Robert Mueller, Special Counsel who led the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election testified publicly before two committees of Congress on Wednesday, July 24.
In case you didn’t have a chance to read the 488-page report, I offer, as a public service, some interpretation of my own and direct quotes from the report to give you an idea of what the report says.
I have read the report; it is not page-turning reading. It is carefully researched with footnotes galore and cross-references to ensure accuracy. Some of it, annoyingly, is redacted to protect ongoing investigations and privacy of people. The visible content, however, is very interesting.
Volume I describes Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” interference in our 2016 election, interference that came through a “social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton” and through hacking and disseminating information from Democratic Party computers. The investigation indicted 13 Russian operatives and 3 Russian entities as a result.
The investigation did not pursue interference information about the Trump campaign as if it were a criminal matter. Their purpose was to describe the interference and to list the numerous “links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.” The report says that the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” The investigation applied the concept of conspiracy, which requires rigorous proof, to the actions of the Trump campaign and “did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The campaign’s activities did not meet the requirements of an actual conspiracy despite the many contacts between Trump’s people and Russians.
People like Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and others were charged with various crimes; other criminal matters like campaign finance law violations and other monetary violations are being pursued in various judicial districts around the country. We don’t yet know the full extent of that or who is involved.
Volume II of the Report covers the possibility of obstruction of justice by the President. This pursuit was justified because it covered “matters that arose directly from the FBI’s Russia investigation.” The Special Counsel and his team were determined to follow the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion that a sitting President may not be indicted but that “a criminal investigation during the President’s term is permissible” and that “a President does not have immunity after he leaves office.” Mueller, knowing he couldn’t indict the President, decided not to say whether or not he would indict the President if he could because it would be unfair to the President who would have no way legally to defend himself against those supposedly indictable charges.
Volume II describes in great detail at least 10 actions by the President that a large number of judges and attorneys have seen as constituting obstruction of justice — a felony. Examples are Trump asking James Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, Trump firing Comey because of “that Russia thing,” Trump trying to force Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself, Trump dangling possible pardons in front of witnesses, Trump threatening witnesses, Trump encouraging witnesses not to cooperate, Trump trying to fire the Special Counsel, etc.
The final paragraph of Volume II says, “Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct … 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.”
Mueller, in his testimony to Congress, emphasized that Russia and other countries are working now to disrupt our 2020 elections.
He hopes that our intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) will be organized to cooperate with each other in an attempt to stop the interference.
He restated that his committee did not gather enough evidence to confirm conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign but said that investigations are continuing into possible aspects of conspiracy. He firmly stated and reconfirmed that Donald Trump is not exonerated on possible charges of obstruction of justice.
We’ll see what happens.