A 448-page report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller gives an inside look at Donald Trump's tumultuous campaign and presidency and its possible links to Russians who tried to help win him the presidency. The report says there's not enough evidence to charge Trump with a crime, but it details vague responses to questions and staff members deleting key communications.
Here are some key takeaways from the Mueller report, the conclusion of a 22-month investigation that looked at the question of the Russian interference and whether the president tried to obstruct the probe.
Trump Cursed When Told of Mueller's Appointment
After the special counsel was appointed in May 2017, Trump reacted with anger: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m F*****,” according to notes from Jody Hunt, the attorney general’s chief of staff. Trump then told Jeff Sessions to resign as attorney general. Sessions submitted a resignation letter the next day, but Trump decided to retain Sessions.
Trump Demanded Mueller’s Removal
Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn in May 2017 to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to have Mueller removed as special counsel.
“McGahn's clear recollection was that the President directed him to tell Rosenstein not only that conflicts existed but also that ‘Mueller has to go,’” the report says.
McGahn refused the directive and was prepared to resign over it — he told then White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus that the President had asked him to “do crazy sh*t,” according to the report.
Mueller was never fired.
Trump was told he was under investigation
In December 2017, the special counsel’s office advised the president’s lawyers that Trump was the subject of an investigation — although Trump has repeatedly said since that he is not the subject of an investigation.
Mueller determined that the Trump campaign had not conspired or coordinated with the Russian government, but the president’s team did think it would benefit from the Russian attempts to publish stolen emails.
The report found that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign in what it called “sweeping and systemic fashion,” and also that the Trump campaign expected to benefit from those efforts.
"The Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” the report said.
Nonetheless “the investigation did not establish that member of the Trump Campaign conspired and coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the report said.
Barr in his letter to Congress reported the last sentence but omitted the sentence that the Trump campaign thought it would benefit from the stolen emails released on WikiLeaks.
Barr earlier told Congress that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the presidential election, one involving a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency, that used social media in the United States to “sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election,” and the second involving the Russian government’s efforts to hack into the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic party organizations and publish them through WikiLeaks and other groups.
According to Rick Gates, a top campaign official, "by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks."
Trump wanted more Clinton emails
After Trump, while a candidate, said on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he asked people affiliated with his campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails.
Michael Flynn, later his national security advisor, recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly. Flynn contacted many people in try to obtain the emails.
The Trump campaign did have "numerous" contacts with Russians
The investigation identified two kinds of connections between members of the Trump campaign and the Internet Research Agency — one by linking, retweeting or reposting pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content and two by meeting with agency employees posing as Americans to coordinate political rallies in the United States.
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale and Michael Flynn all liked or promoted social posts originally posted by the IRA.
If Mueller could have exonerated the president, he would have
Mueller wrote that because the members of his team were determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, they did not draw ultimate conclusions about the president’s actions and his intent. The evidence they obtained would “need to be resolved” if it were to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, the report said.
“At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report said. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Trump associates deleted “relevant communications”
The office said that some of those they interviewed or investigated, “including some associated with the Trump campaign,” had “deleted relevant communications” or used encrypted applications that did not provide for long-term retention of data.
In those cases the office could not corroborate witness statements or fully question witnesses about statements that “appeared inconsistent with other known facts.”
Therefore, the special counsel’s office could “not rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”
Trump agreed to respond to written responses on Russian-related questions, but not on obstruction
The report notes that Trump “did not similarly agree to provide written answers to question on obstruction topics or question on events during the transition.”
Mueller’s team sought to interview the president for more than a year, and considered issuing a subpoena for Trump but decided against it because of the likelihood of a long legal battle. Prosecutors also said they believed they had enough evidence and information from other sources to draw "relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility,” the report said.
The written answers that Trump did provide were not sufficient, according to the report.
“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 report said.
12 mystery cases have been referred to other jurisdictions
Two cases that were referred included the case against Trump’s longtime associate, Michael Cohen, to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on financial crimes that he pleaded guilty to and another involving lobbyist Gregory Craig, a White House counsel early in President Barack Obama’s administration who has been charged with making false statements about work for the Ukrainian government. But information about 12 other cases were redacted on grounds of “harm to ongoing matter.”
Why were no charges brought after the Trump Tower meeting?
Mueller’s office considered whether to charge Trump campaign officials in connection with a now-infamous meeting at Trump Tower in 2016, which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and others attended after Trump Jr. was told of an offer from Russia’s “Crown prosecutor” of “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to [Trump Jr.'s] father."
Trump Jr. responded, ”if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” But the lawyer who attended wanted to talk about adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, under which a group of prominent Russians were sanctioned for human rights violations.
Prosecutors noted in the report that federal election law bans contributions and donations by foreign nationals but they argued that the special counsel’s office would have difficulty proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the values of the promised documents and information exceeded the $2,000 threshold for a criminal violation or the $25,000 threshold for felony punishment.
“Although damaging opposition research is surely valuable to a campaign, it appears that the information ultimately delivered in the meeting was not valuable,” the report said.