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Mueller report unable to conclude 'no criminal conduct occurred', read full report here

Posted: 2:40 AM, Apr 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-18 15:47:35-04
Countdown to the Mueller report

Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice could not clear President Donald Trump, according to a redacted version of the special counsel's report released Thursday.

The report details numerous cases in which Trump asked his aides to take actions to influence the investigation, but that they were unsuccessful because the aides refused his orders.

"The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests," Mueller says in the report.

Mueller also explains that the investigation into possible collusion found that members of the Trump campaign knew they would benefit from Russia's illegal actions to influence the election, but didn't take criminal steps to help.

The 448-page report, which includes two volumes and appendixes, paints a starkly different picture than the one laid out by Attorney General William Barr. On Thursday morning, before the report was released, Barr said that Mueller's investigation did not establish a conspiracy with the Russian government and that Mueller did not make a decision on obstruction. But the full report lays out a significantly more complicated picture as Mueller's team weighed whether to prosecute cases.

The report includes multiple episodes that were previously unknown, stemming from both the collusion and obstruction investigations, which are likely to fuel investigations in Congress into Trump. It's also likely to add to the wave of criticism Barr has faced from Democrats, who were infuriated that he held a press conference Thursday morning.

The Mueller report makes a case that Congress can continue to investigate Trump.

"With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice," the report says.

The investigation has clouded Trump's presidency for nearly two years, and Trump was clearly worried about the potential findings of Mueller, the former FBI director, the report shows.

In May 2017, after Trump learned of Mueller's appointment, Trump "slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency . I'm fucked.'"

Trump asked campaign aides to find Clinton's emails

After Trump publicly asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails at a July 2016 press conference, he privately and repeatedly "asked individuals affiliated with his campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails," the report says.

The public request was also followed within five hours by Russian intelligence's first effort to infiltrate Clinton's emails, the special counsel writes.

They sent 15 email accounts connected to Clinton's campaign malicious links, Mueller says. This was only a small part of the broad effort the Russians made to hack the Democratic Party for damaging information band election officials.

One of the campaign people Trump asked was Michael Flynn, who later told investigators that Trump repeatedly made the request, according to the report. Flynn then tried to get Clinton's emails and reached out to "multiple" associates -- including GOP operative Peter Smith, whose efforts have been detailed in press accounts.

Question of collusion

On the collusion investigation, Mueller specifically stated Trump's presidential campaign "showed interest" in WikiLeaks' releases of emails that the Russians stole from the Democrats to hurt his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton.

"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 the election interference activities," the report said.

Attorney General William Barr released the report Thursday after holding a press conference where he defended his conclusion there wasn't sufficient evidence to prosecute an obstruction case.

"After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes," Barr said.

Episodes of potential obstruction by Trump

In his evaluation of whether Trump obstructed justice, Mueller looked at a number of issues and areas involving the President and his aides focused on whether they were attempting to curtail the investigation.

Those areas include: the Trump campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump and conduct involving FBI Director James Comey and Flynn.

Mueller's report says that after the election, "the President expressed concerns to advisers that reports of Russia's election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election."

Other areas that Mueller probed: the President's reaction to the continuing Russia investigation; the firing of Comey; the appointment of the special counsel and efforts to remove him; efforts to curtail the special counsel; efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence; further efforts to have then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions take control of the investigation; efforts to have then-White House counsel Don McGahn deny that the President ordered him to have Mueller removed; conduct towards Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort; and conduct toward former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

Mueller did not make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on the obstruction question, Barr said. Instead, Barr said he concluded the evidence was "not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."

"The President took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation," Barr said.

Barr said the President's lawyers were permitted to read the redacted version of the report, but the President would not assert executive privilege.

Trump declares victory

At the White House, Trump said Thursday that he's having a "good day."

"They're having a good day. I'm having a good day, too. It was called no collusion. No obstruction," Trump said to cheers at a Wounded Warriors event at the White House.

"There never was by the way and there never will be. And we do have to get to the bottom of these things I will say. This should've never happened ... I say this in front of my friends, this should never happen to another president again. This hoax -- it should never happen again. Thank you."

The President did not answer questions from reporters after the event.

No subpoena

Mueller declined to subpoena the President because it would "delay" the investigation.

The special counsel believed it had the authority to subpoena Trump, but decided against doing so because it would delay the investigation, according to the report. The prosecutors also believed they already had a substantial amount of evidence.

"We made the decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation," the special counsel wrote in the report. "We had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President's testimony."

The report also says that while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting president may not be prosecuted, "it recognizes that a criminal investigation during a President's term is permissible."

The OLC opinion "also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office," the report says.

No prosecution of Trump Jr., Sessions

Mueller's team declined to prosecute Donald Trump, Jr., and members of the campaign for campaign finance violations for their participation in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, in part, because they couldn't prove that they "willfully" violated the law.

"Taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting," the report states.

They also didn't go after then-Sen. Jeff Sessions for making false statements or committing perjury to Congress during his confirmation hearing for attorney general in part because of the inexact wording of the questions.

Sessions testified that he did not have communications with Russians during the campaign. It was later revealed Sessions interacted with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and a campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

Previously unknown effort by Trump to get Sessions to curtail investigation

Mueller described a previously unknown example of the President's attempts to curtail the investigation involving Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Mueller says that on June 19, 2017, Trump met in the Oval Office with Lewandowski and dictated a message intended for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who at that point had recused himself from matters involving the probe.

In the message, Sessions was told to publicly announce the investigation was "'very unfair' to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the special counsel and 'let [him] move forward with investigation election meddling for future elections.'" Lewandowski told Trump he understood his instructions.

A month later, Trump checked back in with Lewandowski on the status of his message. Lewandowski said the message would be delivered soon.

Ultimately, Lewandowski declined to deliver the message personally, instead asking a senior White House official -- deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn -- to do it instead. Mueller's report says Dearborn was "uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through."

Fight over full report

Democrats have demanded to see Mueller's full, unredacted report, charging that Barr cannot be trusted to provide an accurate accounting of Mueller's findings as a Trump political appointee who previously argued against the merits of an obstruction case against the President.

RELATED: Top Democrats call for Mueller to testify

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer jointly called for Mueller to testify before Congress publicly, saying there was a "crisis of confidence" in Barr's independence and impartiality.

"We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the special counsel's investigation is for special counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible," they said.

Democrats have been particularly suspicious at the fact that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the decision there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute such a case.

Congressional Democrats have already authorized a subpoena for the full report and the underlying evidence, and they urged Barr to change course and provide them an unredacted version. They're likely to move forward now with the subpoena, which could spark a court battle between House Democrats and the Trump administration.

Barr said Thursday he would redact four types of information before making the report public: grand jury material, classified material, material about ongoing investigations and "information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties."

Congress would eventually get to see a version of the report that only redacts grand jury material, Barr said, but House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler made clear that was not sufficient.

"Because Congress requires this material in order to perform our constitutionally-mandated responsibilities, I will issue a subpoena for the full report and the underlying materials," Nadler said in a statement Thursday afternoon.