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks made its second release: thousands of John Podesta' s emails that had been stolen... in late March 2016. The FBI and... U.S. government institutions were... continuing their investigation of suspected Russian government efforts to interfere... That same day, October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint public statement "that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails..." Those "thefts" and the "disclosures"... the statement continued, "are intended to interfere with the US election process."
- Post-2016 Election. Immediately after the... election, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new administration. ...The Russian Embassy made contact hours after the election to congratulate the President-Elect and to arrange a call with President Putin. Several Russian businessmen picked up the effort from there.
- Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of Russia's sovereign wealth fund, was among the Russians who tried to make contact... In early December, a business associate steered Dmitriev to Erik Prince, a supporter of the Trump Campaign and an associate of senior Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Dmitriev and Prince later met face-to-face in January 2017 in the Seychelles and discussed U.S.-Russia relations. ...another business associate introduced Dmitriev to a friend of Jared Kushner... Dmitriev and Kushner's friend collaborated on a short written reconciliation plan for the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied had been cleared through Putin. The friend gave that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
- On December 29, 2016, then-President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for having interfered in the election. Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and asked Russia not to escalate the situation in response to the sanctions. The following day, Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. Hours later, President-Elect Trump tweeted, "Great move on delay (by V. Putin)." The next day, on December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him the request had been received at the highest levels and Russia had chosen not to retaliate as a result of Flynn's request.
- On January 6, 2017, members of the intelligence community briefed President-Elect Trump on a joint assessment-drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, and National Security Agency-that concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump's candidacy and harm Clinton's. A declassified version of the assessment was publicly released that same day.
- Between mid-January 2017 and early February 2017, three congressional committees... announced that they would conduct inquiries, or had... been conducting inquiries, into Russian interference... Then-FBI Director James Comey later confirmed... the existence of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference that had begun before the election. On March 20, 2017, in open-session testimony before HPSCI, Comey stated:
The investigation continued under... Comey for the next seven weeks until May 9, 2017, when... Trump fired Corney as FBI Director—an action which is analyzed in Volume II of the report.
I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia' s efforts .... As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.
- On May 17, 2017, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed the Special Counsel and authorized him to conduct the investigation that Comey had confirmed... as well as matters arising directly from the investigation, and... efforts to interfere with or obstruct the investigation.
- Trump reacted negatively to the Special Counsel's appointment. He told advisors that it was the end of his presidency, sought to have Attorney General Jefferson (Jeff) Sessions unrecuse from the Russia investigation and to have the Special Counsel removed, and engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel's investigation and prevent the disclosure of evidence to it, including... contacts with potential witnesses. Those and related actions are described and analyzed in Volume II...
THE SPECIAL COUNSEL'S CHARGING DECISIONSEdit
- In reaching the charging decisions described in Volume 1... the Office determined whether the conduct it found amounted to a violation of federal criminal law chargeable under the Principles of Federal Prosecution. ...The standard set forth in the Justice Manual is whether the conduct constitutes a crime; if so, whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction; and whether prosecution would serve a substantial federal interest that could not be adequately served by prosecution elsewhere or through non-criminal alternatives.
- Section V of the report provides detailed explanations of the Office's charging decisions, which contain three main components.
- First, the Office determined that Russia's two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations—violated U.S. criminal law. Many of the individuals and entities involved in the social media campaign have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States... Russian intelligence officers who carried out the hacking into Democratic Party computers and the personal email accounts... have been... charged.
- Second, 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. ...the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. ...[E]vidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks's releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. ...[E]vidence 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.
- Third, the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation... The Office charged some of those lies as violations of the federal false statements statute. ...Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his interactions with... Kislyak during the transition period. George Papadopoulos... pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about, inter alia, the nature and timing of his interactions with Joseph Mifsud, the professor who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the Trump Moscow project. ...And ...the U.S. District Court found that Manafort lied to the Office and the grand jury concerning his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik about Trump Campaign polling data and a peace plan for Ukraine.
- [I]nteractions between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate's April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive. ...[T]he investigation did not establish that one Campaign official's efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia. The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016... included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.
- The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken... Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right... and were not, in the Office' s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information—such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media—in light of internal Department of Justice policies... Some of the information obtained via court process... was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or "taint") team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false—statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well—numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.
- [S]ome of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications... 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.
- Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.
I. THE SPECIAL COUNSEL'S INVESTIGATIONEdit
- On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein... appointed the Special Counsel "to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and related matters." ...[and was] "...authorized to conduct the investigation including:
(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).
...Section 600.4 affords the Special Counsel "the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel's investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses." ...The authority to investigate "any matters that arose... directly from the investigation,"... covers similar crimes that may have occurred during the course of the FBI's confirmed investigation before the Special Counsel's appointment. "If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate," the Order further provided, "the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters."
- The Acting Attorney General further clarified the scope... A memorandum dated August 2, 2017, explained that the Appointment Order... "...permit[s] its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals." ...the Special Counsel had been authorized... to investigate allegations that three Trump campaign officials—Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos—"committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election." The memorandum also confirmed the Special Counsel's authority to investigate...other matters, including... allegations involving Manafort (crimes arising from payments he received from the Ukrainian government and crimes arising from his receipt of loans from a bank whose CEO was then seeking a position in the Trump Administration); allegations that Papadopoulos committed a crime or crimes by acting as an unregistered agent of the Israeli government; and four sets of allegations involving Michael Flynn...
- On October 20, 2017, the Acting Attorney General confirmed... the Special Counsel's investigative authority as to... First, ...to investigate "the pertinent activities of Michael Cohen, Richard Gates, [redacted name], Roger Stone, and [redacted name]" ...Second, with respect to Michael Cohen... to investigate " leads relate[d] to Cohen' s establishment and use of Essential Consultants LLC to, inter alia, receive funds from Russian-backed entities." Third, ...authority to investigate individuals and entities who were possibly engaged in "jointly undertaken activity" with existing subjects of the investigation, including Paul Manafort. Finally, ...into "allegations that [then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions] made false statements to the... Senate[,]" ...
- There was substantial evidence immediately available to the Special Counsel at the inception of the investigation in May 2017 because the FBI had, by that time, already investigated Russian election interference for nearly 10 months.
- Certain proceedings associated with the Office's work remain ongoing. [T]he Office has transferred responsibility for... remaining issues to other components of the Department of Justice and FBI. Appendix D lists those transfers.
- Two district courts confirmed the breadth of the Special Counsel's authority to investigate Russia election interference and links and/or coordination with the Trump Campaign. ...[T]he Office periodically identified evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Counsel's authority... [T]he Office referred that evidence to appropriate law enforcement authorities, principally other components of the Department of Justice and to the FBI. Appendix D summarizes those referrals.
- [T]he Office issued more than 2,800 subpoenas under the auspices of a grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia; executed nearly 500 search-and-seizure warrants; obtained more than 230 orders for communications records... obtained almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers; made 13 requests to foreign governments pursuant to Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties; and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses, including almost 80 before a grand jury.
- [T]he Office recognized that its investigation could identify foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information relevant to the FBI's broader national security mission. FBI personnel who assisted the Office established procedures to identify and convey such information to the FBI. The FBI's Counterintelligence Division met with the Office regularly for that purpose... [T]he FBI also embedded personnel at the Office... to review the results of the investigation... [C]ommunications and other correspondence between the Office and the FBI contain information derived from the investigation, not all of which is contained in this Volume. This Volume is a summary. It contains... information necessary to account for... prosecution and declination decisions and to describe the investigation's main factual results.
II. RUSSIAN "ACTIVE MEASURES" SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNEdit
- The first form of Russian election influence came principally from the Internet Research Agency, LLC (IRA), a Russian organization funded by Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and companies he controlled, including Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering (collectively "Concord").
- The IRA and its employees began operations targeting the United States as early as 2014. Using fictitious U.S. personas, IRA employees operated social media accounts and group pages designed to attract U.S. audiences.
- By early to mid-2016, IRA operations included supporting the Trump Campaign and disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton. ...Some IRA employees, posing as U.S. persons... communicated electronically with individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities, including the staging of political rallies.
- By the end of the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts. Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of U.S. participants. IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who retweeted IRA-created content.
INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME IIEdit
- Beginning in 2017, the President of the United States took a variety of actions towards the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and related matters that raised questions about whether he had obstructed justice. The Order appointing the Special Counsel gave this Office jurisdiction to investigate matters that arose directly from the FBI's Russia investigation, including whether the President had obstructed justice in connection with Russia-related investigations. The Special Counsel's jurisdiction also covered potentially obstructive acts related to the Special Counsel's investigation itself. This Volume of our report summarizes our obstruction-of-justice investigation of the President.
- First, a traditional prosecution or declination decision entails a binary determination to initiate or decline a prosecution, but we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. 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." ...[T]his Office accepted OLC's legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction. ...[W]e 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.
- Second, while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President's term is permissible. ...[A] President does not have immunity after he leaves office. And if individuals other than the President committed an obstruction offense, they may be prosecuted at this time. ...[W]e conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.
- Third, ...we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes. The threshold step under the Justice Manual standards is to assess whether a person's conduct " constitutes a federal offense." ...Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought. The ordinary means for an individual to respond to an accusation is through a speedy and public trial, with all the procedural protections that surround a criminal case. ...In contrast, a prosecutor's judgment that crimes were committed, but that no charges will be brought, affords no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.
- The concerns about the fairness of such a determination would be heightened in the case of a sitting President, where a federal prosecutor's accusation of a crime... could carry consequences... beyond the realm of criminal justice. ...Even if an indictment were sealed during the President's term, OLC reasoned, "it would be very difficult to preserve [an indictment' s] secrecy," and if an indictment became public, "[t]he stigma and opprobrium" could imperil the President's ability to govern." ...[T]he possibility of the report's public disclosure and the absence of a neutral adjudicatory forum to review its findings counseled against potentially determining "that the person's conduct constitutes a federal offense."
- Fourth, 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.
- This report on our investigation consists of four parts. Section I provides an overview of obstruction-of-justice principles and summarizes certain investigatory and evidentiary considerations. Section II sets forth the factual results of our obstruction investigation and analyzes the evidence. Section III addresses statutory and constitutional defenses. Section IV states our conclusion.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TO VOLUME IIEdit
- Our obstruction-of-justice inquiry focused on a series of actions by the President that related to the Russian-interference investigations, including the President's conduct towards the law enforcement officials overseeing the investigations and the witnesses to relevant events.
FACTUAL RESULTS OF THE OBSTRUCTION INVESTIGATIONEdit
- The key issues and events we examined include the following:
- The Campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign... Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia was responsible for the hacks at the same time that he and other Campaign officials privately sought information [redacted section] about any further planned WikiLeaks releases. Trump also denied having any business in or connections to Russia, even though as late as June 2016 the Trump Organization had been pursuing a licensing deal for... Trump Tower Moscow.
- Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn. In mid-January 2017, incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn falsely denied to the Vice President, other administration officials, and FBI agents that he had talked to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about Russia's response to U.S. sanctions on Russia for its election interference. On January 27, the day after the President was told that Flynn had lied to the Vice President and had made similar statements to the FBI, the President invited FBI Director Comey to a private dinner at the White House and told Corney that he needed loyalty. On February 14, the day after the President requested Flynn's resignation, the President told an outside advisor, "Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over." The advisor disagreed and said the investigations would continue.
- Later that afternoon, the President cleared the Oval Office to have a one-on-one meeting with Comey. Referring to the FBI's investigation of Flynn, the President said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." Shortly after requesting Flynn's resignation and speaking privately to Comey, the President sought to have Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland draft an internal letter stating that the President had not directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak. McFarland declined because she did not know whether that was true, and a White House Counsel's Office attorney thought that the request would look like a quid pro quo for an ambassadorship she had been offered.
- The President's reaction to the continuing Russia investigation. Tn February 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions began to assess whether he had to recuse himself from campaignrelated investigations because of his role in the Trump Campaign. Tn early March, the President told White House Counsel Donald McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing. And after Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at the decision and told advisors that he should have an Attorney General who would protect him. That weekend, the President took Sessions aside at an event and urged him to "unrecuse." Later in March, Comey publicly disclosed at a congressional hearing that the FBI was investigating "the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," including any links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. In the following days, the President reached out to the Director of National Intelligence and the leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) to ask them what they could do to publicly 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.
- The President's termination of Comey. On May 3, 2017, Comey testified in a congressional hearing, but declined to answer questions about whether the President was personally under investigation. Within days, the President decided to terminate Comey. The President insisted that the termination letter, which was written for public release, state[d] that Comey had informed the President that he was not under investigation. The day of the firing, the White House maintained that Comey's termination resulted from independent recommendations from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General that Comey should be discharged for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But the President had decided to fire Corney before hearing from the Department of Justice. The day after firing Corney, the President told Russian officials that he had "faced great pressure because of Russia," which had been "taken off" by Corney's firing. The next day, the President acknowledged in a television interview that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice's recommendation and that when he "decided to just do it," he was thinking that "this thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story." In response to a question about whether he was angry with Comey about the Russia investigation, the President said, "As far as I'm concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly," adding that firing Comey "might even lengthen out the investigation."
- The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him. On May 17, 2017, the Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation appointed a Special Counsel to conduct the investigation and related matters. The President reacted to news that a Special Counsel had been appointed by telling advisors that it was "the end of his presidency" and demanding that Sessions resign. Sessions submitted his resignation, but the President ultimately did not accept it. The President told aides that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and suggested that the Special Counsel therefore could not serve. The President's advisors told him the asserted conflicts were meritless and had already been considered by the Department of Justice.
- On June 14, 2017, the media reported that the Special Counsel's Office was investigating whether the President had obstructed justice. Press reports called this "a major turning point" in the investigation: while Comey had told the President he was not under investigation, following Corney's firing, the President now was under investigation. The President reacted to this news with a series of tweets criticizing the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel's investigation. On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.
- Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel's investigation. Two days after directing McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation. On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions. The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was "very unfair" to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and "let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections." Lewandowski said he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do.
- One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions's job was in jeopardy. Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President's message personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through.
- Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence. In the summer of 2017, the President learned that media outlets were asking questions about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who was said to be offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." On several occasions, the President directed aides not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the June 9 meeting, suggesting that the emails would not leak and that the number of lawyers with access to them should be limited. Before the emails became public, the President edited a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with "an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign" and instead said only that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children. When the press asked questions about the President' s involvement in Trump Jr.' s statement, the President's personal lawyer repeatedly denied the President had played any role.
- Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation. In early summer 2017, the President called Sessions at home and again asked him to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. Sessions did not reverse his recusal. In October 2017, the President met privately with Sessions in the Oval Office and asked him to "take [a] look" at investigating Clinton. In December 2017, shortly after Flynn pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation agreement, the President met with Sessions in the Oval Office and suggested... that if Sessions unrecused and took back supervision of the Russia investigation, he would be a "hero." The President told Sessions, "I'm not going to do anything or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly." In response, Sessions volunteered that he had never seen anything " improper" on the campaign and told the President there was a "whole new leadership team" in place. He did not unrecuse.
- Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed. In early 2018, the press reported that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed in June 2017 and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The President reacted to the news stories by directing White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn told those officials that the media reports were accurate in stating that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed. The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports. In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President's effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.
- Conduct towards Flynn, Manafort, [redacted name]. 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." 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. During Manafort's prosecution and when the jury in his criminal trial was deliberating, the President praised Manafort in public, said that Manafort was being treated unfairly, and declined to rule out a pardon. After Manafort was convicted, the President called Manafort "a brave man" for refusing to "break" and said that "flipping" "almost ought to be outlawed." [Followed by a redaction]
- Conduct involving Michael Cohen. The President's conduct towards Michael Cohen, a former Trump Organization executive, changed from praise for Cohen when he falsely minimized the President's involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project, to castigation of Cohen when he became a cooperating witness. From September 2015 to June 2016, Cohen had pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project on behalf of the Trump Organization and had briefed candidate Trump on the project numerous times, including discussing whether Trump should travel to Russia to advance the deal. In 2017, Cohen provided false testimony to Congress about the project, including stating that he had only briefed Trump on the project three times and never discussed travel to Russia with him, in an effort to adhere to a "party line" that Cohen said was developed to minimize the President's connections to Russia. While preparing for his congressional testimony, Cohen had extensive discussions with the President's personal counsel, who, according to Cohen, said that Cohen should "stay on message" and not contradict the President. 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 tell him 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.
- Overarching factual issues. We did not make a traditional prosecution decision about these facts, but the evidence we obtained supports several general statements about the President's conduct.
- Several features of the conduct we investigated distinguish it from typical obstruction-of-justice cases.
- First, the investigation concerned the President, and some of his actions, such as firing the FBI director, involved facially lawful acts within his Article II authority, which raises constitutional issues discussed below. At the same time, the President's position as the head of the Executive Branch provided him with unique and powerful means of influencing official proceedings, subordinate officers, and potential witnesses—all of which is relevant to a potential obstruction-of-justice analysis.
- Second, unlike cases in which a subject engages in obstruction of justice to cover up a crime, the evidence we obtained did not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. Although the obstruction statutes do not require proof of such a crime, the absence of that evidence affects the analysis of the President's intent and requires consideration of other possible motives for his conduct.
- Third, many of the President's acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view. That circumstance is unusual, but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws. If the likely effect of public acts is to influence witnesses or alter their testimony, the harm to the justice system's integrity is the same.
- Although the series of events we investigated involved discrete acts, the overall pattern of the President's conduct towards the investigations can shed light on the nature of the President's acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent.
- In particular, the actions we investigated can be divided into two phases, reflecting a possible shift in the President's motives. The first phase covered the period from the President's first interactions with Comey through the President's firing of Corney. During that time, the President had been repeatedly told he was not personally under investigation.
- Soon after the firing of Comey and the appointment of the Special Counsel, however, the President became aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction-of-justice inquiry. At that point, the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.
- Judgments about the nature of the President's motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.
STATUTORY AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEFENSESEdit
- The President's counsel raised statutory and constitutional defenses to a possible obstruction-of-justice analysis of the conduct we investigated. We concluded that none of those legal defenses provided a basis for declining to investigate the facts.
- Statutory defenses. ...No principle of statutory construction justifies narrowing... to cover only conduct that impairs the integrity or availability of evidence. Sections 1503 and 1505... offer broad protection against obstructive acts directed at pending grand jury, judicial, administrative, and congressional proceedings, and they are supplemented by a provision in Section 1512(b) aimed specifically at conduct intended to prevent or hinder the communication to law enforcement of information related to a federal crime.
- Constitutional defenses. ...Congress has authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.
- Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II powers. 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.
- [A]ny inroad on presidential authority that would occur from prohibiting corrupt acts does not undermine the President's ability to fulfill his constitutional mission. The term "corruptly" sets a demanding standard. It requires a concrete showing that a person acted with an intent to obtain an improper advantage for himself or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. A preclusion of "corrupt" official action does not diminish the President's ability to exercise Article II powers.
- [T]he proper supervision of criminal law does not demand freedom for the President to act with a corrupt intention of shielding himself from criminal punishment, avoiding financial liability, or preventing personal embarrassment. To the contrary, a statute that prohibits official action undertaken for such corrupt purposes furthers, rather than hinders, the impartial and evenhanded administration of the law. It... aligns with the President's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.
- Finally, we concluded that in the rare case in which a criminal investigation of the President's conduct is justified, inquiries to determine whether the President acted for a corrupt motive should not impermissibly chill his performance of his constitutionally assigned duties. 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.
- Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President' s conduct. 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. 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.
II. FACTUAL RESULTS OF THE OBSTRUCTION INVESTIGATIONEdit
A. The Campaign's Response to Reports About Russian Support for TrumpEdit
- In a press conference... July 27, 2016... Trump said that the assertion that Russia had hacked the emails was unproven, but stated that it would give him "no pause" if Russia had Clinton's emails. Trump added, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." ...and in response to a question about whether he would recognize Crimea as Russian territory and consider lifting sanctions, Trump replied, "We'll be looking at that. Yeah, we'll be looking."
- [Footnote 36, to the above quote] Donald Trump News Conference, Doral, Florida, C-SPAN (July 27, 2016). Within five hours of Trump's remark, a Russian intelligence service began targeting email accounts associated with Hillary Clinton for possible hacks. See Volume I, Section III, supra. In written answers submitted in this investigation, the President stated that he made the "Russia, if you're listening" statement "in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer." Written Responses of Donald J. Trump (Nov. 20, 2018), at 13 (Response to Question II, Part (d)).
B. The President's Conduct Concerning the Investigation of Michael FlynnEdit
- Intent. ...Evidence does establish that the President connected the Flynn investigation to the FBI's broader Russia investigation and that he believed, as he told Christie, that terminating Flynn would end "the whole Russia thing." ...Multiple witnesses recalled that the President viewed the Russia investigations as a challenge to the legitimacy of his election. The President paid careful attention to negative coverage of Flynn and reacted with annoyance and anger when the story broke disclosing that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Just hours before meeting one-on-one with Comey, the President told Christie that firing Flynn would put an end to the Russia inquiries. And after Christie pushed back, telling the President that firing Flynn would not end the Russia investigation, the President asked Christie to reach out to Comey and convey that the President liked him and he was part of "the team." That afternoon, the President cleared the room and asked Comey to "let[blank] Flynn go."
- When the President first learned about the FBI investigation into Flynn, he told McGahn, Bannon, and Priebus not to discuss the matter with anyone else in the White House. The next day, the President invited Comey for a one-on-one dinner against the advice of an aide who recommended that other White House officials also attend. At the dinner, the President asked Comey for " loyalty" and, at a different point in the conversation, mentioned that Flynn had judgment issues. When the President met with Comey the day after Flynn's termination—shortly after being told by Christie that firing Flynn would not end the Russia investigation—the President cleared the room, even excluding the Attorney General, so that he could again speak to Comey alone. The President's decision to meet one-on-one with Comey contravened the advice of the White House Counsel that the President should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid any appearance of interfering in law enforcement activities. And the President later denied that he cleared the room and asked Comey to " let[blank] Flynn go"—a denial that would have been unnecessary if he believed his request was a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
- [T]he President's effort to have McFarland write an internal email denying that the President had directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak highlights the President' s concern about being associated with Flynn's conduct. The evidence does not establish that the President was trying to have McFarland lie. The President's request, however, was sufficiently irregular that McFarland—who did not know the full extent of Flynn' s communications with the President and thus could not make the representation the President wanted—felt the need to draft an internal memorandum documenting the President's request, and Eisenberg was concerned that the request would look like a quid pro quo in exchange for an ambassadorship.
D. Events Leading Up To and Surrounding the Termination of FBI Director ComeyEdit
- Intent. 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. ...The President's other stated rationales for why he fired Comey are not similarly supported by the evidence. ...Other evidence ...indicates that the President wanted to protect himself from an investigation into his campaign. The day after learning about the FBI's interview of Flynn, the President had a one-on-one dinner with Comey, against the advice of senior aides, and told Comey he needed Comey's "loyalty." When the President later asked Comey for a second time to make public that he was not under investigation, he brought up loyalty again, saying "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know." After the President learned of Sessions's recusal from the Russia investigation, the President was furious and said he wanted an Attorney General who would protect him ...The President also said he wanted to be able to tell his Attorney General "who to investigate." ...[T]he evidence... indicate[s] that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns. Although the President publicly stated during and after the election that he had no connection to Russia, the Trump Organization, through Michael Cohen, was pursuing the proposed Trump Tower Moscow project through June 2016 and candidate Trump was repeatedly briefed on the progress of those efforts.
E. The President's Efforts to Remove the Special CounselEdit
- Intent. Substantial evidence indicates that the President's attempts to remove the Special Counsel were linked to the Special Counsel's oversight of investigations that involved the President's conduct—and, most immediately, to reports that the President was being investigated for potential obstruction of justice. ...When the President learned of the appointment of the Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, he expressed... concern about the investigation, saying "[t]his is the end of my Presidency." The President also faulted Sessions for recusing, saying "you were supposed to protect me."
- On June 14, 2017, when the Washington Post reported that the Special Counsel was investigating the President for obstruction of justice, the President was facing what he had wanted to avoid: a criminal investigation into his own conduct that was the subject of widespread media attention. The evidence indicates that news of the obstruction investigation prompted the President to call McGahn and seek to have the Special Counsel removed. By mid-June, the Department of Justice had already cleared the Special Counsel's service and the President's advisors had told him that the claimed conflicts of interest were "silly" and did not provide a basis to remove the Special Counsel. On June 13, 2017, the Acting Attorney General testified before Congress that no good cause for removing the Special Counsel existed, and the President dictated a press statement to Sanders saying he had no intention of firing the Special Counsel. But the next day, the media reported that the President was under investigation for obstruction of justice and the Special Counsel was interviewing witnesses about events related to possible obstruction—spurring the President to write critical tweets about the Special Counsel's investigation. The President called McGahn at home that night and then called him on Saturday from Camp David.
- There... is evidence that the President knew that he should not have made those calls to McGahn... after McGahn had specifically told the President that the White House Counsel's Office—and McGahn himself—could not be involved in pressing conflicts claims and that the President should consult with his personal counsel if he wished to raise conflicts. Instead of relying on his personal counsel... the President sought to use his official powers to remove the Special Counsel. And after the media reported on the President's actions, he denied that he ever ordered McGahn to have the Special Counsel terminated and made repeated efforts to have McGahn deny the story, as discussed in Volume II, Section II.I, infra. Those denials are contrary to the evidence and suggest the President's awareness that the direction to McGahn could be seen as improper.
F. The President's Efforts to Curtail the Special Counsel InvestigationEdit
- Intent. Substantial evidence indicates that the President's effort to have Sessions limit the scope of the Special Counsel's investigation to future election interference was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the President's and his campaign's conduct. ...The President ...knew that the investigation had broadened to include his own conduct and whether he had obstructed justice. Those investigations would not proceed if the Special Counsel's jurisdiction were limited to future election interference only. ...[H]e sought that result. The President's initial direction that Sessions should limit the Special Counsel's investigation came just two days after the President had ordered McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed ...[T]he President sought to exclude his and his campaign's conduct from the investigation' s scope. ...[T]he President gave an unplanned interview to the New York Times in which he publicly attacked Sessions and raised questions about his job security. Four days later, on July 22, 2017, the President directed Priebus to obtain Sessions's resignation. That evidence could raise an inference that the President wanted Sessions to realize that his job might be on the line as he evaluated whether to comply with the President's direction...
H. The President's Further Efforts to Have the Attorney General Take Over the InvestigationEdit
- Intent. There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President's conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that would restrict its scope. By the summer of 2017, the President was aware that the Special Counsel was investigating him personally for obstruction of justice. And in the wake of the disclosures of emails about the June 9 meeting between Russians and senior members of the campaign, see Volume II, Section II.G, supra, it was evident that the investigation into the campaign now included the President's son, son-in-law, and former campaign manager. The President had previously and unsuccessfully sought to have Sessions publicly announce that the Special Counsel investigation would be confined to future election interference. Yet Sessions remained recused. In December 2017, shortly after Flynn pleaded guilty, the President spoke to Sessions... with only Porter present and told Sessions that he would be a hero if he unrecused. Porter linked that request to the President's desire that Sessions take back supervision of the Russia investigation and direct an investigation of Hillary Clinton. The President said in that meeting that he "just want[ed] to be treated fairly," which could reflect his perception that it was unfair that he was being investigated while Hillary Clinton was not. But a principal effect of that act would be to restore supervision of the Russia investigation to the Attorney General... A reasonable inference... is that the President believed that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation.
I. The President Orders McGahn to Deny that the President Tried to Fire the Special CounselEdit
2. The President Seeks to Have McGahn Dispute the Press Reports
...The President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file "for our records" ...Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, "If he doesn't write a letter, then maybe I'll have to get rid of him."
Later that day... Porter told McGahn that he had to write a letter to dispute that he was ever ordered to terminate the Special Counsel. McGahn shrugged off the request, explaining that the media reports were true. McGahn told Porter that the President had been insistent on firing the Special Counsel... Porter told McGahn that the President suggested that McGahn would be fired if he did not write the letter. McGahn dismissed the threat, saying that the optics would be terrible...
The next day, on February 6, 2018, Kelly scheduled time for McGahn to meet with him and the President in the Oval Office to discuss the Times article. ...The President began the Oval Office meeting by telling McGahn that the New York Times story did not "look good" and McGahn needed to correct it. McGahn recalled the President said, "I never said to fire Mueller. I never said 'fire.' This story doesn't look good. You need to correct this. You're the White House counsel." McGahn responded, "What you said is, 'Call Rod [Rosenstein], tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel.' " The President responded, "I never said that." The President said he merely wanted McGahn to raise the conflicts issue... McGahn told the President he did not understand the conversation that way and instead had heard, "Call Rod. There are conflicts. Mueller has to go." The President asked McGahn whether he would "do a correction," and McGahn said no. ...
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... 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.
- Obstructive act The President's repeated efforts to get McGahn to create a record denying that the President had directed him to remove the Special Counsel would qualify as an obstructive act if it had the natural tendency to constrain McGahn from testifying truthfully or to undermine his credibility as a potential witness if he testified consistently with his memory... The President's assertion in the Oval Office meeting that he had never directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed... runs counter to the evidence.
- Nexus to an official proceeding. ...If the President were focused solely on a press strategy in seeking to have McGahn refute the New York Times article, a nexus to a proceeding or to further investigative interviews would not be shown. But the President's efforts to have McGahn write a letter "for our records" approximately ten days after the stories had come out—well past the typical time to issue a correction for a news story—indicates the President was not focused solely on a press strategy, but instead likely contemplated the ongoing investigation and any proceedings arising from it.
- Intent. Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn's account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President's conduct towards the investigation.
L. Overarching Factual IssuesEdit
- Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment. The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong. In this investigation, the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. But the evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President's conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events-such as advance notice of WikiLeaks's release of hacked information or the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family.
- Vol II, p. 157.
Quotes about Mueller ReportEdit
Attorney General William Barr’s Letter to House and Senate Judiciary (March 24, 2019)Edit
- by William Barr, addressed to Lindsey Graham, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Jerrold Nadler, Chairman, House Committee on the Judiciary; and Doug Collins, Ranking Member, House Committee on the Judiciary; source.
- As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III...
- [T]he Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations.
- The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation... [T]he Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments... Below, I summarize the principal conclusions...
- Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. ...The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government... The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia... As the report states: "[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
- The... investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. ...attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. ...The second element involved the Russian government's efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. ...Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.
- Obstruction of Justice. the report's second part addresses a number of actions by the President... investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. ...[T]he Special Counsel... did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. ...[T]he report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as "difficult issues" of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
- The Special Counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. ...Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence ...is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
- Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. ...[T]he report identifies no actions that... constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent... beyond a reasonable doubt...
- [M]y goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel's report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
- [T]he schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the [Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure] 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. ...I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices.
- I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.
Robert S. Mueller, III, Letter to William Barr (March 27, 2019)Edit
- I previously sent you a letter dated March 25, 2019, that enclosed the introduction and executive summary for each volume of the Special Counsel's report marked with redactions to remove any information that potentially could be protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e); that concerned declination decisions; or that related to a charged case. We also had marked an additional two sentences for review and have now confirmed that these sentences can be released publicly.
- Accordingly, the enclosed documents are in a form that can be released to the public consistent with legal requirements and Department policies. I am requesting that you provide these materials to Congress and authorize their public release at this time.
- [T]he introductions and executive summaries of our two-volume report accurately summarize this Office's work and conclusions. The summary letter the [Justice] Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office's work and conclusions. We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.
- While we understand that the Department is reviewing the full report to determine what is appropriate for public release... that process need not delay release of the enclosed materials. Release at this time would alleviate the misunderstandings that have arisen and would answer congressional and public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation.
"How Barr’s Excerpts Compare to the Mueller Report’s Findings" (April 19, 2019)Edit
- Mr. Barr took Mr. Mueller’s words out of context to suggest the president had no motive to obstruct justice.
- citing Vol. II, p. 157.
- Mr. Barr omitted words suggesting that there was complicit conduct that fell short of “coordination”.
- citing Vol. I, p. 1.
- Similarly, Mr. Barr truncated the special counsel explanation of what “coordination” meant — and didn’t mean
From William P. Barr
In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the special counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign ‘coordinated’ with Russian election interference activities. The special counsel defined ‘coordination’ as an ‘agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference.’
From Robert S. Mueller III
Vol. I, Page 2: We understood coordination to require an agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than [that which the evidence indicates, i.e.,] the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.
[From Charlie Savage]
In the second sentence, which Mr. Barr omitted, Mr. Mueller... emphasized that there can be a type of complicit conduct that falls short of how the special counsel defined coordination.
"Five Things I Learned From the Mueller Report" (April 29, 2019)Edit
- ": A careful reading of the dense document delivers some urgent insights" by Benjamin Wittes, The Atlantic, source,.
- The President committed crimes. ...Mueller does not accuse the president of crimes. ...But the facts he recounts describe criminal behavior. ...[T]hey describe obstructive activity that does not involve facially valid exercises of presidential power... Lewandowski was not a government employee, so this was not... exercising his powers to manage the executive branch. ...He tried to get a private citizen to lobby the attorney general on his behalf for substantive outcomes to an investigation... [T]he step he asked Lewandowski to press Sessions to take was... unethical. ...Limiting the jurisdiction of the special counsel to future elections would have ...precluded the indictments Mueller later issued for Russia’s hacking and social-media operations. It would have precluded the prosecutions of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Mike Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and Rick Gates... [I]t is unlawful obstruction of justice. Full stop.
- Mueller reports that after the news broke that Trump had sought to get then–White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel, Trump sought to get McGahn to deny the story. He also sought to get him to create an internal record denying the story. ...It is hard to imagine a plausible defense based on the idea that pressuring an employee to create false government records by way of influencing his ability to tell the truth is within the president’s constitutional authority.
- [T]he report leaves me with little doubt that the president engaged in criminal obstruction of justice on a number of occasions.
- The president also committed impeachable offenses. ...The president... seven days after taking office, demanded loyalty from his FBI director. Shortly thereafter, he isolated Comey in order to ask that he drop a sensitive FBI investigation in which Trump had a personal interest. The president then leaned on Comey to make public statements about his own status in the investigation. And when he couldn’t get Comey to do so, he recruited the deputy attorney general to create a pretext for Comey’s removal. ...[T]here simply is no plausible way to understand this fact pattern as a good-faith exercise of presidential power. It describes a frank abuse of power... this was impeachable conduct at the time. The Mueller report reinforces that belief. ...Ditto the effort to get Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton. ...Even as he was trying to get Sessions to protect him from the FBI, Trump was also trying to induce Sessions to investigate his political opponents. This is... the initiation of injustice. ...molten-core impeachment territory. ...trying to induce the attorney general ...to initiate a criminal investigation based on no known criminal predicate against a private citizen whom he happened to dislike. ...The president hinted that Manafort should not “flip” and that he would take care of him—and Manafort acted in a fashion consistent with his relying on those assurances. ...[T]his activity ...is criminal. It is also a grotesque abuse of power for impeachment purposes. ...[R]epeatedly urging witnesses not to cooperate with federal law enforcement and entertaining the notion of using his Article II powers to relieve them of criminal jeopardy or consequences ...This is ...the sort of conduct the impeachment clauses were written to address.
- Trump’s complicity in the Russian hacking operation and his campaign’s contacts with the Russians present a more complicated picture. ...If there wasn’t collusion on the hacking, it sure wasn’t for lack of trying. ...[T]he Mueller report makes clear that Trump personally ordered an attempt to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails; and people associated with the campaign pursued this believing they were dealing with Russian hackers. Trump... engaged in discussions about coordinating public-relations strategy around WikiLeaks releases of hacked emails. At least one person associated with the campaign was in touch directly with... Guccifer 2.0... Russian military intelligence. ...Donald Trump Jr. was directly in touch with WikiLeaks—from whom he obtained a password to a hacked database. ...[T]he picture it all paints of the president’s conduct is anything but exonerating. Call it Keystone Kollusion.
"UnREDACTED: Mueller Report Analysis // Malcolm Nance at USC Price (4/30/19)"Edit
- Quotes by Malcolm Nance, unless otherwise indicated, University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy (USC Price), source.
- [I]f you haven't looked at it [Mueller Report] you really should. I'm definitely going to make it must reading for at least one, if not both of the courses that I teach here. ...Integrity, ability and veracity, when you speak about Mueller, is not at issue here. This report is a product of an incredibly talented team of investigators that did an incredible amount of work. ...Volume I talks about the Russia investigation... It documents over 100 pages of contacts between individuals associated with the [Trump] campaign and people on the Russian side. Volume II then looks at obstruction... if there's not obstruction in Volume II, I don't know what it is.
- Introduction by Dr. Errol G. Southers (0m:20s)
- [W]hen Boris Yeltsin... was under the gun for corruption, he made Vladimir Putin the director of the FSB, which is really the KGB... Putin started blackmailing people that were investigating Yeltsin for corruption, and suddenly the word compromat, or compromising blackmailable material came into the lexicon... [H]e started with the equivalent of the Attorney General of Russia. He had a video of him with two prostitutes, and he played it on national television... [which] ended all corruption investigations into... Yeltsin. Boris Yeltsin was so happy, he made him the... Deputy Prime Minister of Russia... [T]hen Yeltsin stepped down and Vladimir Putin became the president of Russia and then he turned it into a... capitalist dictatorship which Benito Mussolini used to call Fascism, a corporate dictatorship of the ultra-right. That is where Russia is today, but if you read the Mueller Report, especially section 1, you will find...
- On page 2 it says, "There is no legal term called collusion. Collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code... We address the factual question of whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated. Like collusion, coordination does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We applied the term coordination in the sense that... That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were 'informed by' or 'responsive to' other actions or interests." So the next time you rob a bank, don't discuss it. Have one guy open the door, and you come in with a gun and you just stand there, and when everybody hands the money to the other guy and you all walk out the door... You did not collude, you did not coordinate, and you did not conspire because... I will read it again, "That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to other actions or interests."
- Section [Volume] I is 448 pages of conspiracy and collusion, but it did not meet the legal standard that the Special Counsel established for criminal conspiracy. Everyone else in this room will have gone to prison... but for the purposes of this investigation, they built in their own parameters.
- Why... that long... discussion about Vladimir Putin, baby spy? Because this section [Volume I] catalogues all of the Russian contacts with the people in the Trump campaign, but more importantly, it shows that Russia... in order to benefit one person, starting as far back as 2013 (in my books it's earlier)... flooded the zone with every type of intelligence activity imaginable. It's all here [in the Mueller Report]. ...[S]omebody joked on Twitter [that] they should call this the Malcolm Report because I... read it all in Plot to Hack America and Plot to Destroy Democracy. No, there's more stuff in here. First... we all know about the hackings. The hackings were the easy part. ...All intelligence is information warfare. ...I drop a cruise missile on top of you because you don't know that I know that every Thursday at 7 o'clock... you go out and smoke a shisha at a certain bar... We kill people with intelligence. ...But in the counterintelligence world, which this report involves, that's what we call... spy hunting... I was ridiculed... It's all a conspiracy theory, but I said this on national television... This investigation started because we had suspicions that American citizens were working with a foreign intelligence agency and may have been trying to affect the fundamental system of our democracy, elections.
- [T]he investigation itself seemed to have... pulled a lot of punches. There were things in here [Meller Report] that... I have some of the greatest legal scholars in the United States sit in the green room with me and go, "How is this not what it is?"... [C]ollusion is a term that the president has chosen... but what... most of this report will tell you in great detail is that there was a massive, ginormous, multi-year Russian intelligence operation to break the American system of democracy and to choose a president of the United States.
- I was expecting Eliot Ness... to come busting through the door... and start arresting some people. ...When Al Capone ordered the ...Saint Valentine's Day Massacre he was in Florida. ...There was a garage full of dead bodies in Chicago. ...But he was seen. He had witnesses. None of the evidence tied it to him... but he ordered the... Massacre. ...But Al Capone would be convicted and sent to prison on tax evasion... [T]hat is how justice works. This report, for some people, was supposed to be the end-all, be-all... They [Russians] did flood the zone of this nation... [T]hey started a strategic framework around this election... [T]he report says 2015, and that the Internet Research Agency started in 2014. We have evidence from other hearings that showed [it] hired its top managers two months before the Miss Universe pageant in 2014. ...This operation ... most likely started right after the election of Barack Obama for his second term. ...Konstantin Rykov ...wrote a Facebook post about it where he said that night he and Donald Trump were DMing [Direct Messaging] each other and Trump said we should be marching on Washington. How could we allow this guy... to win and beat Mitt Romney. ...Rykov said to him... Donald, if you want to run for president, I will support you. Donald Trump DM'd him giving the double thumbs-up. One week later he registered Make America Great Again PAC. That's November of 2012. So the Internet Research Agency starts up 10 months later. Two months after that the Miss Universe pageant happens, and we know Trump Tower Moscow is being discussed in there. ...Trump is already talking about giving Vladimir Putin a 50 million dollar bribe in the form of a penthouse on top of it. Then Russia invades Crimea in the spring of 2014. Donald Trump will not criticize him but criticizes Barack Obama. Then in 2014 the Mueller Report identifies the Internet Research Agency starts full-scale operations. The election's not even for two years. This is called strategic framing. ...We've also seen that they started... co-opting the National Rifle Association in 2010, by sending Maria Butina and Aleksandr Torshin to the United States... Then Evangelicals in 2010. Russia had a strategic plan and this report spells out, in horrific detail, how they moved from strategic framing, used the Internet Research Agency to do... meta-narrative framing... where you build an information bubble around your opponents. ...[T]he information bubble they started with in ...2014 was "Russia good, Hillary bad, Donald Trump good." That's it. ...In this report they said Facebook had 740 accounts that put out over 80,000 posts that reached 126 million Americans. Twitter had some insane number like 7,000 accounts that put out 1.5 million tweets that all framed those three things, "Russia good, Hillary bad, Donald Trump... president of the United States."
- (36m55s) In response to Dr. Errol G. Southers' question: Why did Mueller spend all of this time talking about obstruction and never going to the threshold, and saying it's happened?
- This was a multi-year effort, before we ever get into when they started flooding the zone with humans. ...Kislyak, the diplomat, to give prime cover to all of these people. He would be first point of contact, He would go and they would meet people like Michael Flynn, bring them to Russia, give him a speech where he earns... $50,000. Sit him next to Vladimir Putin, former Director of Defense Intelligence Agency. Jill Stein is on the other end of that table. ...All of this occurred in 2015. Donald Trump hadn't even announce that he was running for president. Trump Tower Moscow is going into full steam. Every aspect of the American experience with this election, on one side of the ledger, had the word "Russia" attached to it.
- I was recently called... a conspiracy theorist. ...A conspiracy theorist is someone who works in no facts, or takes those facts and molds them. ...Well, I have one reference now to all of my books [holds up the Mueller Report]... I've got 440 pages of reference. By the way, my last book Plot to Destroy Democracy [had] 600 references, because in my world... I have to show my work. I don't make these things up. What you saw with your own eyes exists. Just because Bill Barr jumped up and said "No collusion! No obstruction!" there's this report here, and it says... They found that there were 77... instances of lying [to the FBI] where they did not want to talk about what would most likely have shown collusion. Good example, George Papadopoulos. They said for all of the two months that he was working, back and forth, with a guy who was suspected of being an asset of [the Russian government], and a mysterious woman [Olga Polonskaya] who was claimed to be Vladimir Putin's niece... trying to arrange a summit with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, trying to get dirt on Hillary Clinton back to Donald Trump, they concluded there was no collusion or conspiracy because they could not identify if he had turned or briefed anyone on the campaign. ...The problem is, it also says in the next sentence that people destroyed evidence, people lied to the Special Counsel, and information could not be found because people were deliberately obstructing them. ...[T]here's a sentence here [in the Mueller Report]... page one or two... because so many people lied, destroyed information, put things on encrypted apps, and then deleted them, that this information could not be validated or verified. ...Now in my crazy world, where there's a little gap in information ...I will make the little leap, and if you say he went through all this effort for months... to get dirt on Hillary Clinton and didn't tell anybody. How many of you believe that? Why would multiple... "dirty tricks teams", there were identified six separate dirty tricks teams: Michael Flynn, the Trump Tower and Michael Cohen trying to do a peace plan for the Ukraine that would essentially give half of the Ukraine to Russia, trying to lift sanctions, each one of these teams was looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton, and it all had a nexus in Russia, and it's all in [the Mueller Report] this book.
Letter Requesting Ethics Investigation of Attorney General William P. Barr (May 2, 2019)Edit
- by Representatives Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice, addressed to James C. Bodie, Office of Bar Counsel, Virginia State Bar and Hamilton Fox, Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Board of Professional Responsibility, District of Columbia Court of Appeals; source
- As Members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe that respect for the law and duty to honor the truth are of utmost importance. Given the recent release of a document written by Special Counsel Mueller to the Attorney General objecting to his severe mischaracterization of the Special Counsel's report, it appears the the Attorney General has at best misled Congress and the American people, and at worst perjured himself before the Senate and House. As such, we formally request an ethics investigation by the Virginia State Bar and the District of Columbia Bar into Mr. Barr's conduct for review and possible disbarment.
- In a letter to Congress on March 24th, 2019 characterizing the Special Counsel's report, Mr. Barr stated: "In cataloguing the President's actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgement, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent..." ...In reality we know that Special Counsel Mueller found "substantial evidence" of criminal intent and nexus to a specific proceeding as it relates to at least four, if not more, obstructive acts taken by the President of the United States. We know he directed aides to fabricate internal documents, lie about their actions, attempted to fire the Special Counsel, get then-Attorney General Sessions to "un-recuse" himself so as to exert greater control over the investigation's direction, and likely tamper with witnesses.
- While it would be despicable enough if the Attorney General had thus mischaracterized the report, we now have evidence he appears to have lied to Congress twice about the extent of his knowledge of the Special Counsel's reaction to Barr's mischaracterization... "No, I don't," Barr said, when asked by Rep. Charlie Crist... whether he knew what was behind the reports that members of Mueller's team were frustrated by the attorney general's summary... "I don't know," he said the next day, when asked by Sen. Chris Van Hollen... whether Mueller supported his finding that there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that President Trump had obstructed justice.
- [A] letter dated March 27, 2019 from Special Counsel Mueller to Attorney General Barr... requested that the Attorney General, rather than summarize... immediately release executive summaries crafted by Mueller's team. Second, he wrote that Barr's summary sent to Congress "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of the Office's work and conclusions. We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25..."
- We agree with Robert Mueller when he says that this behavior "threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel."
- As you know, the Virginia State Bar and D.C. Bar Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.3 "Candor Toward the Tribunal" prevents a lawyer from making "a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal." Furthermore, Rule 8.4(c) states that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to "engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation which reflects adversely on the lawyer's fitness to practice law."
Statement by former Federal Prosecutors (May 6, 2019)Edit
- [T]he conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.
- The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These include:
· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;
· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and
· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.
- Despite being advised by... Don McGahn that he could face legal jeopardy for doing so, Trump directed McGahn on multiple occasions to fire Mueller or to gin up false conflicts of interest as a pretext for getting rid of the Special Counsel. ...Trump made "repeated efforts to have McGahn deny the story" — going so far as to tell McGahn to write a letter “for our files” falsely denying that Trump had directed Mueller’s termination.
- The Special Counsel’s report establishes that the President tried to influence the decisions of both Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort with regard to cooperating with investigators. Some of this... was done in plain sight via tweets and public statements; other such behavior was done via private messages...
- [T]hese are not matters of close professional judgment. ...to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.
- [P]rosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk.
Brookings Institution Discussion on Russia Investigation (May 10, 2019)Edit
- Former FBI general counsel Jim Baker, as interviewed by Benjamin Wittes, on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Quotes are by Jim Baker, unless otherwise indicated; C-SPAN video source.
- [T]he case was about Russia. ...Period. Full stop. That was the focus of the investigation. So, when the Papadopoulos information comes across our radar screen, it's coming across in the sense that we were always looking at Russia. ...The FBI predates the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation and so we've been thinking about Russia as a threat actor... for decades... So, this information comes in against that backdrop... This information, the Papadopoulos information, is what triggered us going down this path.
- It would've been... a dereliction of our duty not to investigate this information. ...[W]e'd been focused on the Russians as threat actors for a long, long time. Given what was going on with respect to e-mail dumps and hacking and the connection with those to the Russians in that summer and then, this thing drops. I think it would've been malpractice, a dereliction of duty... It would've been highly, highly inappropriate for us not to pursue it, and pursue it aggressively.
- This is a conversation that you and I have been having for months and months now. ...You said to me, it was about Russia. The investigation was always about Russia. [W]hen you said that, what I really take to be your meaning is that it wasn't really an investigation of the Trump folks at all. The focus of the investigation was of Russian intelligence activity.
- Benjamin Wittes (10:09)
- [T]he FBI... exists, among other things, to investigate federal crime, threats to the national security, and to collect foreign intelligence. ...That's what we're focused on. [W]ith respect to Russia in this context, our job is to detect, deter, disrupt, and defeat their operations. Lawfully... [A]s we are focused on Russia, we have groups of people that constantly... their job is to focus on nothing but Russia. As we're staring at the Russian problem, to the extent that other people, third country nationals, or Americans, or anybody else comes across our radar screen, and has a connection to the Russians in some way that looks nefarious to us, and falls within the scope of the Attorney General guidelines that authorize us to conduct investigations... If that comes across the radar screen, then we... investigate that, and run it down wherever it goes. ...[A]nd we'll deal with other Russian threats simultaneously. You're constantly staring at that problem, and to the extent that any Americans cross... our radar screen, then we will investigate that.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller Statement on Russia Investigation (May 29, 2019)Edit
- Robert Mueller's statement to the nation about his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and of any links or coordination between the Russian government and any individuals associated with the Trump campaign; C-SPAN video source.
- I'll make a few remarks about the results of our work, but... it is important the the office's written work speak for itself.
- As alleged by the grand jury in an indictment, Russian intelligence officers who were part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system. The indictment alleges that they used sophisticated cyber techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization Wikileaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate.
- [T]he grand jury alleged in a separate indictment, a private Russian entity engaged in a social media operation where Russian citizens posed as Americans in order to influence an election.
- These indictments contain allegations and we are not commenting on guilt or the innocence of any specific defendant. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
- The indictments allege, and the other activities in our report describe, efforts to interfere in our political system. They needed to be investigated and understood, and that is among the reasons why the Department of Justice established our office. That is also a reason we investigated efforts to obstruct the investigation. The matters we investigated were of paramount importance. It was critical for us to obtain full and accurate information from every person we questioned. When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation, or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government's effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.
- The report has two parts addressing the two main issues we were asked to investigate. The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign's response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy. And in the second volume, the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.
- The order appointing me [as] special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. ...[A]s set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. The introduction to the volume two of our report explains that decision.
- It [our report] explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The special counsel's office is part of the Department of Justice and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider. The department's written opinion explaining the policy makes several important points that further informed our handling of the obstruction investigation. Those points are summarized in our report and I will describe two of them for you.
- First, the opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents [are] available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now. And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.
- And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.
- So that was Justice Department policy. Those were the principles under which we operated, and from them we concluded that we would not reach a determination, one way or the other, about whether the president committed a crime. That is the office's final position, and we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president.
- At one point in time I requested that certain portions of the report be released . The Attorney General preferred to make the entire report public all at once, and we appreciate that the Attorney General made the report largely public. ...I certainly do not question the Attorney General's good faith in that decision.
- I hope and expect this to be the only time that I speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself. No one has told me whether I can or should testify, or speak further about this matter. There has been discussion about, and appearance before Congress. Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report. It contains our findings and analysis, and the reasons for the decisions we made. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself, and the report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress. In addition, access to our underlying work product is being decided in a process that does not involve our office. So beyond what I have said here today, and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress...