| A guide to|
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|Persons of interest|
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The Mueller investigations describes the investigation led by Robert Mueller III, a registered Republican and former FBI director. The investigation had two primary purposes: to investigate and indict those involved in the interference of the 2016 US Presidential Election by Russian intelligence and also to investigate those members of or affiliated with the Trump Administration to hinder said investigation. In total the investigation led to thirty-seven people being indicted, six of whom pleaded guilty to crimes ranging from lying to the FBI, failing to register as a Foreign Agent, identity theft and fraud. Two cases were brought to trial, one which had been completed by the investigations end, that of Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for the Trump campaign in 2016. The other trial, that of Roger Stone began in the fall of 2019. President Trump has been perpetually enraged by the investigation and has made multiple attempts to interfere with, stop it, keep the results confidential and other predictable Trump shenanigans, i.e. obstruction of justice (which is crime to attempt to subvert the rule of law). Despite the investigation alleging Presidential interference in the investigation, Trump has claimed the report is an absolute triumph that exonerates him of any scummy dirty devious malicious behavior (the document has explicitly stated that he and his admininstration are not exonerated) by quoting the statements of no evidence of coordination or collusion despite the very clear caveats of definitions of "coordination" and "collusion" outlined in the document.
- 1 2016 election
- 2 FBI Investigates
- 3 Special Counsel
- 4 Muller Report
- 5 Volume II
- 5.1 Part I: Define Obstruction of Justice
- 5.2 Part II: "The Very Best People"
- 5.3 Part II.I: Flynn Fucks Up
- 5.4 Part II.II: Sessions Recuses
- 5.5 Part II.III: Firing Comey
- 5.6 Part II.IV: Trump Tries to Fire the Special Counsel
- 5.7 Part II.V: If You Can't Fire SCO, Limit the Scope
- 5.8 Part II.VI: Trump and Trump Jr. try to hide meeting with Russians
- 5.9 Part II.VII: What if there was no Sessions?
- 5.10 Part II.VIII: Trump vs. McGahn: Notegate
- 5.11 Part II.IX: All the Presidents Men
- 5.12 Part II.X: Michael "I would take a bullet for Mr. Trump" Cohen
- 5.13 Part II.XI: Overarching Factual Issues
- 5.14 Part III: The Nixon Defense
- 5.15 Appendix C: "I Don't Recall"
- 6 Delivery of the Report
- 7 The Report is Public
- 8 Results of the Investigation
- 9 Congressional Action (or lack there of)
- 10 What's to be done?
- 11 The Senate Intelligence Committee report
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
The 2016 presidential campaign for President of the United States featured Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). Each had captured their party's nomination fairly easily, Clinton dispatching four others with relative ease,[note 1] Trump defeated sixteen others, becoming all but inevitable by May 2016. Clinton was a frequent target during the Republican Primary, regarding her involvement with Benghazi and perceived conflicts of interest while she was Secretary of State during the Obama administration.
Sometime in 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton Campaign were the victims of a cyber attack, likely via a phishing email by Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU). The information that was stolen was intended to be used by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian-based organization designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. Using social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the IRA created content targeted to harm Clinton but favor Trump. The GRU also disseminated materials stolen from the DNC and Clinton campaign via fictitious online personas and through WikiLeaks.
Trump campaign and Russia
The Trump campaign showed interest in the release of this material, particularly via Wikileaks (whom candidate Trump mentioned frequently with affection on the campaign trail). Knowing they would benefit from the release of future information, some people in the campaign or affiliated with the candidate began making overtures to Russian business contacts. The earliest connection was by Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, who was working on a project that would create a Trump Tower in Moscow with government press secretary Dmitry Peskov. The Russian government also made overtures to the campaign, including to foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos was contacted by Joseph Mifsud, a London based Maltese professor largely believed to be a Russian intelligence cut-out. Misfud shared that the Russian government had several thousand emails of Clinton's. Papadopulos shared this information with the campaign and recommended arraigning a meeting with the Trump campaign, which he worked on for several months with Mr. Misfud and two other Russian nationals, though the meeting never occurred.
Trump Tower meeting
The campaign was contacted, via the candidates son Donald Trump Jr, by Rob Goldstone, a British music promoter who had become acquainted with President Trump during the 2014 Miss Universe Pageant, which was financed by Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov whose son, Emin Agalarov, Mr. Goldstone represented (Emin had also featured Trump in a 2013 music video). The email sent by Goldstone described "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary" and were offered as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump". This email seems to state explicitly, the Russian government sought to support candidate Trump. Jr. responded to this email with "If it's what you say, I love it, especially in the Summer" and sought to arrange a meeting with Goldstone as well as representatives from the Russian government and the campaign. On June 9th, Jr. joined by Jared Kushner (the Son-In-Law of candidate Trump) and Paul Manafort (the campaign manager at the time) met with Goldstone joined by Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with suspected connections to Putin, Ike Kaveladze (who actually supported Hillary Clinton), Rinat Akhmetshin, who acted as Ms. Veselnitskaya's translator and has connections to Russian intelligence (an apparently a very fashion forward style sense). The meeting was short, providing no substantial information of use to the campaign, and it seemed was more focused on the Magnitskiy Act, a US law that imposed financial and travel sanctions on Russian officials named for a Russian tax specialist who died in Russian custody. The Russian governments responded to the sanctions by making it more difficult for Americans to adopt Russian children, who often are neglected because they have developmental disabilities or severe medical conditions.[note 2]
Kicking it with Kilimnik
Manafort met with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former business associate with connections to Russian intelligence (and Putin directly, there is evidence of several meetings between the two). Kilimnik asked for the meeting to propose a peace plan for Ukraine that was a backdoor way for Russia to control eastern Ukraine. It could be implemented only if candidate Trump was elected President, however. During this meeting Manafort also shared with Kilimnik the campaign's strategy to win votes from Democratic voters in Midwestern states. Manafort had previously shared internal polling information with Kilimnik.
"Grab her by the pussy"
Before the second Presidential debate, NBC news released previously unreleased video and audio from Access Hollywood, a program that featured Trump in 2006. The audio features Mr. Trump describing women in a demeaning fashion and seems to brag about sexually assaulting women because "When you're famous, they let you do it". The release was extremely damaging to the campaign, and multiple Republican representatives rescinded their endorsement of candidate Trump.[note 3] Reince Preibus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, reportedly asked the candidate to drop out of the race and Mike Pence, the former Governor of Indiana and Vice-Presidential candidate, was concerned his spouse would not approve. Within hours of the release, WikiLeaks released a trove of documents stolen by the GRU from email of John Podesta, the campaign manager of the Clinton campaign. The media focus pivoted almost entirely to covering the emails, even though they contained virtually no valuable information except for the most conspiratorial.
Time to cash in
Immediately following the November 8 election which candidate Trump won, the Russian embassy attempted to arrange a call with the President-elect and Russian government officials encouraged prominent Russian businessmen to begin making contact with those connected to the incoming administration. Kirill Dmitriev made contact with Erik Prince, Blackwater CEO (and brother of future Trump Secretary of Education), as well as Steve Bannon, CEO of the Trump campaign and future special adviser to the President. Dmitriev also met with a friend of Kushner, and the two worked on a US-Russian reconciliation plan which was later introduced to Kushner, with the approval of Putin. This plan made its way into the hands of Bannon as well as incoming Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. In response to the interference, President Obama put several sanctions on Russian government officials, dismissed 35 Russian diplomats (i.e. spies) and seized Russian diplomatic holdings in Seattle and Maryland. The Russian government was furious about the actions and was prepared to respond, until incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn spoke to the Russian Ambassador to the US (and likely Russian spymaster) Sergey Kislyak, to hold off on a response, promising the new administration would deal with these actions. The Russian government did not respond, which received praise from the President-elect via Twitter.
The FBI first became aware of the Russian governments overtures to the Trump campaign in the first week of May 2016. Mr. Papadopoulos while in London got very intoxicated and bragged to an Australian diplomatic official that the Russian government had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. This official reported this to Australian authorities who informed the FBI in July. In June the DNC, along with the firm they had hired to investigate the hacking effort, CrowdStrike, announced that the Russian government hackers had infiltrated the DNC and obtained access to opposition research on then candidate Trump (which
weirdly has not leaked). On July 31, 2016 the FBI opened an investigation into the potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
By October 7th, a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence stated they were confident that the Russian government was behind releasing information via WikiLeaks was intended to interfere with the US election process.
Before the inauguration, members of the intelligence community, including then FBI Director James Comey, briefed the President-elect on a joint statement which concluded with high confidence the Russian government had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump's candidacy and harm Clinton's. This meeting was also among the first which Mr. Comey would recall with a memo after feeling uncomfortable with the conversation with the President-elect.
It wasn't until March 2017 that Mr. Comey revealed publicly that the FBI had opened an investigation into "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".
The FBI continued its investigation, much to the annoyance of President Trump. The President met frequently with Director Comey[note 4], and had become frustrated that Director Comey would not say publicly that Trump was not the target of the investigation. When Mr. Flynn became the target of an FBI investigation stemming contacts with the Russian Ambassador during the transition, President Trump requested a meeting with Director Comey, where he asked "If you could see your way letting him [Flynn] go". Things were complicated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to recuse himself completely from the Russian investigation  after misrepresenting his contacts with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing. This left the investigation to be handled by Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a registered Republican confirmed by the Senate in 2017. Director Comey continued the investigation until May 9, 2017, when President Trump fired Director Comey. The stated reason for his termination was the handling of the Clinton email investigation (which is rich considering Director Comey took the highly unusual step of announcing the conclusion of the investigation and then the even more unusual step of alerting Congress that they had reopened the investigation  10 days before the election, which may have swung the election to Trump), though the President admitted later on national television that it was about "The Russia thing" The administration had asked the Justice Department to provide a rationale to fire Director Comey, which was written by Mr. Rosenstein. This didn't sit well with Mr. Rosenstein, who announced eight days later the appointment of a Special Counsel under this guidance:
(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).
Acting Attorney General Rosenstein clarified this order twice; August 7, 2017 stating the investigation was permitted to public release, and that the investigation was permitted to look at criminal allegations against Carter Page, Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos for coordinating with the Russian government, Mr. Manafort additionally for financial crimes, Mr. Papodopoulos additionally for acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Israeli government, and other allegations involving Michael Flynn and also on October 20, 2017 adding Michael Cohen, Richard Gates and Roger Stone as well as two others which have been redacted (But it is strongly believed to be Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner), allowing further investigation into payments received by Mr. Cohen via Essential Consultants LLC (The same LLC he used to pay-off Stormy Daniels by the way), more investigations into Mr. Manafort and confirmed the investigation was looking into possible false statements made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (it would eventually clear Mr. Sessions of criminal wrong doing).
The Office of the Special Counsel was led by Mr. Mueller until March 2019, when he submitted a report to Attorney General William Barr.
The Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election or more commonly referred to as the Mueller report, is a 448 page document split into two sections. Volume I of the report is specifically about the efforts of Russian government to interfere into the 2016 election. The report that was released to the public (and to most of Congress) is heavily redacted, to protect sources and methods, avoid harming ongoing investigations and litigation, as well as to protect the privacy of those not indicted in the course of the investigation. It tends to focus specifically on the actions of individuals in the US who wittingly or unwittingly acted on behalf of the Russian government. Volume II of the report specifically focuses on the Trump administrations attempts to interfere with the investigation, including interfering with the Special Counsel. This section features many Trump administration officials speaking on the record about what they observed in ten specific instances the report identifies that may meet the definition of obstruction of justice[note 5].
Volume IThe introduction makes it very clear from the jump:
To be clear, President Trump currently is in denial about this only because he doesn't like it. This is the assessment of the DHS and the DNI, organizations that are actually tasked with intelligence. The report continues:
The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Evidence of Russian government operations began to surface in mid-2016. In June, the Democratic National Committee and its cyber response team publicly 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.
As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel's investigation established that Russia interfere in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also 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 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 with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
Again, these are statement of facts that the President of the United States denies simply because he doesn't like what it says. The report also tries to squash a common canard from Republicans, most notably Trump's lawyer and mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani, about what a crime is:
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." In so doing, the Office recognized that the word "collud[e]" was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation's scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation. But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For those reasons, the Office's focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law. In connection with that analysis, 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 in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
"No collusion" is meaningless without a strict legal definition, and the investigation relied on the conspiracy framework. Nevertheless, it is clear that Russia and the Trump campaign stand to benefit and have benefited from each other's actions without needing direct coordination, showing a picture of corruption and foreign influence of elections, a Very Real Problem, with the complacency of Trump and his administration allowing themselves to benefit from election interference. While the complacency should be the issue, Trump and his administration take great pains to focus on legal pedantry (or ignorance) ad nauseam, betting on people to take their words for it or to quibble over words.The investigation determined that the two primary interference operations, the social media misinformation attack and the stealing of documents, violated US criminal law, and charged the Internet Research Agency[note 6] and Russian intelligence officers[note 7] separately. Additionally:
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. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks's releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.
This statement acknowledges communication and attempts to coordinate, but nothing sufficient to proceed with criminal charges. Prosecutors have an incredibly high bar for pursuing charges, because they tend not to indict people they don't think that they can convict in court or flip to get information about someone else. This in no way excuses the behavior of the campaign. The investigation also identified several people who had lied to Congress and the FBI, which materially impaired the investigation:
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition period. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor during the campaign period, 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.
The report describes the nature of the attack:
The IRA conducted social media operations targeted at large U.S. audiences with the goal of sowing discord in the U.S. political system. These operations constituted "active measures" (актмбхбие мепоррпруму1), a term that typically refers to operations conducted by Russian security services aimed at influencing the course of international affairs.
The report notes these efforts likely began an early as 2014, describing some assets travelling to the US to obtain information and photographs for social media use. It described the actions:
IRA employees posted derogatory information about a number of candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. By early to mid-2016, IRA operations included supporting the Trump Campaign and disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton. The IRA made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Some IRA employees, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, 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. The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA's interference operation.
As well as the scope:
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. In November 2017, a Facebook representative testified that Facebook had identified 470 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017. Facebook estimated the IRA reached as many as 126 million persons through its Facebook accounts[note 8]. In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1 .4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.
Large portions describing the Internet Research Agency have been redacted for "Harm to an Ongoing Matter" or "Investigative Technique", likely because the IRA and IRA assets have been indicted, and the indictment is sealed until they have their day in court (i.e. never) and the investigation also does not want the Russian government to know how they identified some of these assets because they may change their behavior or it may threaten the security of a source in the Russian government.[note 9] The report identifies how the mission seemed to shift from accounts posing as US persons to posing as political and grassroots organizations
In certain cases, the IRA created accounts that mimicked real U.S. organizations. For example, one IRA-controlled Twitter account, @TEN_GOP, purported to be connected to the Tennessee Republican Party. More commonly, the IRA created accounts in the names of fictitious U.S. organizations and grassroots groups and used these accounts to pose as anti immigration groups, Tea Party activists, Black Lives Matter protesters, and other U.S. social and political activists.
The report refers to a document directed to the IRA (the source is redacted) in February 2016, featuring the statement "Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them)". The IRA stepped up its efforts by purchasing advertisements and creating rally events in the US. The report identifies multiple times when people close to Trump responded positively to IRA controlled Twitter accounts. The IRA began targeting and recruiting US persons and paid conservative social media groups to promote IRA-generated content. There are then multiple instances of campaign officials (including Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, Michael T. Flynn, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump) interacting with IRA controlled Twitter accounts, then the IRA tried to coordinate with campaign officials via Twitter:
Starting in June 2016, the IRA contacted different U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump Campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States. In all cases, the IRA contacted the Campaign while claiming to be U.S. political activists working on behalf of a conservative grassroots organization. The IRA's contacts included requests for signs and other materials to use at rallies, as well as requests to promote the rallies and help coordinate logistics. While certain campaign volunteers agreed to provide the requested support (for example, agreeing to set aside a number of signs), the investigation has not identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official understood the requests were coming from foreign nationals.
To be crystal clear here again. The Russian government, using measures designed to influence the election, posed as US persons and political organizations, and attempted to contact campaign officials to coordinate. And the President of the United States disputes this.
Hacking and dumping
The second prong of the attack was carried out by two military units in the GRU. Military Unit 26165 is a cyber unit dedicated to targeting military, political, governmental and non-governmental organizations outside of Russia.[note 10] Military Unit 26165 also has a dedicated Bitcoin mining operation, which it used to purchase computer infrastructure used in hacking operations. Military Unit 74455 has less clear definitive goals, but it assisted in disseminating information stolen by MU26165 and separately was responsible for hacking several election infrastructure targets in the US. The report describes the spearfishing attacks:
GRU officers also sent hundreds of spearphishing emails to the work and personal email accounts of Clinton Campaign employees and volunteers. Between March 10, 2016 and March 15, 2016, Unit 26165 appears to have sent approximately 90 spearphishing emails to email accounts at hillaryclinton.com. Starting on March 15, 2016, the GRU began targeting Google email accounts used by Clinton Campaign employees, along with a smaller number of dnc.org email accounts.
MU 26165 gained access to numerous email accounts, including John Podesta, Clinton Campaign chairman. They stole tens of thousands of emails. The GRU then moved its attention from the campaign to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
By no later than April 12, 2016, the GRU had gained access to the DCCC computer network using the credentials stolen from a DCCC employee who had been successfully spearphished the week before. Over the ensuing weeks, the GRU traversed the network, identifying different computers connected to the DCCC network. By stealing network access credentials along the way (including those of IT administrators with unrestricted access to the system), the GRU compromised approximately 29 different computers on the DCCC network. Approximately six days after first hacking into the DCCC network, on April 18, 2016, GRU officers gained access to the DNC network via a virtual private network (VPN) connection120 between the DCCC and DNC networks. Between April 18, 2016 and June 8, 2016, Unit 26165 compromised more than 30 computers on the DNC network, including the DNC mail server and shared file server.
MU 26165 was then responsible for implanting customized malware named "X-Agent" and "X-Tunnel" (which seem more like really shitty PSN Usernames), which stored information on a leased computer somewhere in Arizona,[note 11] with evidence the GRU leased a network of computer all over the world. The report goes into detail about the actual theft of information:
Officers from Unit 26165 stole thousands of documents from the DCCC and DNC networks, including significant amounts of data pertaining to the 2016 U.S. federal elections. Stolen documents included internal strategy documents, fundraising data, opposition research, and emails from the work inboxes of DNC employees. The GRU began stealing DCCC data shortly after it gained access to the network. On April 14, 2016 (approximately three days after the initial intrusion) GRU officers downloaded rar.exe onto the DCCC's document server. The following day, the GRU searched one compromised DCCC computer for files containing search terms that included "Hillary," "DNC," "Cruz," and "Trump." On April 25, 2016, the GRU collected and compressed PDF and Microsoft documents from folders on the DCCC's shared file server that pertained to the 2016 election. The GRU appears to have compressed and exfiltrated over 70 gigabytes of data from this file server. The GRU also stole documents from the DNC network shortly after gaining access. On April 22, 2016, the GRU copied files from the DNC network to GRU-controlled computers. Stolen documents included the DNC' s opposition research into candidate Trump. Between approximately May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, GRU officers accessed the DNC's mail server from a GRU-controlled computer leased inside the United States.
When it came time to release the information to the public, the GRU utilized three primary methods: DCLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks. DCLeaks, a website which remained active until March 2017, started releasing information from personal email accounts starting in June 2016 who included a Clinton Campaign advisors, an employee, four volunteers and a former DNC employee.[note 12] DCLeaks also operated a Facebook account, Twitter account and Gmail account, using them to contact reporters and provide early access to information. Guccifer 2.0, an online moniker adopted by the GRU, claimed to be a single Romanian based hacker that released information via a WordPress blog. At first these documents tended to be opposition research, internal policy documents, and fundraising documents. Guccifer 2.0 also reached out to individuals, providing passwords and links to exclusive content on DCLeaks. Guccifer 2.0 is also responsible for sending documents to a US Congress candidate about their opponent, sending 2.5 gigs of Florida-related data to a US blogger covering US politics, sending documents to a US reporter pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement. Guccifer 2.0 also made contact with a former Trump campaign member, Roger Stone, but this section is redacted under "Harm to Ongoing Matter". Guccifer 2.0 contacted this person twice through Twitter. WikiLeaks was the primary method the GRU spread its stolen content:
In order to expand its interference in the 20 I 6 U.S. presidential election, the GRU units transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton Campaign to WikiLeaks. GRU officers used both the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas to communicate with WikiLeaks through Twitter private messaging and through encrypted channels, including possibly through WikiLeaks's private communication system.
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange had privately expressed opposition to candidate Clinton.[note 13] WikiLeaks had previously released emails it had obtained via a FOIA request and designed an archive for candidate Clinton because:
[W]e want this repository to become "the place" to search for background on hillary's plotting at the state department during 2009-2013… Firstly because its useful and will annoy Hillary, but secondly because we want to be seen to be a resource/player in the US election, because eit may encourage people to send us even more important leaks
DCLeaks reached out to WikiLeaks via Twitter in early June, and Wikileaks reached out to Guccifer 2.0 once and mid June and again in early July. When Guccifer 2.0 responded, WikiLeaks revealed its goal in trying to acquire Hillary related content "we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary… so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting." The GRU, using a Guccifer 2.0 email account, sent WikiLeaks 20,000 emails and other stolen documents, three days before the Democratic National Convention. This release featured some unflattering assessments of Bernie Sanders and his supporters by DNC staff and Congress person Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who resigned her post as DNC chair. DCLeaks would later get a hold of WikiLeaks and share the emails stolen from Podesta. WikiLeaks proceeded to release 50,000 documents stolen from Podesta's email account following the Access Hollywood release. Though the GRU was dumping information, it was still seeking additional information throughout the summer. July 26, it targeted Clinton's personal office, after candidate Trump suggested Russia seek out "30,000 emails that are missing". MU 26165 target fifteen email accounts related to candidate Clinton's office, five hours after Trumps comments. The report then dives into a section titled Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Material. Large portions of the section are redacted for "Harm to Ongoing Matter", because it involves Roger Stone. This includes the first reference to Rick Gates, a Manafort associate, named RNC Treasurer, who pleaded guilty to multiple counts.[note 14] Gates recalled that candidate Trump was frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found. Also featured in this portion is Michael Cohen, who was around candidate Trump when he was contacted about hacked information as well as Jerome Corsi, resident crank of WorldNetDaily and InfoWars. Corsi was apparently a go-between for Assange and Roger Stone.
Trump Tower Moscow project
The Trump Organization has pursued and completed projects outside the United States as part of its real estate portfolio. Some projects have involved the acquisition and ownership (through subsidiary corporate structures) of property. In other cases, the Trump Organization has executed licensing deals with real estate developers and management companies, often local to the country where the project was located. Between at least 2013 and 2016, the Trump Organization explored a similar licensing deal in Russia involving the construction of a Trump-branded property in Moscow. The project, commonly referred to as a "Trump Tower Moscow" or "Trump Moscow" project, anticipated a combination of commercial, hotel, and residential properties all within the same building. Between 2013 and June 2016, several employees of the Trump Organization, including then president of the organization Donald J. Trump, pursued a Moscow deal with several Russian counter parties. From the fall of 2015 until the middle of 2016, Michael Cohen spearheaded the Trump Organization's pursuit of a Trump Tower Moscow project, including by reporting on the project's status to candidate Trump and other executives in the Trump Organization
This section goes over the project from the connections made during previous project attempts to the signing of an intent letter by candidate Trump. The important thing here is that Trump lied about this project. It also features a particularly damning email from Felix Sater, a New York-based real estate advisor who represented a Russian real estate development corporation, working with Michael Cohen on the Moscow Tower:
Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process … Michael, Putin gets on stage with Donald for a ribbon cutting for Trump Moscow, and Donald owns the republican nomination. And possibly beats Hillary and our boy is in … We will manage this process better than anyone. You and I will get Donald and Vladimir on a stage together very shortly. That the game changer.
This section also features multiple attempts by campaign officials to arrange a meeting with Trump and Putin, as well as efforts to establish contact with the Russian Government, specifically by George Papodopoulos and Carter Page. There is a whole host of other BS contacts between Russian government connected businessmen and campaign/administration officials which if you want more information, you should follow the advice of Bob Mueller.
Volume II starts by making the contents very clear:
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.
Then the report explains the document that has been at the center of this entire investigation, an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo which states:
"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."
If that isn't clear enough for some of the imbeciles out there: "You can't indict a sitting President". But that doesn't preclude investigating a sitting President of criminal behavior, because a President doesn't have immunity when they leave office. But when it comes to prosecution, it would not be prudent to come to a judgement about whether the President committed a crime, because doing so would require an indictment and you can't indict a sitting President.[note 15] These two paragraphs have a lot a legal-ease, but essentially to make a criminal determination, would be unfair to someone that can't defend themselves in a court of law. The last section however speaks for itself:
…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. The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
This a slam dunk, grand slam, bicycle-kick, whatever spectacular sports term you want to use. The first sentence, states that the President committed obstruction of justice. It's right fucking there, there is no way anyone could possibly interpret that sentence in any other way unless one is knowingly being dishonest. The last sentence is just icing on the cake. Taken all together this introduction makes it quite clear:
- A sitting president cannot be charged with a crime while in office.
- The Justice Department has the right to investigate criminal behavior of a President.
- The Justice Department cannot make a determination on whether behavior would be criminal, because it would not allow the President to defend themselves in court.
- The investigation cannot say the President did not commit a crime.
Honestly this should be enough but because Mueller is very thorough, he documents ten instances that may qualify as obstruction of justice. The rest of this volume is divided into four parts.
Part I: Define Obstruction of Justice
The report details the three elements necessary for obstruction of justice:
- An obstructive act[note 16]
- A nexus between the obstructive act and an official proceeding[note 17]
- A corrupt intent[note 18]
Now if you're reading that thinking, "Well shit this sounds like Trump!" you're not alone. The report goes on to specifically define witness tampering[note 19] as well as attempts and endeavors[note 20] The report then identifies six pieces of evidence it planned to investigate in the obstruction of the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. These included:
(a) The President's January 27, 2017 dinner with former FBI Director James Comey in which the President reportedly asked for Comey's loyalty, one day after the White House had been briefed by the Department of Justice on contacts between former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Russian Ambassador;
(b) The President's February 14, 2017 meeting with Comey in which the President reportedly asked Comey not to pursue an investigation of Flynn;
(c) The President's private requests to Comey to make public the fact that the President was not the subject of an FBI investigation and to lift what the President regarded as a cloud;
(d) The President's outreach to the Director of National Intelligence and the Directors of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency about the FBI's Russia investigation;
(e) The President's stated rationales for terminating Corney on May 9, 2017, including statements that could reasonably be understood as acknowledging that the FBI's Russia investigation was a factor in Comey's termination; and
(f) The President's reported involvement in issuing a statement about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior Trump Campaign officials that said the meeting was about adoption and omitted that the Russians had offered to provide the Trump Campaign with derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.
These were determined to be sufficient factual and legal basis to further investigate. They sought relevant documents and interviews from relevant White House personnel, including a voluntary interview with the President, which he declined, but agreed to answer questions about Russia related topics, but not on obstruction or the transition. The report make a critical point here:
Ultimately, while we believed that we had the authority and legal justification to issue a grand jury subpoena to obtain the President's testimony, we chose not to do so. We made that decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation. We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President's actions and his public and private statements describing or explaining those actions, we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President's testimony.
This is where the first criticism of this report and investigation is necessary. The President made various remarks about sitting down to an interview, first saying he would love to, then saying he wouldn't, finally settling on taking the legal advice of his attorneys to not sit for an interview. Trump has a history in the court of law, and has sometimes been compelled to tell the truth under oath. There are examples of then Mr. Trump removing the braggadocios facade and being honest about a number of things, including his statements about his net-worth, which he admitted was inflated based on how he felt day to day. President Trump also said repeatedly he had nothing to hide, but feared he would be caught in a perjury trap. Now that probably seems odd, because if you're telling the truth, you can't perjure yourself. So as the Special Counsel, you have a President who can't decide whether he'll sit for an interview, a known history that this President is a pathological liar in public but that he admitted to his lies under oath during a trial. But because negotiating an interview would be time consuming (likely from various legal wrangling) and the evidence of other public statements seemed to complete the picture, they didn't pursue getting the interview. A controlled interview would likely not only have helped the investigation understand more, but it would likely have been the only time the American people could be reasonably certain that Trump was telling the truth matters pertaining to the investigation.
Part II: "The Very Best People"
This portion begins with a summary of the 2016 election and Russian support for Trump. It also illustrates the first time that candidate Trump publicly lied about his interactions with Russia, citing the July 27 press conference, where he said five times,"I have nothing to do with Russia", even though at that time he and Cohen were exploring the Trump Tower in Moscow. It also gives examples of transition officials possibly lying about their contact with Russian officials (The Russians sure thought they were talking to the Trump campaign[note 21]) This section also first mentions the Steele Dossier, a series of unverified allegations against Trump. To be clear to the idiots that believe this dossier was important to the investigation, it wasn't and it didn't start the investigation either. At this point the report begins to rely heavily upon several people who were interviewed during the course of the investigation. They include:
- Rob Porter — Former Staff Secretary, serial abuser of women, and jilted lover[note 22]
- Sean Spicer — The first White House communications director
- Rick Gates — former Manafort acolyte, turned witness for the Special Counsel
- Michael Cohen — Former Trump lawyer/fixer, turned witness for the Special Counsel and Southern District of New York
- Reince Priebus — Former RNC chair, first Chief-of-Staff to the President
- Steve Bannon — aforementioned Prince of Darkness
- John Kelly — Former DHS Secretary, Second Chief-of-Staff to the President
- Mike Pompeo — Former CIA director, current Secretary of State[note 23]
- Sarah Huckabee-Sanders — Second WH communications director, master of the smokey eye
- Hope Hicks — Former assistant to the President, who definitely perjured herself
- Michael Flynn — aforementioned National Security Advisor, admitted Turkish foreign agent[note 24]
- K.T. McFarland — Deputy National Security Advisor
- Corey Lewandowski — First Trump campaign manager, general sleezeball
- Don McGahn — White House Counsel
- Annie Donaldson — McGahn's Chief of Staff (and a prolific note taker)
- Dan Coats — Former Congressperson from Indiana, Director of National Intelligence
- Jeff Sessions — Former Alabama Senator, first Attorney General for the Trump Administration
Part II.I: Flynn Fucks Up
This section documents the first instance of obstruction of justice. The story of Michael Flynn is an amusing one, but for this section a couple things are important:
- Flynn was a member of President-elect Trump's transition team, tasked with coordinating policy.
- In response to the Obama administration sanctions and seizures on December 29, 2016, Flynn decided to communicate with Russian Ambassador Kislyak.
- Flynn asked Kislyak not to escalate the situation.
- Russia decides not to escalate, and several days later Kislyak tells Flynn his message reached the highest levels of the Russian government.
If you think it's wrong for the incoming administration to be communicating policy with a foreign government, while another administration is in office, congratulations, you've identified a crime. The Washington Post got a wiff of this story on January 12, 2017, which infuriated President-elect Trump who directed Priebus to ask Flynn to kill the story. Flynn directed McFarland to deny the allegations, even though she knew it was a lie. Flynn then went on to lie to Priebus and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence about his actions, who both made media appearances repeating the lie. Following Trump's inauguration, Sean Spicer acknowledged the communication, but repeated Flynn's lie about the content. Something that is very important to understand, is that the FBI spies on people in the United States. Among the groups of people that definitely get spied on, are intelligence assets from hostile governments, like Kislyak. The Department of Justice (DOJ) was aware of the contents of the conversation and became very concerned that Flynn had compromised himself. The FBI decided to interview Flynn on January 24, 2017. It didn't go well:
During the interview, which took place at the White House, Flynn falsely stated that he did not ask Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation in response to the sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama Administration. Flynn also falsely stated that he did not remember a follow-up conversation in which Kislyak stated that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of Flynn's request.
Pro-tip: Don't lie to the FBI.
The DOJ communicated to McGahn through Sally Yates (then-Assistant Attorney General), their concerns about Flynn. McGahn shared this with President Trump, who was (according to Priebus) unhappy with the situation. McGahn called Yates back to the White House to discuss the possible actions DOJ would take, expressing doubt[note 25] Flynn could be charged. Around this time Trump, acting on Coats advice, tries to charm Comey by inviting him to a private dinner. Priebus and Bannon were aware of this effort but were not present. Comey was concerned about being alone with the President, who used the dinner to float the FBI job and go full mob boss with, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty."[note 26] Comey documented this exchange in a memo he wrote that night, as well as telling several FBI officials. Flynn had a meeting with the President, where Trump may have tried to correct Flynn's recollection of events (re: Witness Tampering).[note 27] WaPo dropped another story on February 9, 2017 after which Pence became aware of the FBI investigation and asked to see the underlying evidence. Flynn began to flounder, lying to Priebus and Eisenberg about the investigation. By February 13, the situation had become untenable and Priebus told Flynn he had to resign. Before leaving he met with Trump in the oval office.[note 28]
According to Comey's account of the meeting, once they were alone, the President began the conversation by saying, "I want to talk about Mike Flynn." The President stated that Flynn had not done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but had to be terminated because he had misled the Vice President. The conversation turned to the topic of leaks of classified information, but the President returned to Flynn, saying "he is a good guy and has been through a lot." The President stated, "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." Comey agreed that Flynn "is a good guy," but did not commit to ending the investigation of Flynn. Comey testified under oath that he took the President's statement "as a direction" because of the President's position and the circumstances of the one-on-one meeting.
This is very, very bad. Though the President is the head of the Executive branch and the DOJ (and therefore the FBI) is in the Executive branch, the President cannot put a thumb on the scale of an active investigation. Comey wrote a memo about the incident, and discussed with other FBI staff, who elected not to tell the investigators pursuing Flynn. K. T. McFarland was a Flynn ally, and with Flynn gone, Priebus and Bannon asked her to resign from the NSC with the intention to nominate her to be Ambassador to Singapore. This in itself isn't too extraordinary, but the additional request was: Trump wanted McFarland to draft an internal email to the effect that Trump had not directed Flynn to speak to Kislyak. Recall that McFarland already had misrepresented the facts of this situation (above). McFarland was uncomfortable with the request (fearing it would appear as a quid pro quo) and after consulting with White House Counsel, opted not write the statement.[note 30] Again, this is very very, very bad. The President can't float ambassadorships to people based on them lying for him. The report also documents two attempts by Trump to reach out to Flynn, once via Priebus and later via McFarland, after Flynn had agreed to testify to the FBI.
Here the report is clear that Trump (as well as to the FBI and others in the administration) believed Flynn had lied to the FBI and was under investigation. Finally the report examines the intent, primarily whether the President had a personal interest in the eventual outcome of the investigation. The evidence was inconclusive about Trump directing Flynn to communicate with Kislyak, and there is no record of Trump being told about the content of the communication (Although he approved of it). Flynn did not possess any personal information on the President either, that he may have wished to remain secret. However, Trump clearly believed that Flynn and the Russia investigation were connected and by removing Flynn, the investigation would end. Trump believed that the investigation challenged the legitimacy of his election. Trump also felt a degree of sympathy for Flynn, and even though he had fired him, he still had the desire to keep Flynn from saying negative things about him. Trump also seemed to reach out to Director Comey after relevant events, when the investigation was revealed and after Flynn's firing, both times asking for things that would seriously threaten the appearance of an impartial investigation, which Trump seemed to recognize leading to his current posture of denying that he called for the first meeting or that he cleared the room for the second. The investigation seems to be squishy on the McFarland request, because although it was highly irregular, they can't be sure he was asking her to lie.
To establish a nexus to a proceeding, it would be necessary to show that the President could reasonably foresee and actually contemplated that the investigation of Flynn was likely to lead to a grand jury investigation or prosecution.
- Obstructive Act: Asking Comey to let Flynn go
- Nexus to Proceeding: Flynn lied to the FBI and Trump was aware that Flynn could be charged.
- Intent: Trump was sympathetic to Flynn and believed Flynn was connected to the Russia investigation which threatened Trump's presidency.
This is probably obstruction of justice, it would likely be the weakest obstruction of justice charge. There are too many unknowns.
Part II.II: Sessions Recuses
Jeff Sessions, appointed Attorney General, said during his confirmation hearings that he had no conversations with Russians. The DOJ had determined by February 2017 this was not accurate, and made recommendations that AG Sessions recuse himself from the Russia investigation. President Trump contacted FBI Director Comey by phone on March 1, after media reports confirmed Sessions had not disclosed his two meetings with Kislyak before the election. The call seemed to be a check-in and mostly friendly. However it is worth noting again, Trump has met twice with Comey alone at this point and called him on his phone, while Obama had only met with Comey once, with several others present.[note 31] Sessions officially recused himself from all Russia related investigations the following day.
The President was not happy about this, who through McGahn, asked Session to not recuse himself. In response Sessions stated he intended to follow the rules on recusal, though McGahn continued to try to change his mind, speaking to Sessions personal counsel, his chief of staff and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as calling Sessions personally twice more. Sessions public statement laid out the facts:
"During the course of the last several weeks, I have met with the relevant senior career Department officials to discuss whether I should recuse myself from any matters arising from the campaigns for President of the United States. Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States. Consistent with the succession order for the Department of Justice, … Dana Boente shall act as and perform the functions of the Attorney General with respect to any matters from which I have recused myself to the extent they exist."
Needless to say, Trump was not happy about this. He made his displeasure known on March 3 in an Oval Office meeting featuring Priebus, Bannon and McGahn. According to McGahn, Trump opened the conversation with "I don't have a lawyer." and discussed Roy Cohn,[note 32] wishing he was his lawyer, a perceived slight to McGahn.[note 33] McGahn attempted to make it clear that the DOJ had made the decision about Sessions' recusal, Trump then brought up Eric Holder and Robert F. Kennedy, suggesting that they protected their Presidents (Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy, respectively). The Attorney General however, is not the President's lawyer, they are the Country's lawyer, tasked with prosecuting people who commit Federal crimes. Trump also apparently said "…Obama didn't tell Eric Holder who to investigate?" This is incredibly problematic (and according to Holder, false) because it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding that Trump has about the Executive Branch. Though the President appoints people, and has permission to dismiss them, the President is not supposed to direct any investigations, that is the responsibility of the AG. That weekend Trump met with Sessions alone and asked him not to recuse himself, giving Sessions the impression Trump feared the investigation would disrupt his ability to govern.
Comey confirmed to the Gang of Eight[note 34] that the FBI was investigating Russian influence into the 2016 Presidential Election on March 9, then publicly to the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee on March 20. Comey had been directed not to comment to any individuals being investigated, including the President. Comey's testimony made the President furious, and proceeded to accuse the Director of leaking to the media and acting like his own branch of government.[note 35] At this point, the White House Counsel became so concerned that Trump would fire Comey, and they began drafting a memo about whether the President needed a cause to do so.[note 36] Trump sought to talk with the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation, Dana Boente, and ask him to intervene in the investigation, which McGahn recommended against doing.
Trump then began searching for other ways to deal with the investigation and Comey, taking Dan Coats and Michael Pompeo aside to ask them to publicly state the investigation had nothing to do with the President. Coats and Pompeo both declined (considering neither was responsible for investigations as the respective heads of National Intelligence and the CIA), and according to Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) aides, Trump had personally asked Coats to speak to Comey.[note 37] On March 25 Trump called Coats to complain about the investigation, then on March 26 Trump called NSA Director Admiral Michael S. Rogers. Rogers' Deputy, Richard Ledgett, testified it was the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service. Both Director Coats and Director Rogers each testified to Congress, neither felt they had been directed to interfere in the investigation.
On March 30, Trump again called Director Comey,[note 38] asking him what was necessary to lift the "cloud" of the investigation. Comey stated the investigation needed to run its course, and let Trump know that Congressional leaders knew the FBI was not investigating the President personally. This was a big fucking mistake: the primary reason being that just because the investigation was not looking at the President at that time, it could later (for obstruction of justice). It did however provide cover for future Trump bullshit statements about the investigation not targeting him. During the call that Trump pounced on this, directing Comey to find someway to get that out to the public. Trump called Comey again on April 11,[note 39] asking about the status of his request, which Comey directed the President to speak to Assistant AG Boente. This conversation featured another mob boss statement from Trump, "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know." Trump met with McGahn, revealing that he had communicated with Comey, and stated that the DOJ could issue a statement about the investigation clearing the President. When McGahn followed up with Boente, he told McGahn that although it was not improper for Trump to call Comey, it had made the FBI director uncomfortable, and DOJ would not release a statement to that effect.
The report identifies several obstructive acts that occurred after Director Comey's March 20 testimony. These include the requests from the President to CIA Director Pompeo, DNI Director Coats and NSA Director Rogers. The report notes that Rogers and his deputy thought the call from the President was so significant, they chose to write a memo about the call and sign it. Though no grand jury proceedings had begun at this point in the investigation, the report identifies the nexus to proceeding as the announcement of a counterintelligence investigation by Director Comey, which the outreaches began immediately afterward. The report then identifies the intent:
The evidence shows that the President was focused on the Russia investigation's implications for his presidency — and, specifically, on dispelling any suggestion that he was under investigation or had links to Russia. In early March, the President attempted to prevent Sessions's recusal, even after being told that Sessions was following DOJ conflict-of-interest rules. After Sessions recused, the White House Counsel's Office tried to cut off further contact with Sessions about the matter, although it is not clear whether that direction was conveyed to the President. The President continued to raise the issue of Sessions's recusal and, when he had the opportunity, he pulled Sessions aside and urged him to unrecuse. The President also told advisors that he wanted an Attorney General who would protect him, the way he perceived Robert Kennedy and Eric Holder to have protected their presidents. The President made statements about being able to direct the course of criminal investigations, saying words to the effect of, "You're telling me that Bobby and Jack didn't talk about investigations? Or Obama didn't tell Eric Holder who to investigate?"
Evidence indicates that the President was angered by both the existence of the Russia investigation and the public reporting that he was under investigation, which he knew was not true based on Corney's representations. The President complained to advisors that if people thought Russia helped him with the election, it would detract from what he had accomplished.
Other evidence indicates that the President was concerned about the impact of the Russia investigation on his ability to govern. The President complained that the perception that he was under investigation was hurting his ability to conduct foreign relations, particularly with Russia. The President told Coats he "can't do anything with Russia," he told Rogers that "the thing with the Russians" was interfering with his ability to conduct foreign affairs, and he told Comey that "he was trying to run the country and the cloud of this Russia business was making that difficult."
- Obstructive Act: Trump asking heads of intelligence to speak directly with Comey about the investigation.
- Nexus to Proceeding: Comey publicly announced a counterintelligence investigation into criminal wrongdoing in the 2016 election.
- Intent: Trump felt that the investigation threatened his administration and its ability to conduct business with the Russian government.
Reading through this, and seeing that Pompeo, Coats and Rogers testified that they never believed the President directed them to interfere, it doesn't take a genius to hear what they are saying and conclude this was exactly what Trump wanted, and they refused to do it.
Part II.III: Firing Comey
President Trump really goes off the rails here. On May 3, Comey was scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to McGahn, Trump considered Comey's testimony to be the last straw if he did not publicly state that he was not the subject of an investigation. Comey did not answer any questions regarding the investigations progress or any targets of the investigation. He also testified that his decision to announce the reopening of the Clinton email investigation was a difficult one, and made him "mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election", but he did not regret his handling of the investigation.When Trump heard about Comey's testimony, he lashed out in a meeting with McGahn, Sessions and Sessions Chief of Staff Jody Hunt. Hunt's notes paint a picture to Trumps feelings:
Bannon told investigators that Trump mentioned Comey to him eight times on May 3 and 4, repeating the same refrain:
"This is terrible Jeff. It's all because you recused. AG is supposed to be most important appointment. Kennedy appointed his brother. Obama appointed Holder. I appointed you and you recused yourself. You left me on an island. I can't do. anything."
Bannon confided in Trump that firing Comey would not end the investigation.
"He told me three times I'm not under investigation. He's a showboater. He's a grandstander. I don't know any Russians. There was no collusion."
May 5 at a dinner with senior advisers including Kushner and Stephen Miller, Trump decided to terminate FBI Director Comey. He dictated a termination letter to Miller, who created a memo and worked with the President for several edits. Trump very specifically wanted the letter to include that he was not under investigation. The final memo began:
Dear Director Comey, While I greatly appreciate your informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation concerning the fabricated and politically-motivated allegations of a Trump-Russia relationship with respect to the 2016 Presidential Election, please be informed that, along with members of both political parties and, most importantly, the American Public, have lost faith in you as the Director of the FBI and you are hereby terminated.
The final document totaled four pages and included critiques about Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. On May 8 Trump presented the letter and his thinking to senior staff and to Session and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Both seemed to agree that replacing Comey was a good idea, and their was a suggestion to allow Comey to resign, but Trump was adamant he be fired. Trump also directed Rosenstein to write a memo providing justification for Comey's firing, that included the President was not under investigation. Rosenstein said the investigation had nothing to do with him supporting Comey's removal, but Trump insisted he include it anyway. Rosenstein would later tell DOJ officials that Trump had decided to fire Comey, but his reasons were not the President's reasons.
The following day the White House received a memo from the DOJ titled, "Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI".[note 40] With this new reasoning, senior advisers recommended abandoning the previous termination letter. Miller was tasked with rewriting the letter, which Trump insisted include that he was not under investigation, over the objections of many senior advisers. It was announced later that day, while Comey was on a trip to California on official business. Trump apparently angry at how the media was covering the firing, and later in the evening told the WH communication team to go out and defend him. Christie suggested the President use Rosentein since he had written the memo used to justify Comey's removal. The WH contacted the DOJ, asking them to put out a statement to that effect. Rosenstein did not want to participate in what he characterized as "a false story". Trump called Rosenstein personally after watching a segment on Fox News, and wanted him to do a press conference. Rosenstein told the President he didn't think that was a good idea, because if asked he would tell the media it was not his idea. Rosenstein expressed frustration to Sessions that his memo was being used as the reason for Comey's firing. The WH communication team however continued with the line that no one in the White House had been involved in the termination process.
Now you would think that Trump would shut up, and let the communication team spin this, and keep his head down. But this being Trump, on May 10 he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, where he said this[note 41]:
I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off. … I'm not under investigation.
Though Trump would later dispute this characterization, the White House would not, and Trump told McGahn it was good to fire Comey because it took pressure off the administration. Trump called Andrew McCabe, Deputy FBI Director (though at this point he was the acting FBI Director), where he said he had received hundreds of messages from FBI employees supporting his decision, and when McCabe came to the Oval Office later that day, the President estimate 80% if the FBI had voted for him, as well as asking McCabe who he had voted for.[note 42] Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that the rank and file of the FBI supported the President's decision and she had heard from "countless" FBI officials that they did not support Comey. When interviewed by the Special Counsel, Sanders admitted that statement was not founded on anything (She's a fucking liar, and the FBI just proved it). Rosenstein continued to express discomfort that his memo was being characterized as the only reason that Comey had been terminated, which the White House Counsel agreed with and would work to correct the record.
Now, Trump's slip up on May 10 was bad, but because no national media had been allowed in (only Russian media, nice right?), he could probably defend himself and spin it still. Keep his head low, and just roll with it right? Wrong. On May 11, Trump participated in a live interview with Lester Holt, where he said this:
"I was going to fire regardless of recommendation … [Rosenstein] made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Corney knowing there was no good time to do it." The President continued, "And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won."
Mueller analysisThe report identifies the firing of Director Comey as an obstructive act. Not only did President Trump know that there was an investigation being led in part by Director Comey, but Trump was under the impression that by removing Comey, the investigation would end, or failing that, Trump could replace Comey with someone else he could influence to end the investigation. The nexus to proceeding is identified by the general acknowledgement that the investigation would eventually have a grand jury or some criminal prosecution (For example Flynn agreeing to testify to the FBI after receiving some form of immunity). The report fairly clearly identifies 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. In the week leading up to Comey's May 3, 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony, the President told McGahn that it would be the last straw if Comey did not set the record straight and publicly announce that the President was not under investigation. But during his May 3 testimony, Comey refused to answer questions about whether the President was being investigated. Comey's refusal angered the President, who criticized Sessions for leaving him isolated and exposed, saying "You left me on an island." Two days later, the President told advisors he had decided to fire Comey and dictated a letter to Stephen Miller that began with a reference to the fact that the President was not being investigated: "While I greatly appreciate you informing me that I am not under investigation concerning what I have often stated is a fabricated story on a Trump-Russia relationship …" The President later asked Rosenstein to include "Russia" in his memorandum and to say that Comey had told the President that he was not under investigation. And the President's final termination letter included a sentence, at the President's insistence and against McGahn's advice, stating that Comey had told the President on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation.
The President's other stated rationales for why he fired Corney are not similarly supported by the evidence. The termination letter the President and Stephen Miller prepared in Bedminster cited Corney's handling of the Clinton email investigation, and the President told McCabe he fired Comey for that reason. But the facts surrounding Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation were well known to the President at the time he assumed office, and the President had made it clear to both Comey and the President' s senior staff in early 2017 that he wanted Comey to stay on as director. And Rosenstein articulated his criticism of Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation after the President had already decided to fire Comey. The President's draft termination letter also stated that morale in the FBI was at an all-time low and Sanders told the press after Comey's termination that the White House had heard from "countless" FBI agents who had lost confidence in Comey. But the evidence does not support those claims. The President told Comey at their January 27 dinner that "the people of the FBI really like [him]," no evidence suggests that the President heard otherwise before deciding to terminate Comey, and Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.
…the President and White House aides initially advanced a pretextual reason to the press and the public for Comey's termination. In the immediate aftermath of the firing, the President dictated a press statement suggesting that he had acted based on the DOJ recommendations, and White House press officials repeated that story. But the President had decided to fire Comey before the White House solicited those recommendations. Although the President ultimately acknowledged that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice's recommendations, he did so only after DOJ officials made clear to him that they would resist the White House's suggestion that they had prompted the process that led to Comey's termination. The initial reliance on a pretextual justification could support an inference that the President had concerns about providing the real reason for the firing, although the evidence does not resolve whether those concerns were personal, political, or both.
- Obstructive Act: Firing the FBI Director
- Nexus to Proceeding: FBI investigation was ongoing, had a collaborating witness (Flynn), with further criminal prosecution imminent
- Intent: Removing the FBI Director might delay or otherwise disrupt the investigation, and replacing the Director with a loyalist a possibility
This is without question the most obvious example of obstruction of justice because Trump did it on national television.
Part II.IV: Trump Tries to Fire the Special Counsel
This section features the funniest part of the report. The Special Counsel was appointed on May 17, 2017. The President's reaction was captured by Sessions Chief of Staff:
The President learned of the Special Counsel's appointment from Sessions, who was with the President, Hunt, and McGahn conducting interviews for a new FBI Director. Sessions stepped out of the Oval Office to take a call from Rosenstein, who told him about the Special Counsel appointment, and Sessions then returned to inform the President of the news. According to notes written by Hunt, when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked." The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, "How could you let this happen, Jeff?" The President said the position of Attorney General was his most important appointment and that Sessions had "let [him] down," contrasting him to Eric Holder and Robert Kennedy. Sessions recalled that the President said to him, "you were supposed to protect me," or words to that effect. The President returned to the consequences of the appointment and said, "Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me."
Trump then asked Sessions to resign, which Sessions agreed to do, bringing his resignation letter to the White House the next day. Trump pocketed the resignation, and asked Sessions if he would like to stay. Sessions said he would like to stay and the President agreed. But Trump kept the resignation letter. Priebus and Bannon became concerned that Trump had kept the resignation letter, as it effectively held the DOJ hostage, and possibly influence it. The letter would not be returned to Session until 12 days later, with a notation saying "Not accepted".
The report then documents the Trump's brilliant plan to remove Mueller, saying that he had conflicts of interest. Here are the President's examples:
- Mueller resigned from Trump National Golf Course and asked for a refund.[note 43]
- Mueller had been interviewed to be the new FBI director.[note 44]
- Mueller worked for a law firm that represented Trump associates.[note 45]
Priebus, McGahn and Bannon all thought these reasons were petty and not real conflicts. Trump later reached out to McGahn to ask him to talk to Rosenstein about the conflicts. McGahn declined, as it was a personal matter to the President, not a White House issue, and that doing so would look like meddling in the investigation. In a later June meeting, Trump, Bannon and Priebus met with a longtime friend of the President Christopher Ruddy.[note 46] During this meeting they discussed firing the Special Counsel, which Ruddy then publicly stated in two television interviews. This created a lot of noise in the media, and when the White House communications team asked for how to respond, Trump dictated, "While the President has every right to [fire the special counsel] he has no intention to do so."
decided to calmly wait for the investigation to run its course tweeted a bunch of incoherent bullshit on June 15 and June 16, giving him the confidence to call McGahn on June 17 and direct him to remove the Special Counsel. The first call was more general, suggesting that McGahn call Rod Rosenstein and say the Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel. McGahn did not call Rosenstein, seeing it as a conflict for the White House Counsel and believing the asserted conflicts to be silly. Trump followed up with McGahn later that day:
When the President called McGahn a second time to follow up on the order to call the Department of Justice, McGahn recalled that the President was more direct, saying something like, "Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel." McGahn recalled the President telling him "Mueller has to go" and "Call me back when you do it." McGahn understood the President to be saying that the Special Counsel had to be removed by Rosenstein.
McGahn, unwilling to do what the President directed him to do, decided to resign. He told his Chief of Staff of his intentions, and she also decided to resign. McGahn went to the White House to collect his things, afterwards calling Priebus and Bannon, telling them of his intentions, without sharing too many details besides the President had asked him to "do crazy shit". They convinced McGahn not to resign, and when McGahn showed up to work the following Monday, the President did not follow up.
The report identifies Trump as directing McGahn to contact Rosenstein and insist the Special Counsel be removed as the obstructive act. McGahn's recollection and actions make this clear the Trump wanted the Special Counsel removed. The nexus to an official proceeding is clearly identified as the Special Counsel calling a grand jury for the investigation into Michael Flynn and the perceived exposure of Trump attempting to communicate with Flynn and influence Comey. The intent was crystal clear:
…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. The evidence accordingly indicates that news that an obstruction investigation had been opened is what led the President to call McGahn to have the Special Counsel terminated.
There also is evidence that the President knew that he should not have made those calls to McGahn. The President made the 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 to submit the conflicts claims, 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.
- Obstructive Act: Trump directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed.
- Nexus to an official proceeding: The Special Counsel's Office (SCO) had convened a grand jury and had interviewed Michael Flynn.
- Intent: Trump perceived that interactions he had with Comey regarding Flynn were being investigated by the SCO and were a threat to his presidency.
Part II.V: If You Can't Fire SCO, Limit the Scope
Since McGahn didn't fire Mueller, Trump instead tried to limit the scope of the investigation. On June 19, Trump met with Corey Lewandowski one-on-one. In the meeting Trump asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to AG Sessions, after complaining about his recusal and the Russian investigation in general. Trump dictated:
The President directed that Sessions should give a speech publicly announcing: I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS … is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn't have a Special Prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn't done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn't do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history … Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. I am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections.
Lewandowski planned to deliver this message, but wanted to meet Sessions in person, not at the Department of Justice.[note 47] They arranged a meeting but Sessions cancelled at the last minute and Lewandowski returned home, storing the message in his safe. Lewandowski decided to pass the message to Sessions through Rick Dearborn, a senior White House official, who agreed without knowing the contents of the message. Lewandowski returned to DC July 19 and met with Trump again in the Oval Office, who asked if the message had been delivered. Lewandowski assured him the message would be delivered soon, and Trump said that if Sessions wouldn't meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired.[note 48] After the meeting Lewandowski provided a typewritten copy of the note to Dearborn to pass to Sessions. Upon reading the note, Dearborn became uncomfortable being the messenger, and would later tell Lewdandowski he had handled the situation. Dearborn chose not to deliver said message, and presumably destroyed or discarded the note.
Things got worse for Sessions when The Washington Post dropped another story about Sessions meeting with Kislyak during the campaign. Priebus discussed with Sessions COS Hunt about what to do, wherein Hunt made it clear Sessions would not resign. Trump began the next morning with some rage tweets, then while aboard Marine One, Trump told Priebus to remove Sessions, insisting that he have a letter of resignation immediately. Priebus discussed this with McGahn, and shared that he believed Trump wanted to remove Sessions so as to replace Sessions with someone to oversee the SCO. McGahn recommended Priebus not follow the order, discuss the issue with private counsel and they both discussed the possibility of resigning rather than carry out the order. Trump followed up that day, and Priebus strung the President along, with no intention of following through. By the weekend Priebus managed to convince Trump not to fire Sessions, but that didn't stop Trump from rage tweeting about Sessions all weekend.
The report identifies the obstructive act as the attempt to send a message to Sessions through Lewandowski to limit the investigation. At this point a grand jury had been called by the SCO, and it was public knowledge that it had been taking testimony from witnesses. This section features two sentences that are redacted, that in context, seem to relate to recent reporting about the aformentioned Trump Tower meeting and a statement that Trump had dictated to Trump Jr. about the meeting. Mueller again clearly identifies 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.
As previously described, see Volume II, Section II.B, supra, the President knew that the Russia investigation was focused in part on his campaign, and he perceived allegations of Russian interference to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his election. The President further 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.
The timing and circumstances of the President's actions support the conclusion that he 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, which itself followed public reports that the President was personally under investigation for obstruction of justice. The sequence of those events raises an inference that after seeking to terminate the Special Counsel, the President sought to exclude his and his campaign's conduct from the investigation's scope. The President raised the matter with Lewandowski again on July 19, 2017, just days after emails and information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials had been publicly disclosed, generating substantial media coverage and investigative interest.
The manner in which the President acted provides additional evidence of his intent. Rather than rely on official channels, the President met with Lewandowski alone in the Oval Office. The President selected a loyal "devotee" outside the White House to deliver the message, supporting an inference that he was working outside White House channels, including McGahn, who had previously resisted contacting the Department of Justice about the Special Counsel. The President also did not contact the Acting Attorney General, who had just testified publicly that there was no cause to remove the Special Counsel. Instead, the President tried to use Sessions to restrict and redirect the Special Counsel's investigation when Sessions was recused and could not properly take any action on it.
- Obstructive Act: Directing Lewandowski to relay a message to Sessions to limit the scope of the investigation
- Nexus to an Official Proceeding: It was public knowledge the SCO had a grand jury, that was already calling witnesses, including possibly Donald Trump Jr.
- Inten: The President wanted to have the investigation limited because it was now directly investigating him, and if Sessions wouldn't do it, a replacement would.
Again, this is crystal fucking clear. If any of these people had actually followed through, it would have been a scandal.
Part II.VI: Trump and Trump Jr. try to hide meeting with Russians
Around the same time Trump asked Lewandowski to contact Sessions, he became aware of emails that had been exchanged eventually culminating into the aforementioned Trump Tower meeting. The SCO had obtained these emails through attorney's working on behalf of the Trump family. This particular incident features Hope Hicks rather prominently, as she was involved in meetings that included Kushner and the President. On one occasion, Kushner attempted to let the President know the contents of what had been discovered, but the President shut the conversation down without hearing or seeing any details. Hicks had a chance to review the emails herself, and was shocked by the content. Hicks brought her concerns to the President, especially considering that they would soon be in the hands of Congress. Trump seemed more concerned about the information leaking. That same day on June 28, Trump met with Hicks, Kushner and Ivanka Trump (The President's daughter and Kushner's wife), where the content of the meeting was discussed, but not the reason it was called. Hicks wanted to be proactive to get ahead of the story, but the President insisted on complying with requests and staying quiet.[note 49]
While at the G20, the Administration became aware of an impending New York Times story about the meeting. When asked for a comment, Trump chose not to give one, which Hicks thought was strange.[note 50] Later Trump and Hicks discussed the story again, settling on what Hicks had been told, that the meeting was about Russian adoption. Upon obtaining a draft statement that Trump Jr. planned to release what was generally accurate,[note 51] Trump dictated a new statement to Hicks that she texted to Trump Jr.:
It was a short meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up.
If you look back at the details of the meeting discussed earlier in this article, you can see how this was very clearly a lie. Jr. was rightly concerned that this statement was a bit too inaccurate and released this instead:
It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.
The word "primarily" was added because Hillary Clinton was discussed, but it was quickly discarded for a conversation about the Magnitsky Act. Hicks became aware that the President was aware of an effort to discredit the reporting with statements from his personal attorney and an article in Circa News. The NYT story dropped while Trump was still in the airborne returning from the G20 meeting.. The story featured the Trump Jr. statement and a lie from a representative from Trump's legal team. Circa News also released a story with further lies, with the intent to mislead people, which Hicks found upsetting. The next day when confronted about the comment and the Circa News article by Hicks and Trump, Mark Corallo (a spokesperson on Trump's legal team) stated that the statement had been authorized and a "document" existed that would contradict the statement provided by Trump Jr. Corallo at this point was unaware of emails, but was under the impression few people had access, and they were unlikely to become public knowledge.
That lasted all of two days because on July 11, Trump Jr. released the redacted images of the email that set up the meeting. Later media outlets began reporting that the President had been involved in the initial statement released to the NYT. Trump's personal lawyers would deny the President's involvement, even lying to the SCO about the accuracy of the statement. Trump eventually admitted to his involvement in the misleading statement saying, "It's a statement to the New York Times … That's not a statement to a high tribunal of judges." Lewandowski upon meeting with the President on July 19 attributed this statement to the President:
As I've said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, 'By the way, we have information on your opponent,' I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said … 'Who wouldn't have taken a meeting like that?
The report here seems to find that this was not obstruction of justice. Though on three occasions the President sought to limit public knowledge about the meeting, there was no attempt to stop it from being reported to Congress or it appearing before a grand jury (nexus to an official proceeding). It was instead a press strategy which isn't against the law.
- Obstructive Act: Limiting knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting (But not to Congress or the SCO)
- Nexus to an official proceeding: Though it would interfere with public knowledge, it was still expected this would appear before SCO or Congress.
- Intent: Limiting exposure for those involved in the meeting
Though this isn't obstruction of justice, this is really not a good look for the President. On multiple occasions, he mislead the public about the meeting, and generally seemed OK with it happening. He also very clearly showed a contempt for media's attempt to keep him honest.
Part II.VII: What if there was no Sessions?
While the previously examples document events happening over a short period of time, this section of the report documents a few examples over several months of the President openly discussing removing Sessions. It begins with two instances in the Summer of 2017, the first where Trump discussed an Assistant Attorney General (Rachel Bland) with then Staff Secretary Rob Porter. Porter and Bland were acquainted and Trump asked if Bland would be interested in overseeing the SCO or being Attorney General. Trump on this occasion and several others asked Porter to keep in touch with Bland, which Porter didn't do because he understood the purpose of this communication was to find someone who would end the Russia investigation or fire the Special Counsel, which Porter had no interest in being a part of. The second instance included McGahn meeting with Trump, where they discussed of the situation would change with a new AG, which McGahn assumed there would not be any changes.
In October Trump straight up broke the wall between the DOJ and the Executive branch, when in a meeting with Sessions, attended by Porter, Trump said the DOJ was not investigating individuals the President thought they should be investigating (i.e., Hillary Clinton). Trump followed this up with a series of unhinged conspiracy tweets to try to publicly influence Sessions to investigate the Clinton email investigation. Later in December 2017, Trump met with Sessions in the Oval Office again, attended by Porter who documented their exchange:
…the President again suggested that Sessions could "unrecuse," which Porter linked to taking back supervision of the Russia investigation and directing an investigation of Hillary Clinton. According to contemporaneous notes taken by Porter, the President said, "I don't know if you could un-recuse yourself. You'd be a hero. Not telling you to do anything. Dershowitz says POTUS can get involved. Can order AG to investigate. I don't want to get involved. I'm not going to get involved. I'm not going to do anything or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly." According to Porter's notes, Sessions responded, "We are taking steps; whole new leadership team. Professionals; will operate according to the law." Sessions also said, "I never saw anything that was improper," which Porter thought was noteworthy because it did not fit with the previous discussion about Clinton. Porter understood Sessions to be reassuring the President that he was on the President's team.
This is another excellent insight into the twisted way the President views investigations and his own role in them. If you are investigating anything related to him, it's "unfair", he also seems to have a misunderstanding of the reason for Sessions' recusal, seemingly believing it to be a magic word he can say and reverse. The report then details a bunch of tweets from 2018, where the President bullies the Attorney General, up to November 7, when he fired Sessions.
The report identifies the ongoing attempts by the President to get Sessions to control the Russia investigation as the obstructive act. Trump employed a dual strategy here, with private conversations with Sessions and senior White House officials, as well as the public tweets. The nexus to an official proceeding is clear as the grand jury's work was public knowledge, and the AG would have an impact if he was to become involved. The report really made it quite simple with 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 in the Oval Office 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 position that the President frequently suggested should be occupied by someone like Eric Holder and Bobby Kennedy, who the President described as protecting their presidents. A reasonable inference from those statements and the President's actions 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.
- Obstructive Act: Get Sessions to take over the Russia investigation
- Nexus to an Official Proceeding: Influence the ongoing grand jury
- Intent: Change the course of the investigation and protect the President
This is another blatant example of obstruction of justice, again only avoiding a crisis because Sessions ignored the President's request.
Part II.VIII: Trump vs. McGahn: Notegate
As mentioned previously, in June 2017 Trump told McGahn to have Rosenstein remove the Special Counsel, and rather than follow the directive from the President, McGahn decided to resign. Priebus and Bannon had convinced McGahn to stay and Trump hadn't pursued the matter. January 2018 the NYT reported the story of this incident, and while Trump denied the report, WaPo followed up confirming the account. The articles differed slightly where the NYT article seemed to state McGahn threatened to resign and Trump backed off, while the WaPo article was more accurate in that McGahn intended to resign but did not tell the President. Through their personal counsel, Trump asked McGahn to put out a statement denying the accuracy of the NYT article, which McGahn refused to do. White House communications staff communicated with McGahn about the story, who stated that there was no reason to respond to the story. Priebus would later make a television appearance where he stated that he was unaware of the June 2017 events (which is technically true), much to Trump's delight. Trump became animated about the February 5 article, which Porter documented:
…the President complained about the Times article to Porter. The President told Porter that the article was "bullshit" and he had not sought to terminate the Special Counsel. The President said that McGahn leaked to the media to make himself look good. The President then directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file "for our records" and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a "lying bastard" and said that he wanted a record from him. 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."
Go back and read the section about this incident. It's clear here the President's account is inaccurate. It's
strange how normal for him that he managed to convince himself that events happened in a way that was more favorable to himself.
This next section is probably the most explosive of the report as it details a confrontation in the Oval Office between McGahn and Trump that in any other administration would lead to mass resignations, and Presidential impeachment. On February 6, McGahn heads into the Oval Office to meet with Trump, before the meeting Trump's personal counsel calls McGahn personal counsel and that McGahn could not resign, no matter what happened in the meeting. The meeting began with Trump telling McGahn to correct the NYT article saying, "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." Notes from McGahn and Donaldson detail the ensuing back and forth (emphasis added):
In response, McGahn acknowledged that he had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, but said that the story was otherwise accurate. The President asked McGahn, "Did I say the word 'fire'?" 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 with Rosenstein and leave it to him to decide what to do. 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. McGahn thought the President was testing his mettle to see how committed McGahn was to what happened. Kelly described the meeting as "a little tense."
The President also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel's Office investigators that the President had told him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to and that his conversations with the President were not protected by attorney-client privilege. The President then asked, "What-about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes." McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a "real lawyer" and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The President said, "I've had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes."
After the Oval Office meeting concluded, Kelly recalled McGahn telling him that McGahn and the President "did have that conversation" about removing the Special Counsel. McGahn recalled that Kelly said that he had pointed out to the President after the Oval Office that McGahn had not backed down and would not budge. Following the Oval Office meeting, the President's personal counsel called McGahn's counsel and relayed that the President was '"fine" with McGahn.
Before getting into Mueller's legal opinion, think about this section and wonder, "If President Hillary Clinton had done this to White House Counsel Rahm Emanuel, what would Congressional Republicans have done about it?"
Mueller Legal AnalysisThe report identifies the multiple attempts by Trump to have McGahn issue a correction about the June 2017 as the obstructive act. First through personal counsel, then through White House Communication staff and finally in person in the Oval Office. At this point the SCO had handed out several indictments, secured guilty pleas from several defendants, and had proposed a list of questions for the President to answer, including related to Obstruction of Justice, to which McGahn would feature prominently (Nexus to an official proceeding). The intent is short:
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.
Several facts support that conclusion. The President made repeated attempts to get McGahn to change his story. As described above, by the time of the last attempt, the evidence suggests that the President had been told on multiple occasions that McGahn believed the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel terminated. McGahn interpreted his encounter with the President in the Oval Office as an attempt to test his mettle and see how committed he was to his memory of what had occurred. The President had already laid the groundwork for pressing McGahn to alter his account by telling Porter that it might be necessary to fire McGahn if he did not deny the story, and Porter relayed that statement to McGahn. Additional evidence of the President's intent may be gleaned from the fact that his counsel was sufficiently alarmed by the prospect of the President's meeting with McGahn that he called McGahn's counsel and said that McGahn could not resign no matter what happened in the Oval Office that day. The President's counsel was well aware of McGahn's resolve not to issue what he believed to be a false account of events despite the President's request. Finally, as noted above, the President brought up the Special Counsel investigation in his Oval Office meeting with McGahn and criticized him for telling this Office about the June 17, 2017 events. The President's statements reflect his understanding — and his displeasure — that those events would be part of an obstruction-of-justice inquiry.
- Obstructive Act: Directing McGahn to correct his statement about events from June 2017
- Nexus to an Official Proceeding: SCO had already interviewed McGahn, and McGahn was a central witness for the June 2017 events
- Intent: Remove legal liability to obstruction of justice
It's like the inception, it's obstruction of justice, inside obstruction of justice.
Part II.IX: All the Presidents Men
This section of the Report is titled, "The President's Conduct Towards Flynn, Manafort, Stone". The Flynn details have been mentioned previously through the report (and this article) but what's important to note here, is that Flynn first entered into a joint defense agreement with Trump, until November 22 2017, when Mr. Flynn began cooperating with the SCO. This meant that they could no longer share confidential information. Trump's personal counsel called Flynn's personal counsel that night leaving this voicemail (My emphasis):
I understand your situation, but let me see if I can't state it in starker terms … [I]t wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with … the government. … [I]f … there's information that implicates the President, then we've got a national security issue, … so, you know, … we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can … [R]emember what we've always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains …
When Flynn's personal counsel responded and told Trump's counsel to kick rocks, Trump's counsel reacted indignantly and interpreted this as a hostility from Flynn towards and President, and promised to make that known to the President. Flynn's attorney understood this to be a threat to reconsider. Flynn would later plead guilty to making false statements, and the President continued to express sympathy to Flynn and float pardon options.
While Flynn turned on Trump, Manafort maintained a joint defense agreement with the President through his own trial. Indictments were filed against Manafort by the SCO and by the Eastern District of Virginia. It's important to note, these indictments were financial crimes as well as failing to register as a foreign agent, so not connected directly with the Russia investigation, however there are some connections. Manafort in January 2018 was under the impression he and Rick Gates were going to be "taken care of" after speaking with the President's counsel.[note 52] In private, Trump griped about Manfort, while publicly he rage tweeted about Manafort being treated unfairly. After Manafort had his bail revoked in June 2018, Trump's personal attorney, and Batboy of Weekly World News fame Rudy Giuliani, made several media appearances, floating the idea of pardoning Manafort.
The Eastern District of Virginia case began July 31.[note 53] Trump of course observed the proceedings with the dignity and respect:
This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!" "Paul Manafort worked for Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other highly prominent and respected political leaders. He worked for me for a very short time. Why didn't government tell me that he was under investigation. These old charges have nothing to do with Collusion — a Hoax Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and 'Public Enemy Number One,' or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement — although convicted of nothing? Where is the Russian Collusion?
By August 16, the jury began deliberating its verdict. In the following five days Guiliani would say the SCO needed to wrap up its investigation in weeks, and Trump would insult the SCO in support of Manafort. On August 21, Manafort was found guilty on eight counts, and to add to the bad news Michael Cohen pled guilty to eight offenses, including a campaign-finance violation that occurred ...in coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office. (Re: Individual 1 / Donald J Trump). Trump reacted angrily to the verdict and guilty plea from Cohen, comparing the two and stating Manafort didn't "break". Trump in a Fox News interview would continue to air his grievances against the SCO and question the legality of working with prosecutors. Manafort would later plead guilty to the charges brought the SCO to a avoid a DC trial, though in November that year the SCO would later rescind the plea agreement because they claimed Manafort had been untruthful. Later in an interview the President would again float the idea of a pardon.
The next couple of sections are redacted because they relate to Roger Stone.
Mueller Legal Analysis
The report identifies the public and private statements and communications from President Trump as the obstructive acts related to these three men. These amount witness tampering because the President was aware that Flynn, Manafort and Stone were connected to pending or anticipated proceedings (nexus to an official proceeding), as well the President was highly critical of any cooperation with the SCO by these men. Describing intent is a little difficult. The report identifies the actions toward Flynn as inconclusive, primarily because they are not party to communications before Flynn began cooperating with the SCO. In regards to Manafort, the report seems to identify intent in regards to keeping Manafort from cooperating with the SCO, especially with multiple statements from attorneys for and from the President regarding pardons. There is less certainty about statements made during the Manafort trial, because although Trump's statements may have had an influence on a jury, he also could have real sympathy for Manafort.Do You Believe That? All of the Stone section is redacted.
- Obstructive Act:Statements and communications from the President (publicly and privately) discouraging cooperation with the SCO
- Nexus to an Official Proceeding: Flynn, Manafort and Stone all were connected to active, pending or anticipated legal proceedings
- Intent: To keep Flynn, Manafort and Stone from cooperating with the SCO with promise of a reward
It sucks to draw a conclusion when you can't read a third of the evidence, but with regard to Manafort that sure meets the definition of obstruction of justice. And the behavior by the President towards these men is also highly irregular.
Part II.X: Michael "I would take a bullet for Mr. Trump" Cohen
As mentioned previously, Michael
"Bullet" Cohen was the personal attorney for Trump, but more in the mold of Michael Clayton than Perry Mason. This meant that Cohen bullied people, and took care of undesirable things, like paying off porn stars whom Trump had fucked. He was also a central figure in the aforementioned Trump Tower Moscow deal. Needless to say Cohen knows where the bodies are buried. Trump supported his attorney… right up until he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and various financial crimes as part of an agreement to cooperate with the SCO.
Starting with the Trump-Moscow Tower, Cohen kept candidate Trump updated on the progress and knew Trump was lying when he said he had no business with Russian businessmen or the Russian government. Cohen himself lied about the project to a reporter from the NYT. Lying to the media certainly isn't a crime, but… Cohen agreed to testify to Congress about the Trump-Moscow project after getting permission from Trump's personal counsel as part of a joint-defense agreement (JDA). The draft statement Cohen produced was circulated in the JDA, and contained four specific false statements:
First, although the Trump Organization continued to pursue the project until at least June 2016, the statement said, "The proposal was under consideration at the Trump Organization from September 2015 until the end of January 2016. By the end of January 2016, I determined that the proposal was not feasible for a variety of business reasons and should not be pursued further. Based on my business determinations, the Trump Organization abandoned the proposal." Second, although Cohen and candidate Trump had discussed possible travel to Russia by Trump to pursue the venture, the statement said, "Despite overtures by Mr. Sater, I never considered asking Mr. Trump to travel to Russia in connection with this proposal. I told Mr. Sater that Mr. Trump would not travel to Russia unless there was a definitive agreement in place." Third, although Cohen had regularly briefed Trump on the status of the project and had numerous conversations about it, the statement said, "Mr. Trump was never in contact with anyone about this proposal other than me on three occasions, including signing a non-binding letter of intent in 2015." Fourth, although Cohen's outreach to Peskov in January 2016 had resulted in a lengthy phone call with a representative from the Kremlin, the statement said that Cohen did "not recall any response to my email [to Peskov], nor any other contacts by me with Mr. Peskov or other Russian government officials about the proposal."
Cohen's initial draft also contained the sentence, "The building project led me to make limited contacts with Russian government officials." This was struck from the final statement. Cohen was under the impression that by falsely representing the facts, it would serve to minimize the links between the project and Trump. Cohen knew he was lying, but justified it believing he was protecting the President because nothing came of the deal.[note 54] Cohen doubled down on this narrative, serving as a source for a WaPo article, published the day before submitting his statement to Congress. Cohen would discuss strategy with the President before his testimony in October, releasing an opening statement that included multiple falsehoods, which the President approved of.
The report then details Cohen's fall from grace, starting in January 2018, when news broke the Cohen had arranged a $130,000 payment to a woman the President had sex with. In statements to the press, Cohen denied any involvement from Trump or the Trump Organization. This was false, and he had said it at the direction of President Trump. Months later the Southern District of New York would execute a search warrant for Cohen's home, hotel room and office.[note 55] Following this, Trump raged, considering the action "…an attack on our country" and multiple friends close to the President called Cohen to relay the President's support (the names of these individuals have been redacted for "Personal Privacy"). Trump's personal counsel as well as those affiliated with Trump's counsel would also relay the President's support and float the possibility of a pardon. Trump would later do an interview with the NYT where he said:
The New York Times and a third rate reporter … are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will 'flip. ' They use nonexistent 'sources' and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected. Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!
Turns out Cohen made a different calculation. Media reports came out of a second woman being paid off by Cohen (Karen McDougal), and by August 21, Cohen pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York to among other things, two campaign violations related to paying off women in the final weeks of the campaign. Trump would go on to rage tweet, praising Manafort and accusing Cohen of lying. The SCO submitted questions to the President about the Trump Moscow Project in September, who submitted answers in November. In the written answers, the President did not answer the specific questions posed by the SCO, only saying this:
This is plainly a lie. Cohen would later plead guilty to making false statements to Congress in part of an agreement with the SCO. Trump continued to lie when he heard about the agreement:
I had few conversations with Mr. Cohen on this subject. As I recall; they were brief, and they were not memorable. I was not enthused about the proposal, and I do not recall any discussion of travel to Russia in connection with it. I do not remember discussing it with anyone else at the Trump Organization, although it is possible. I do not recall being aware at the time of any communications between Mr. Cohen and Felix Sater and any Russian government official regarding the Letter of Intent.
I decided not to do the project … I decided ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it. If l did do it, there would have been nothing wrong. That was my business … It was an option that I decided not to do … I decided not to do it. The primary reason … T was focused on running for President … I was running my business while I was campaigning. There was a good chance that I wouldn't have won, in which case I would've gone back into the business. And why should I lose lots of opportunities?
Later in the same remarks Trump would call Cohen "weak" and a liar. Trump also sort of gave the game away with this remark: "Even if [Cohen] was right, it doesn't matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign."
In the weeks following, Trump escalated his attacks on Cohen by implicating Cohen's family in crimes:
'Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.' You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free. He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion serve a full and complete sentence."[note 56]
After Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, the President tweeted:
I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law … Those charges were just agreed to by him in order to embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence, which he did — including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me![note 57]
Days later he continued:
Remember, Michael Cohen only became a 'Rat' after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY'S OFFICE! Why didn't they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked's office?
When it became clear Cohen would agree to testify before Congress again, Trump kept up the bullshit in a Fox News interview with Jeanine Pirro:
[I]n order to get his sentence reduced, [Cohen] says "I have an idea, I'll ah, tell-I'll give you some information on the president." Well, there is no information. But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law because that's the one that people want to look at because where does that money-that's the money in the family. And I guess he didn't want to talk about his father-in-law, he's trying to get his sentence reduced. So it's ah, pretty sad. You know, it's weak and it's very sad to watch a thing like that.[note 58]
And continued attacking six days later:
Kevin Corke, @FoxNews 'Don't forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars … Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law
Cohen would later delay his Congressional testimony citing threats against his family. While one lawyer was under assault by the President, another lawyer was out confirming Cohen's account of events:
Giuliani gave press interviews that appeared to confirm Cohen's account that the Trump Organization pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project well past January 2016. Giuliani stated that "it's our understanding that [discussions about the Trump Moscow project] went on throughout 2016. Weren't a lot of them, but there were conversations. Can't be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations with him about it. The president also remembers-yeah, probably up-could be up to as far as October, November." In an interview with the New York Times, Giuliani quoted the President as saying that the discussions regarding the Trump Moscow project were "going on from the day I announced to the day I won."
Nothing to see here, just witness intimidation mixed with stupidity.
Mueller Legal Analysis
This is so fucking obvious, but for the sake of consistency…
We gathered evidence of the President's conduct related to Cohen on two issues: (i) whether the President or others aided or participated in Cohen's false statements to Congress, and (ii) whether the President took actions that would have the natural tendency to prevent Cohen from providing truthful information to the government.
The report is uncertain on the first because although Cohen never spoke with Trump directly about his testimony, he was aware of the submission and statements submitted to Congress because of the joint defense agreement, and showed support to Cohen maintaining a story in line with his own. The second is much more clear, because Trump's behavior changed dramatically in public from support to not cooperate to attacking Cohen's credibility and accusing his family of crimes when he did, as evidenced by his tweets and interview statements.
Nexus to an official proceeding:
The President's relevant conduct towards Cohen occurred when the President knew the Special Counsel's Office, Congress, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York were investigating Cohen's conduct. The President acknowledged through his public statements and tweets that Cohen potentially could cooperate with the government investigations.
In analyzing the President's intent in his actions towards Cohen as a potential witness, there is evidence that could support the inference that the President intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen's information would shed adverse light on the President's campaign-period conduct and statements.
There is a lot of detail here going over the tweets and statements the President made before and after Cohen started to cooperate with investigators. Included in Mueller's inference is that Cohen could assist in a variety of criminal investigations tied to Trump, so Cohen was an explicit threat, not only to the administration, but also to Trump personally. Mueller also analyzed the specific lie Trump told about Cohen's family:
Finally, the President's statements insinuating that members of Cohen's family committed crimes after Cohen began cooperating with the government could be viewed as an effort to retaliate against Cohen and chill further testimony adverse to the President by Cohen or others. It is possible that the President believes, as reflected in his tweets, that Cohen "ma[d]e up stories" in order to get a deal for himself and "get his wife and father-in-law … off Scott Free." It also is possible that the President's mention of Cohen's wife and father-in-law were not intended to affect Cohen as a witness but rather were part of a public-relations strategy aimed at discrediting Cohen and deflecting attention away from the President on Cohen-related matters. But the President's suggestion that Cohen's family members committed crimes happened more than once, including just before Cohen was sentenced (at the same time as the President stated that Cohen "should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence") and again just before Cohen was scheduled to testify before Congress. The timing of the statements supports an inference that they were intended at least in part to discourage Cohen from further cooperation.
- Obstructive Act: Encouraging Cohen not to cooperate and then insinuating he was not credible and his family committed crimes after Cohen agreed to cooperate
- Nexus to an Official Proceeding: Cohen had agreed to cooperate with investigations by the SCO and the SDNY.
- Intent: To stop Cohen from cooperating and sharing information about multiple investigations directly related to Trump, the Trump Organization and the Trump Administration
Part II.XI: Overarching Factual Issues
Although this report does not contain a traditional prosecution decision or declination decision, the evidence supports several general conclusions relevant to analysis of the facts concerning the President's course of conduct.
This section has two parts describing the difficulties that led to choosing not to make a decision about pursuing prosecution. The first part discusses how this fundamentally differs from other Obstruction of Justice investigations:
- It involves the President, and there may be Constitutional conflicts
- The act of Obstruction of Justice usually involves a crime, and that part of the investigation could not determine if there had been a crime (Though it is not necessary for a crime to have been committed)
- The President directed most of his obstructive behavior on Twitter, in full public view
The second part analyzes the power exerted by Trump in his capacity as President, including firing Comey, attempting to fire the SCO, trying to get Sessions to un-recuse, replacing Sessions entirely. As the report notes, most of these things were unsuccessful because those around the President didn't carry out his orders. Additionally Trump had two different postures during the course of the investigation, starting with trying to get the word out that he was not under investigation, then after firing Comey, launching public attacks of the investigation and those cooperating with the investigation, while working in private to limit the scope and encourage others not to cooperate with the investigation.
Part III: The Nixon Defense
The Special counsel received four letters from Trump's personal counsel providing statutory and constitutional defenses:
As a statutory matter, the President's counsel has argued that a core obstruction-of-justice statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), does not cover the President's actions. As a constitutional matter, the President's counsel argued that the President cannot obstruct justice by exercising his constitutional authority to close Department of Justice investigations or terminate the FBI Director. Under that view, any statute that restricts the President's exercise of those powers would impermissibly intrude on the President's constitutional role. The President's counsel has conceded that the President may be subject to criminal laws that do not directly involve exercises of his Article II authority, such as laws prohibiting bribing witnesses or suborning perjury. But counsel has made a categorical argument that "the President's exercise of his constitutional authority here to terminate an FBI Director and to close investigations cannot constitutionally constitute obstruction of justice."
Mueller's response to the statutory argument, "bullshit":
…we concluded that the President's proposed interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2) is contrary to the litigating position of the Department of Justice and is not supported by principles of statutory construction.
In analyzing the Constitutional arguments, the report acknowledges the DOJ does not have an appropriate resolution. So Mueller chose to examine it through Supreme Court precedent on the separation of powers. Again, Mueller calls bullshit:
Under that framework, we concluded, Article II of the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize the President from potential liability for the conduct that we investigated. Rather, our analysis led us to conclude that the obstruction-of-justice statutes can validly prohibit a President's corrupt efforts to use his official powers to curtail, end, or interfere with an investigation.
A reminder of the applicable obstruction-of-justice statute:
(c) Whoever corruptly-
(1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object's integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or
(2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.
The report makes clear there are multiple cases interpreting the application of this statute to a broad array of obstructive and corrupt acts.
Here Mueller makes it clear that there are limits to Article II Powers:
Applying the Court's framework for analysis, we concluded that Congress can validly regulate the President's exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice. The limited effect on presidential power that results from that restriction would not impermissibly undermine the President's ability to perform his Article II functions.
The report first looks at several OLC opinions about the fact that the President is exempted from many statutes,[note 59] but:
Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President, such as suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses, or fabricating evidence, because those prohibitions raise no separation-of-powers questions.
This in plain language, means Congress is the only remedy to deal with criminal behavior from the President, i.e. impeachment. Mueller closes with this:
In sum, contrary to the position taken by the President's counsel, we concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues, we had a valid basis for investigating the conduct at issue in this report. In our view, the application of the obstruction statutes would not impermissibly burden the President's performance of his Article II function to supervise prosecutorial conduct or to remove inferior law-enforcement officers. And the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person — including the President — accords with the fundamental principle of our government that "[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law."
Appendix C: "I Don't Recall"
As noted previously, the President did not sit for an interview with the SCO. He offered to answer questions, but only about Russian contacts, not about the transition or obstruction. This interview format is awful. Mueller didn't think too highly of the President's answers:
In December 2018, we informed counsel of the insufficiency of those responses in several respects. We noted, among other things, that the President stated on more than 30 occasions that he "does not 'recall' or 'remember' or have an 'independent recollection'" of information called for by the questions. Other answers were "incomplete or imprecise." The written responses, we informed counsel, "demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format, as we have had no opportunity to ask followup questions that would ensure complete answers and potentially refresh your client's recollection or clarify the extent or nature of his lack of recollection."
Again, this is a major problem with the SCO that they did not compel the President sit for an interview.
Delivery of the ReportThe report was delivered to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019. Barr furnished a letter to Congress, promising to review the report and release to the public what would be appropriate. Two days following, Barr released a letter "summarizing" its contents. This four-page document accurately describes the Russian interference portion of the report, but obstruction of justice?:
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. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel's office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel's obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel's final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation 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.
Yes you read that right. Looking at the actual report, there is no way to imagine that Barr's assessment of the report is accurate in any way. Mueller seemed to think so, releasing a document voicing his displeasure on March 28:
The summary letter the 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 new 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.
Barr didn't think much of the letter, but it's hard to argue that Mueller captured exactly what Barr's summary had done.
The Report is Public
The report was released to the public April 18, 2019. An hour or so before the report became available, Barr held a press conference at the DOJ. Flanked by Rosenstein, Barr set about expectation setting and spinning the results to the media, before anyone had actually read the report. At best this press conference was a misguided attempt to prepare the American public, and at worse it was an attempt by the administration to discredit the report in the eyes of Americans before they even had an opportunity to make up their own minds. The conference was widely panned, though Barr has pushed back that he was holding water for the Trump Administration.
Results of the Investigation
Throughout the course of the investigation, Trump and Republicans liked to complain about the enormous cost of the investigation, mentioning a price tag of around $40 million. Where Trump got this number no one knows, but the real number is closer to $32 million, mostly coming from personnel costs. However Mueller also recouped around $16 million, primarily from forfeitures from Manafort, Cohen and various fines. Overall Mueller's investigation secured the following legal judgement:
- Convicted George Papadopoulos of lying to the FBI, sentenced 14 days in jail, 12 months supervised release.
- Guilty plea from Richard Pinedo, stemming from helping Russian entities conceal financial transactions by making them appear to be American citizens.Cooperated with SCO as part of plea agreement.
- Guilty plea from Alex Van der Zwaan, stemming from lies made to the FBI about communications to Gates and Manafort. Sentenced to 30 days in jail, $20,000 fine and was deported.
- Guilty plea from Samuel Patten, for failing to register as a foreign agent, serving as a straw purchaser, working with Gates to funnel funds foreign funds to the Trump Inauguration Committee.
- Guilty plea from Rick Gates, stemming from financial crimes (including stealing money from Manafort) and lying to the FBI. Gates cooperation with the SCO has included testifying against Manafort and Greg Craig in a Muller adjacent case about Craig's work with Manafort's firm lobbying on behalf of the Ukranian government.Gates also has had to forfeit cash.
- Secured an eight count conviction in Virginia for Paul Manafort (sentenced to 47 months) as well as a guilty plea in DC, though the plea agreement was rescinded and the government asked for a stiff sentence (sentenced to 36 months) as well as forfeiting cash and his home.
- Guilty plea from Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI. He has yet to be sentenced because part of his plea agreement requires he fully cooperate with the government, and the judge overseeing his case questions if he has done enough.
- Convictions for Bijan Rafiekian[note 60] and Kamil Alptekin, who worked with Flynn lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government for the US to extradite a Turkish national living in the US, Fethullah Gulen. Gulen has been blamed by the Turkish government for the attempted Turkish coup in 2016, and was the target of a kidnapping scheme by Flynn.
- Guilty plea from Michael Cohen in New York for campaign finance violations and in DC for lying to Congress.Sentenced to three years in prison, though this was delayed several times while further cooperating with House Congressional investigations.
There is also pending litigation against:
- Konstantin Kilimnik, primarily related to his actions working with Manafort
- The Internet Research Agency, two of its shell companies, its primary financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, and twelve employees.
- Tweleve GRU Agents
- Roger Stone was found guilty on all seven counts. After a short trial and two days of deliberation, the jury found Stone guilty. The DOJ has asked that Stone be held in federal custody until his sentencing in February, where he is staring down a 20 year sentence for witness intimidation. The run up to the trial was insane, with Stone threatening violence to the presiding judge, violating the gag order the judge instituted after the incident, and then again less than a month later, as well as suing the SCO and attempting the get a copy of the fully redacted Mueller report, which could prove to be a major mistake. Stone's actions were later vindicated, first when Attorney General Barr interfered with the sentencing recommendation, leading all the prosecutors to resign. Barr insisted he wasn't influence by Trump's tweet about the subject, but that wasn't enough for Trump, who pardoned Stone in July.
Congressional Action (or lack there of)
Public response to the report's release has been muted at best. Few people have read the public version in its entirety, and Congressional representatives, who would be responsible for voting on Impeachment, have admitted they haven't read the report either. Justin Amash (MI-3) was among the Republicans who did read the report and announced that he supported bringing Articles of Impeachment against the President via Twitter. The move cost Amash his committee assignments and eventually he left the Republican Party. The newly-independent Amash continues to support an Impeachment Inquiry, the only non-Democrat in the House to support it as of August 2019.
With control of the House, Democrats Jerry Nadler (NY-10),[note 61] Elijah Cummings (MD-7)[note 62] and Adam Schiff (CA-28),[note 63] have been spearheading investigations of the Trump Administration. Nadler and Schiff have sought to use the Mueller Report as a tool in their investigations, seeking testimony from Don McGahn about the accuracy of his accounting in the Mueller report. McGahn did not comply with a subpoena sent by Nadler, and Democrats feeling the relevance of the report fading in the public eye sought to bring the report to life by having Mueller testify before Congress. Mueller was less than enthusiastic about doing so, stressing that "The report is my testimony." That wasn't good enough for House Democrats, who learned from the Watergate Investigations, the power that television had to illuminate investigations. Mueller reluctantly agreed to appear before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
Testimony on the Hill
Mueller was originally scheduled to appear on July 17, but this was delayed a week. Democrats seemed to want more time to sharpen their approach to Mueller questioning and attempt to negotiate Mueller expanding the scope and length of his testimony. Republicans were in full attack mode, blasting Democrats' gamesmanship, though generally avoiding criticizing Mueller himself. Mueller being the professional he is, agreed only to testify about the report, and stated that he would not read any of the report himself, a major blow to Democrats who really desired to frame the report as Mueller's own words. There was a minor kerfuffle about Mueller having access to a personal aide during his testimony, but he appeared before both committees on July 24.
Morning testimony was before the House Judiciary Committee. Mueller's opening statement made four things clear:
- The Russian government interfered in our election in a sweeping and systemic fashion.
- The investigation did not establish members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its interference efforts.
- Investigations into obstruction of justice was critically important.
- In the principle of fairness, the investigation did not make a determination of the behavior of the President amounted to a crime.
He closed with a warning:
And let me say one more thing. Over the course of my career, I've seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.
During the course of the first two hours, Mueller stuck to his strategy to only testify about the report. Democrats generally read a section of the report in Volume II, and asked it was accurate, and Mueller generally only answered in the affirmative. Republicans attempted to attack the report and its conclusion as well as Democrats for even calling Mueller to testify. Mueller seemed generally confused by the Republican questioning, oftentimes responding that he couldn't answer a specific question because it went beyond the scope he had agreed to. The two morning highlights came from an exchange with Democrat Ted Lieu (CA-33) where Mueller seemed to indicate the OLC memo was the only reason he had chosen not consider indicting the President (contradicting AG Barr).[note 64] The other came from an exchange with Republican Greg Steube (FL-17), who attacked the credibility of Mueller's investigators, which Mueller pushed back against.
The afternoon sessions was a bit more meaty, focused on Volume I of the report. With is opening statement, Mueller addressed how this portion of the investigation had an intelligence gathering arm, and referred counter-intelligence information to the FBI. Mueller also reiterated that he could not comment on things related to active criminal proceedings, or the Steele Dossier. Democrats tended to focus their questions on the facts of the report; Schiff started by confirming that a number of people lied to the SCO and the investigation was not in the words of Republicans and Trump a "witch hunt", Jim Himes (CT-9) illustrated the social media campaign in favor of Trump, Mike Quigley (IL-5) discussed WikiLeaks, which Mueller referred to as problematic with regard to Trump's praising of WikiLeaks' illegal behavior. Republicans chose again to attack the report and its conclusions. Devin Nunes (CA-22) whipped up wild conspiracies about Joseph Misfud and Konstantin Kilimnik (like our good friend User:RobSmith), Michael Turner (OH-10) pulled out props, questioning whether Mueller even had the authority to exonerate Trump.
All things considered, Mueller's testimony failed to move the needle in any significant way. Democrats were robbed of their opportunity to use Mueller on TV as the voice for impeachment, and Republicans failed to show Mueller to be unreliable and corrupt.
What's to be done?
Looking at the totality of events, it's clear that the Russia Investigation and the Mueller Report, have revealed the heightened political tribalism in the Trump era. Democrats and Republicans often made up their minds about the report without understanding or even reading the contents of the report. The mainstream media, which people rely on to summarize the report as it's understandable that it can be tedious to read it, has done a shitty job illustrating the contents, instead focusing on optics and the horse race rather than the relevation of an attack on our election system which we are unprepared to defend against when it happens again and that we have a President whose actions met the definition of obstruction of justice nine times and whose behavior is a threat to the integrity of legal system in the United States.
Also for consideration
Even if there are those convinced of Trump's total innocence of all criminal liability, this investigation has also revealed a sinister underside of political spending that desperately needs to be addressed. The guidelines for registering as a foreign agent must be more transparent and more stringent, to ensure Congress (and the American people) know who is paying lobbyists. There also needs to be a discussion of who can purchase political ads, as the Russian government exploited outdated guidelines to power its influence campaign, which other governments have exploited recently and will likely continue to exploit without major reforms. This says nothing about the efforts of the rich and powerful to protect their assets by lying on financial documents and hiding millions to avoid taxes. Instances of fraud from Cohen and Manafort speak to the need to increase the strength and size of the IRS and Treasury Department, to focus financial audits of larger firms and wealthier people and not people of color in the Mississippi River Delta and provide more tools so that shady foreign entities can't launder money through US entities.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report
In August 2020, The Senate Intelligence Committee finally released its final bipartisan report regarding Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election, a report that paralleled the Mueller investigation. The report's issuance was remarkable because it was bipartisan in a highly-partisan Congress, and for the fact that it took so long to be released (only 3 months before the 2020 presidential election). The noteworthy aspects of the report were:
- The report refutes the narrative put forth by Trump and Barr that the Russian interference was a hoax and that the Mueller investigation was a 'witch hunt'.
- The report refers to Manafort's contact, Konstantin Kilimnik, specifically as a 'Russian intelligence officer', whereas the Mueller report had only referred to Kilimnik as someone with 'ties to Russian intelligence'. The report states that the regular and increasing contact between Manafort and Kilimnik constituted a grave threat to the United States.
- The total extent of Russian contact and coordination with the 2016 Trump campaign will reamin unknown, primarily because Manafort lied so extensively following his plea deal (leading to the revocation of the plea deal).
- Kilimnik was not mentioned at all in the 2018 House of Representatives report on Russian interference, which was put forth by a GOP-controlled House of Represenatatives. The 2020 Senate report on the other hand mentions Kilimnik a total of 819 times.
Bob Mueller: American Zero?
The details of the final Senate report are damning on virtually every level. Mueller's detailed report came right up to the line on "collusion" but the Senate report basically says, "Yes, here is evidence of collusion". It validates the implication that Trump communicated with Stone about WikiLeaks, with admissions and evidence. It clearly indicates that it was more than a coincidence the Podesta email dump happened 32 minutes after the Access Hollywood drop, instead the campaign sought the release explicitly. And it doesn't just indicate Manafort shared some polling data, it details extensive communication between Manafort and a GRU asset (Kilimnik) about campaign strategy. How did Mueller miss this? Why wasn't it top of the report, there were three clear and detailed example of campaign violations that multiple lied about frequently? And what the hell makes people think Trump won't do the same thing in 2020?
- Bernie put up a good fight
- Because of course the logical answer to financial penalties imposed on you by another nation, is to punish families willing to adopt these children and pay for their medical expenses
- Though many jumped right back on the Trump Train a couple days later
- President Obama never met one-on-one with Comey or ever called him
- Definition 18 U.S.C. § 1503 defines "obstruction of justice" as an act that "corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice." Overview Someone obstructs justice when that person has a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding. For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, that person must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but that person must know (1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and (2) there must be a connection between the endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the person must have knowledge of this connection. § 1503 applies only to federal judicial proceedings. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1505, however, a defendant can be convicted of obstruction of justice by obstructing a pending proceeding before Congress or a federal administrative agency. A pending proceeding could include an informal investigation by an executive agency.
- United States v. Internet Research Agency, et al., No. 18-cr-32 (D.D.C.)
- United States v. Netyksho, et al., No. 18-cr-215 (D.D.C.)
- Social Media Influence in the 2016 US. Election, Hearing Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 115th Cong. 13 (11/1/17) (testimony of Colin Stretch, General Counsel of Facebook) ("We estimate that roughly 29 million people were served content in their News Feeds directly from the IRA's 80,000 posts over the two years. Posts from these Pages were also shared, liked, and followed by people on Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a story that originated from the Russian operation. Our best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served content from a Page associated with the IRA at some point during the two-year period."). The Facebook representative also testified that Facebook had identified 170 Instagram accounts that posted approximately 120,000 pieces of content during that time. Facebook did not offer an estimate of the audience reached via Instagram. (emphasis added)
- Apparently this asset has been extracted, primarily over concerns that the Russian government would identify the source and possibly over concerns the President would reveal the identity if the source.
- It has also been charged with hacking several doping and international sport associations. See United States v. Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, No. 18-263 (W.D. Pa.)
- exactly where is redacted
- It also released information about the GOP, but it was considerably smaller in scope
- He described Ms. Clinton as "a bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath", and if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black…
- And was apparently cheating on his wife, but that isn't a "crime"
- Though there is an odd precedent created when Ulysses S. Grant was arrested for speeding on his horse while he was president. The view that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime is a standing Justice Department policy, and not a settled Supreme Court decision.
- Obstruction-of-justice law "reaches all corrupt conduct capable of producing an effect that prevents justice from being duly administered, regardless of the means employed"... An "effort to influence" a proceeding can qualify as an endeavor to obstruct justice even if the effort was "subtle or circuitous" and "however cleverly or with whatever cloaking of purpose" it was made...The verbs '"obstruct or impede' are broad" and "can refer to anything that blocks, makes difficult, or hinders."
- Obstruction-of-justice law generally requires a nexus, or connection, to an official proceeding. In Section 1503, the nexus must be to pending "judicial or grand jury proceedings"...In Section 1505, the nexus can include a connection to a "pending" federal agency proceeding or a congressional inquiry or investigation. Under both statutes, the government must demonstrate "a relationship in time, causation, or logic" between the obstructive act and the proceeding or inquiry to be obstructed..."For purposes of' Section 1512, "an official proceeding need not be pending or about to be instituted at the time of the offense." 18 U.S.C. § 15 l 2(f)(l ). Although a proceeding need not already be in progress to trigger liability under Section 1512(c), a nexus to a contemplated proceeding still must be shown.
- The word "corruptly" provides the intent element for obstruction of justice and means acting "knowingly and dishonestly" or "with an improper motive"... (to act corruptly means to "act with an improper purpose and to engage in conduct knowingly and dishonestly with the specific intent to subvert, impede or obstruct" the relevant proceeding)...The requisite showing is made when a person acted with an intent to obtain an "improper advantage for [him]self or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others."
- (making it a crime to "knowingly use intimidation ... or corruptly persuade another person," or "engage in misleading conduct towards another person," with the intent to "influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding" or to "hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer . . . of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense"). To establish corrupt persuasion, it is sufficient that the defendant asked a potential witness to lie to investigators in contemplation of a likely federal investigation into his conduct.
- covers both substantive obstruction offenses and attempts to obstruct justice. Under general principles of attempt law, a person is guilty of an attempt when he has the intent to commit a substantive offense and takes an overt act that constitutes a substantial step towards that goal..."It is well established that a[ n] [obstruction-of-justice] offense is complete when one corruptly endeavors to obstruct or impede the due administration of justice; the prosecution need not prove that the due administration of justice was actually obstructed or impeded."
- quoting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov saying, "[t]here were contacts" and "I cannot say that all, but a number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives"
- Porter had a personal relationship with Hope Hicks, and agreed to cooperate with the SCO after he was fired and dumped.
- Big fan of the Rapture
- Who's believes Russia is a natural ally against the threat of Islamic extremism
- It is rumored that during this second meeting McGahn wondered what was wrong with the National Security Advisor lying to the VP
- Trump likes to lie and say Comey asked for the dinner, but White House records state he "extended a dinner invitation".
- Flynn listed the specific dates on which he remembered speaking with Kislyak, but the President corrected one of the dates he listed.
- Priebus recalled that the President hugged Flynn, shook his hand, and said, "We'll give you a good recommendation. You're a good guy. We'll take care of you."
- re:"Hoax" lol
- This was also Eisenberg's recommendation to McFarland.
- Another tidbit here is that Obama was apparently running pick-up basketball games with senior staff during his administration. Comey, 6'8", had never attended any of these.
- A former Trump associate, and general sleezeball who defended Joe McCarthy.
- It's worth repeating, White House Counsel is not the President's lawyer. White House counsel represents the Executive Branch, and is tasked with protecting those in the Executive Branch from criminal liability.
- A group of bipartisan Congress people that includes the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, House and Senate Minority leader, and the Chairpersons for four congressional intelligence committees
- Again, though the FBI and DOJ are under the Executive Branch, they are supposed to be independent from the President.
- Cause is not necessary.
- Though Coats could not himself recall this.
- That's four times for you guys counting at home
- Fifth fucking time
- If that isn't Orwellian I'm not sure what is.
- In this meeting Trump also revealed highly confidential information about an Israeli asset placed at the highest level of the Islamic State.
- It was really a bad idea to ask this.
- "In October 2011, Mueller resigned his family's membership from Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, in a letter that noted that 'we live in the District and find that we are unable to make full use of the Club' and then inquired "whether we would be entitled to a refund of a portion of our initial membership fee," which was paid in 1994. 10/12/11 Letter, Muellers to Trump National Golf Club. About two weeks later, the controller of the club responded that the Muellers' resignation would be effective October 31, 2011, and that they would be 'placed on a waitlist to be refunded on a first resigned / first refunded basis' in accordance with the club's legal documents. The Muellers have not had further contact with the club."
- As for Mueller's interview for FBI Director, Bannon recalled that the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI. Bannon said that, although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become Director again, he did not come in looking for the job.
- On May 23, 2017, the Department of Justice announced that ethics officials had determined that the Special Counsel's prior law firm position did not bar his service, generating media reports that Mueller had been cleared to serve.
- CEO of Newsmax
- Probably because he knew what he had been tasked to do was a crime.
- Remember Lewandowski doesn't work for the White House, and never had the authority to fire a Senate confirmed cabinet official.
- An honestly shocking bit of intelligence from Trump
- Indeed it was.
- "I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign."
- Gates would plead guilty in February 2018 and later testify against Manafort.
- it's nicknamed the "Rocket Docket" for the speed in which cases proceed, because often they are technical crimes and witnesses are minimal.
- Protip: Don't lie to Congress.
- Just an aside here, getting a no-knock search warrant requires an incredibly high bar. Getting a no-knock search warrant for an attorney requires an even higher bar.
- Emphasis added by the report.
- Emphasis added by the report
- Emphasis added by the report
- Which is kind of nuts when you think about it
- This conviction has been vacated by the judge. The decision largely rests on the belief that the evidence provided to the jury didn't seem to make it clear he was knowingly lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government. The DOJ could appeal the decision, but if it stands will not have the opportunity to try Mr. Rafiekan again
- Judiciary Committee
- Oversight Committee
- Intelligence Committee
- He would clarify this contradiction before the afternoon session, making clear they did not make a determination about whether the President committed a crime.
- FBI report, section 3, pdf page 44
- FBI report, section 3, pdf page 46
- President Ulysses S. Grant was once arrested for speeding on a horse-drawn carriage, proving the POTUS is not above the law by John Haltiwanger (Dec. 17, 2018, 12:32 PM) Business Insider.
- I've Watched Trump Testify Under Oath. It Isn't Pretty. In a 2007 deposition in my libel case (which he lost), he was underprepared and overconfident. by Timothy L. O'Brien (January 25, 2018, 6:24 AM PST) Bloomberg.
- President Trump has made 10,796 false or misleading claims over 869 days by Glenn Kessler (June 10, 2019) The Washington Post.
- See the Wikipedia article on Logan Act.
- Trump lawyer: I'd take a bullet for the president by John Bowden (09/07/17 04:57 PM EDT) The Hill.
- Letter to Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, Jerrold Nadler, Doug Collins by William P. Barr (March 24, 2019) The Attorney General.
- Nadler: 'This is formal impeachment proceedings by Andrew Desiderio (08/08/2019 09:07 PM EDT) Politico.
- Did Democrats already start an impeachment inquiry? It’s complicated. Would an impeachment inquiry by any other name smell as sweet? by Andrew Prokop (Aug 22, 2019, 2:30pm EDT) Vox.
- The Senate’s ‘grave’ Russia report: What we learned, and what it means by Aaron Blake (August 18, 2020 at 10:34 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- New evidence revives an old question: What counts as Trump-Russia collusion? A bipartisan report introduces previously undisclosed links between Russia’s hacking effort and Trump’s senior campaign team. by Philip Bump (August 18, 2020 at 8:54 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- Number of KILIMNIK mentions in Senate Russia report: 819 Number of KILIMNIK mentions in House GOP Russia report: 0 by Kyle Cheney (August 18, 2020) Twitter (archived from August 18, 2020).