Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 elections, released his report on Thursday. The U.S. political scene has been in a frenzy since then with politicians divided whether to start impeachment proceedings against President Trump or not.
And in true American capitalism fashion, the Mueller report is now a bestselling book and Robert Mueller a bestselling author! According to media reports, Skyhorse Publishing’s edition is No. 1 on Amazon’s chart (as of Friday afternoon), and it has 640 pages including Alan Dershowitz’s introduction and supplementary documents. Other publishers with a goldmine in their hands include Washington Post, as published by Scribner, and Melville House.
But for people who don’t have the money for these books, e-books, and audiobooks, the Mueller report is in PDF form available for free at the U.S. Department of Justice’s website. The 448-page report is lengthy, if not filled with legal jargon that the ordinary citizen will likely find overwhelming.
Here then is a quick look and explanation into the most notable sections from the Mueller report.
No Obstruction Due to Disobedience
Mueller was thorough in presenting evidence for and against allegations that President Trump tried to obstruct justice in connection to the investigation. At the heart of the issue was the President’s intent, as stated in the report.
To quote, “Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.” His efforts, however, “were mostly unsuccessful” because the President’s aides and associates refused to carry out his orders or requests.
Emphasis must be made that the charge of obstruction of justice usually depends on a person either changing or destroying evidence, or prejudicing an investigation, or encouraging another person to perform one or all of these actions. The defendant should be conscious of the illegal activity, or the wrongdoing being committed, or the action being omitted.
But Mueller goes on to state that while the report doesn’t make the conclusion that the “President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” The team was, in other words, unable to reach a definitive conclusion about the President’s obstruction of justice.
No Russian Conspiracy
Mueller’s investigation didn’t uncover evidence of a conspiracy between the Russian government and Trump, a finding that Trump apparently has found to his benefit nowadays. But the report clarified that “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
The report also pointed out the contacts made by Trump’s aides with Kremlin officials. These included the Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and members of Trump’s inner circle before the election. The multiple links between several of Trump’s campaign officials and persons with connections to the Russian government were also highlighted.
The links, the report also stated, included offers by the Russians to assist in Trump’s campaign during the 2016 elections. In some instances, Trump’s campaign officials were “receptive to the offer”.
Trump Tower Meeting A Tough Nut to Crack
And speaking of the notorious Trump Tower meeting, Mueller’s office once considered filing charges against Trump’s campaign officials in connection with said meeting. The June 16, 2016 meeting took place between Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort, all of whom were members of Trump’s inner campaign circle, and at least five other people including Natalia Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin, and Rob Goldstone, among others.
The allegations of wrongdoing included Russians offering damaging information (i.e., dirt) on Hillary Clinton and violations of federal campaign finance laws.
But Mueller and his team concluded that there was insufficient evidence to file charges against Trump and his aides and associates. The team also determined that it would be challenging to prove that these individuals acted deliberately and wilfully.
Inadequate Answers from Trump
Mueller pointed out that Trump’s answers to the investigative team’s questions were “inadequate”. Trump said numerous times – 30, in fact – that he didn’t “remember”, “recall” or possess and “independent recollection” to questions regarding the meeting and its related events.
Even for questions that Trump answered, Mueller said that these were either “incomplete or imprecise”. He even expressed frustration over it and considered issuing a subpoena to Trump. But since he decided that “significant progress” has been made in the investigation and he gathered sufficient evidence from other sources, he didn’t.
The bottom line: Mueller concluded that there was insufficient evidence necessary in supporting a conspiracy charge. This despite the numerous interactions between individuals associated with the Russian government and Trump associates.
But the release of the Mueller report raises more questions than it answers. Mueller’s exoneration of the President will likely be insufficient in allaying suspicion that Russia has interfered and continues to dip its hands in Trump’s administration.
The reactions to the Mueller’s report will make a significant impact, whether for the good or for the bad, on Trump’s administration and his legacy, as well as on the 2020 elections.