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The nearly two-year investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has concluded, with Mueller's final report delivered to Attorney General William Barr for review. Now, a groundbreaking collaboration between PBS NewsHour and FRONTLINE illuminates the complex details behind the Mueller investigation and analyzes what's yet to come.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has delivered his final report to the Department of Justice.
There are no further indictments being recommended. That's a big deal.
President Trump declares victory.
It was a complete and total exoneration.
Amid calls to release Mueller's entire report.
Democrats and Republicans demanding the full release of the report.
There was no collusion with Russia.
The story behind the Mueller investigation.
Justice Department naming special counsel to take over the investigation.
Tonight, a groundbreaking collaboration between "PBS NewsHour" and "Frontline": "The Mueller Report."
Good evening, and welcome to this PBS special, "The Mueller Report," from "Frontline" and the "PBS NewsHour."
I'm Judy Woodruff.
As we come on the air tonight, special counsel Robert Mueller's two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been completed and delivered to the attorney general of the United States, William Barr.
However, very little of the report itself has been made public, other than a letter from Barr to congressional leaders briefly summarizing its findings.
The letter says that the Mueller investigation concluded that, while the Russians tried to interfere in the election process to benefit then candidate Trump, there wasn't evidence that the president or his team conspired or coordinated with the Russians in this effort.
And on the question of whether the president obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation, the letter notes that the prosecutor didn't reach a decision on that matter. It says the Mueller report doesn't conclude that the president committed a crime. It also doesn't exonerate him.
Barr, however, said he concluded there was no obstruction.
Many members of Congress are now demanding to see the entire Mueller report. That will surely be debated vigorously in the days ahead.
But now seems an ideal moment to step back and examine what we know about how this investigation unfolded and to analyze its initial impact and the next steps to come.
Later in this special, I will talk to the president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and to some top legal minds, who will help us understand where this is headed.
But, first, our colleagues at "Frontline" have done extensive reporting about the Mueller investigation and the Trump team over the past year, until the report was delivered to the Department of Justice on Friday.
Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia investigation.
Bob Mueller has submitted his report to the attorney general, period.
The road to the Mueller report goes back to the 2016 presidential campaign and to Russia.
Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find…
Evidence of Russian interference had sparked a secret FBI investigation that followed Trump into the White House.
The very inauguration of President Trump, you know, poses challenges to the FBI, because they have investigations on Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman, Carter Page, foreign policy adviser to the president's campaign, George Papadopoulos, foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Michael Flynn, the national security adviser.
So, I mean, these are four people in the national security space who are all under FBI investigation.
Within the first week of Trump's presidency, FBI Director James Comey received a phone call.
Surprise call from the president. "Want to come over for dinner, Jim?"
And Comey says, "Uh, yes, sure, Mr. President."
When he arrived at the White House for dinner, Comey discovered the table had been set for two.
Two. Nobody else is going to be there, he and the president.
Suspicious of the president's motives for the meeting, Comey would type a record of the conversation.
"We sat facing each other at a small oval table set for two and placed in the center of the room."
Comey says the president had very nice words for him. And so it's this pleasant conversation. And then the president says, "Can I expect loyalty from you?"
"He needed loyalty and expected loyalty. I didn't reply, or even nod, or change my facial expression."
The president would ask for Comey's loyalty several times during the dinner.
It's a remarkable moment, a president demanding loyalty of an FBI director.
"He then returned to loyalty, saying, I need loyalty. I replied that he would always get honesty from me."
In the eyes of the White House, President Trump was feeling out Comey about where the investigation stood, how he was going to handle it. Comey saw it as intimidation, possible obstruction of justice. This is the moment where things really start to split.
Russia has come up again and again.
At the FBI, one of its investigations into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was picking up speed. Intelligence agencies had intercepted a phone call between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. And then Flynn had lied to the FBI about it.
He dissembles. He suggests that he didn't have such conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Court documents detail what happened.
"Flynn falsely stated that he didn't ask Russia's ambassador to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions."
Twenty-five days on the job, embattled National Security Adviser…
Flynn was forced to resign.
Shakeup for the Trump administration.
A tumultuous first month in office.
But he was still in jeopardy from the investigation.
The first major departure of President Trump's senior team.
Now the president took an extraordinary step.
On Valentine's Day 2017, there was a meeting in the Oval Office between the attorney general and the director of the FBI, Jim Comey.
As the meeting ended, the president wanted to speak to the FBI director alone.
So, he finally gets the two of them, just the two of them in the room, and then proceeds to get to work on the Michael Flynn issue.
"He began by saying he wanted to talk about Mike Flynn."
Saying, can you just kind of ease up on him? He's a really good guy.
"'I hope you can let this go.' I replied by saying, 'I agree he is a good guy,' but said no more."
Is the president asking the FBI director to stop looking at Russian interactions with the campaign? Is he trying to shut down a counterintelligence probe that began in July of 2016?
Trump's talking to the director of the FBI about an ongoing investigation by the FBI. And, at that point, he's really, from Comey's perspective, crossed the line.
It's really in direct contravention of policies that have been in place ever since Watergate to not have that type of interference by the White House in investigations undertaken by the department or the bureau.
Jim called me shortly after he left the White House. And I remember just listening to the details of that meeting and really being in a state of shock. That's when I realized that this wasn't simply a lack of sophistication or a lack of understanding about how we do our work. It was an active effort to influence what we were doing.
Once again , Comey typed his notes of the meeting on his laptop.
Comey begins opening his laptop and typing down the words, the phrases that he can remember the president said, because he's that scared of what this is that has just happened.
FRANK MONTOYA JR., Former FBI Special Agent in Charge: There's an old adage in the organization that, if it happened and you didn't write it down, it didn't happen. And so I think that he was thinking at that time that, you know, the president is at least walking himself down this trail to an investigation, where he could become subject to investigation, and I need to be able to document what has happened.
For the first time, FBI Director James Comey will reveal…
But Comey didn't back down.
Comey will be appearing before a House Intelligence Committee.
In fact, he went public in testimony before Congress.
And tell you what he knows. It's all public, on live television, no filter.
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Schiff, members of the committee, thank you for including me in today's hearing. I'm honored to be here representing the people of the FBI. I have been authorized by the Department of Justice…
And he says, "I have been authorized by the Department of Justice, you know, to confirm," and kind of all heads turn to the television in every newsroom in America. And we're saying, is Comey going to confirm on the record that they're investigating the Trump campaign?
That the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating 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.
He confirms this in front of these lawmakers. And that's kind of a big moment. Suddenly, we're off to the races. This is now, to Trump's mind, a direct and public threat to his presidency.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), California: I just want to make sure we get this on the record. Do you have any evidence that any current Trump White House or administration official coordinated with the Russian intelligence services?
Not a question I can answer.
ROBERT RAY, Former Independent Counsel:
That was the death knell, at least as we understand, of the president's thinking. Once he heard and saw that, because, like, apparently he was watching, that was — at least in his mind, that was the end of Jim Comey.
The head of the FBI dropped two bombshells landing at the White House doorstep.
Comey publicly confirming for the first time that the FBI…
As the headlines got worse, and under pressure from Comey, Trump left Washington. He headed for his country club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
SARAH ELLISON, The Washington Post:
It's a sort of rainy weekend in Bedminster. So, Donald Trump is supposed to be out golfing. He's stuck inside. He's in a sort of foul mood anyway.
The president was frustrated. His family was frustrated. They felt like they were being swept into this riptide of an investigation. And they thought, if they could just pluck Comey out, that maybe the investigation could end.
Also, new whirlwind developments reported in…
In Bedminster, on that rainy weekend, without any of his most senior staff members present, Donald Trump would make the most consequential decision of his first year in office.
Trump comes to the conclusion that, I can't put up with this anymore. I'm going to fire Jim Comey.
There's no consultation. There's just gut instinct and raw anger.
Trump dictated a letter to Comey.
It is a rant, the original draft. Nobody's original draft is that great, but this draft is Donald Trump unloading all of the reasons that Comey has failed him.
On Sunday, Donald Trump returned to Washington with the letter, determined to carry out his plan to stop Jim Comey once and for all.
Comey has been indicating that he knows so much more than he's letting on, and he's not..
Comey opens up another investigation into Trump.
And Comey isn't backing down. He's said he wouldn't do anything.
An active part of an FBI investigation, was there collusion between Trump associates?
The next morning in the West Wing, the word was out: Trump was preparing to take the fateful step of sending the letter.
Word gets back to Don McGahn, the White House counsel, that this document has been prepared. And he freaks out.
Our understanding is that Don McGahn reads that and says, yes, you — you don't want to send that.
Even Trump's abrasive adviser, Steve Bannon, was stunned.
Of all people, Steve Bannon is the one in the room who's saying, you can't get rid of this guy Jim Comey. This would be a terrible, terrible mistake. It's going to cause a firestorm.
STEVE BANNON, Former White House Chief Strategist:
Just play it out. If you do this, it's going to create a firestorm. The FBI, institutionally, has to bleed you out. You're just — they're not going to allow somebody to fire and humiliate the head of the FBI. And we're going to get a special counsel on top of it.
The White House counsel had a plan that might soften the blow.
McGahn had separately learned that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, also had concerns with Jim Comey. And he brokers this deal. So he basically says to the president, you know, Mr. President, you don't need to send that. You should really talk to Rod Rosenstein.
They set up a meeting between Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the president.
PHILIP RUCKER, The Washington Post:
The president lets them know he wants to fire James Comey. That's clear. And the directive for Sessions and Rosenstein is to draw up the rationale, to write memos explaining why they believe Comey had made mistakes on the job and deserved to be fired.
They had their orders. Rosenstein would build a case against Jim Comey's handling of the FBI.
Rod Rosenstein, this guy who's served 27 years in the Justice Department, a Boy Scout, he looks like a Boy Scout, and he thinks that Comey has violated the Justice Department norms by talking too much about Hillary Clinton during the election.
The president wanted the memo as soon as possible. It was a rush job. Rosenstein delivered it the next day.
Rod Rosenstein's memo echoed what a lot of the Hillary Clinton campaign people had been saying for months, that Comey had inserted himself into the election, he'd made himself too public, he had taken on a role that didn't really belong to him.
"The director ignored another longstanding principle: We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation."
Trump doesn't care about what Comey did to hurt Hillary Clinton. But it becomes the excuse, or at least the initial excuse, the White House uses to explain why they were firing the FBI director.
Donald Trump had fired hundreds of people face-to-face on "The Apprentice." This time, as president, it would be different.
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, Author, "TrumpNation": He just decides to do it. Trump isn't going to deliver the message himself. He sends his longtime bodyguard in a White House car with the pink slip over to the FBI to deliver the bad news.
Keith Schiller, the president's body man, can't get into the FBI. The FBI is not a place you can just walk in and be, like, I have a note for Comey, I'm from the White House.
Great. You're from the White House. Super. You can't come in here.
He dropped off the letter and left.
Breaking news: James Comey has been removed from heading the FBI.
The attorney general looked at me and said, "I don't know if you have heard, but we have had to fire the director of the FBI."
It was completely disorienting. Kind of in the blink of an eye, I immediately sensed that everything had changed. So I just looked at the attorney general and I said, "No, sir, I hadn't heard that."
As the news broke, a political firestorm erupted in Washington.
Amid mounting outrage on Capitol Hill . Some lawmakers are questioning the country's…
It comes off the heels of what many saw as devastating testimony.
Inside the White House, crisis.
CLIFF SIMS, Former Trump White House Aide:
Hope Hicks bursts in the door and says: "The president is watching TV. He's watching the coverage of the Comey firing. And there's no one out there to defend him. You guys aren't doing anything to fix this."
The White House is not interested in getting to the bottom of this.
At first, the White House's response was to point to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
SEAN SPICER, Former White House Press Secretary:
Deputy attorney general is a gentleman by the name of Rod Rosenstein — Rosenstein. He made a determination that the FBI director had lost his confidence.
The message from the White House is, we fired Comey because he botched the Hillary Clinton investigation, period.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN:
You know, to those who say, why now, why fire James Comey now, what do you say?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, Counselor to President Trump: Well, I would point them to the three letters that were received today, Anderson, the letter by President Donald Trump, the letter by Attorney General Sessions, and really the underlying report by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who the FBI director reports to.
HOWARD KURTZ, Author, "Media Matters": All of the people spinning on behalf of the White House told the press that the Comey firing was based on a memo from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, which had to do with Comey's performance in the Hillary Clinton investigation.
Well, the press wasn't buying that.
Right, but a lot of this…
And Mr. Rosenstein goes on to say…
Most of this letter focuses on Hillary Clinton's e-mails. This is stuff that, as a candidate, Donald Trump praised James Comey for. James Comey — Donald Trump talked about this.
Many questioning if Comey was fired because the White House feared…
The next morning, the president would celebrate Comey's firing behind closed doors with the two unlikely White House guests, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Just ahead today's meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.
President will meet with Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office.
He is the highest ranking Russian official that the president has met so far.
In a way, it's like a play. You can't believe it really happened. But the president is essentially celebrating with the Russian diplomats.
One day after firing the man heading that probe into the Trump campaign ties to Russia, the president…
No U.S.-based reporters, no American White House reporters are in the room.
Russians came in with a photographer from their state media agency, TASS, who took photos of this event, photos that were used, to some effect, in Russia as propaganda.
Terrible optics. Terrible optics, that just you couldn't have scripted it worse.
KAREN DEYOUNG, The Washington Post:
Trump says, We're going to have a great relationship. There's this investigation. It's just become a total irritant for me. And he says, Comey's firing, lifted a great weight for me. The guy was a nut job.
First the firing, now the fallout.
The crisis kept building.
Some are comparing Comey's firing to Richard Nixon's 1973 Saturday Night Massacre.
President Trump now facing outrage after firing Comey.
It is hard to overstate…
Then the president decided to speak out himself on his old network.
This is "NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt."
LESTER HOLT, NBC:
Tonight, stunning revelations from President Trump in our NBC News exclusive interview tonight, our wide-ranging…
Monday, you met with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
Did you ask for a recommendation?
What I did is, I was going to fire Comey, my decision. It wasn't…
You had made the decision before they came into your office?
I — I was going to fire Comey.
MATTHEW MILLER, Former Department of Justice Official: It is a dramatic moment to see the president come out, and not only completely undermine the case that his White House had been making. As spurious a case and as odd — transparent as a case it was, it still had been the official line. The president comes out and demolishes that case immediately.
So, you had already made the decision?
Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.
I think there's a level on which President Trump doesn't want to be portrayed as just doing the bidding of some aides who write a memo. He's the decider, to coin a phrase.
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 have won.
You know, the thing with Donald Trump is, he often says what he believes. And if you just wait long enough, he will — he will tell you the truth. I mean, he will say it.
It is the interview that will likely dominate…
The interview backfired.
The president's comments contradict the White House previous statements.
The president admitting Russia was on his mind.
At the FBI, acting Director Andrew McCabe was concerned that the president may have fired Comey to shut down the Russia investigation.
One possibility would be that the president who didn't want that issue investigated by the FBI was in fact in league with or influenced by the Russian government. And that is an unbelievably significant concern.
McCabe informed Rosenstein that the FBI wanted to investigate the president of the United States.
I alerted Rod to the fact that my investigators had recommended opening a case on the president of the United States for both possibility of obstruction of justice and the possibility of national security threat.
Rosenstein made a decision to appoint a special counsel to oversee the investigation.
Rosenstein said, I need someone to not only stabilize the investigation. I need to stabilize the Department of Justice. It had been under siege from President Trump, from public scrutiny.
He named one of the nation's legendary prosecutors, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. Mueller had a lifetime of preparation for this moment.
He volunteered to serve in Vietnam as a United States Marine, highly decorated, wounded in action.
In the '90s, Mueller had tried his hand in the private sector at a prestigious law firm. He hated it.
MARC FISHER, The Washington Post:
Four hundred thousand dollars a year. He felt like he wasn't doing the lord's work. He quit.
He took a substantial pay cut to become a line prosecutor. He worked homicide in Washington, D.C.
His great joy was putting away bad guys and answering his phone, "Mueller, Homicide."
Bob Mueller cares about one thing, and one thing only, indicting bad guys and putting them in prison.
A Republican, he'd run the FBI for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Pulled out of private practice, Robert Mueller was back at the center of the action.
We begin with breaking news, the White House in crisis. The Justice Department appointed a special counsel to…
FRANK MONTOYA JR.:
This is a guy who has no problem with holding people accountable, being direct and driven to get the answer, that he's going to do it right, you know, in accordance with the rule of law. That's all that matters.
Justice Department tonight naming a special counsel to take over the investigation.
He was announced as special counsel. And I just go, over my God, this is going to be a grind, because this is a guy that doesn't leave any stone unturned. I mean, now we have bought it.
and Mueller could expand the probe to include…
At the White House, the president happened to be meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions when Rosenstein called to announce Mueller's appointment.
J.D. GORDON, Trump Campaign Adviser:
President Trump doesn't like to get bad news, and this was bad news. It was more than bad news. It was terrible news.
And now you see him really unleash all his anger on Jeff Sessions and plainly tells Jeff Sessions that, you are the reason why all of this is happening.
Sessions, Trump's hand-picked attorney general, had recused himself from the Russia investigation. And now Sessions was powerless to stop Mueller.
CHRIS WHIPPLE, Author, "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency": Trump was furious and took it out on Sessions and humiliated him. Trump obviously felt himself endangered by a special counsel, and lost his temper.
There are things that Jeff Sessions apparently won't do for Donald Trump, and Donald Trump won't forgive him for that.
Sessions had had enough of the president's anger.
Sessions just ends up bolting out of the White House, rushing out to his car. He said: "You want me to quit? I'm going to quit."
He's resigning as attorney general. He's distraught, and he's had it. He's at the end of his rope. He's been insulted by Trump. He's decided that that's it.
In the West Wing, all hell broke loose.
Don McGahn, the legal counsel, bursts into Reince Priebus' office and says: "We have got trouble. Not only do we have a special counsel appointed, but Jeff Sessions has just resigned."
Priebus says, "You're kidding me."
Priebus goes running down the staircase into the West Wing parking lot.
Finds Sessions in his car preparing to leave. And he bangs on the door. "You got to come out. You got to come back in. You can't leave this way. You can't just blow up like this."
And Priebus essentially almost has to drag him back up into the West Wing, where Vice President Pence and Steve Bannon then come in and join Priebus and — and talk Sessions off the ledge.
I said: "Is there any doubt in your mind that this was divine providence that put us here?"
I said: "And you're never going to quit?"
And he says: "I will never quit."
"No matter how bad it gets?"
He goes, "I will never quit."
And that's why I knew he was going to hang in there. And he had some very, very, very tough days.
It's clear that the Mueller investigation is just getting started. We're going to head to Washington
Across town, in an undisclosed secure location, the new special counsel, Robert Mueller, was just getting started.
When you become a special prosecutor, they give you a piece of paper with a mandate. At that moment, you don't have anything else. You don't have a staff. You don't have agents. You don't have prosecutors. You don't even have a legal pad and a paper clip and a pen.
Mueller has quietly gathered a team of more than three dozen attorneys, investigators.
From his offices, Mueller built a formidable team.
I believe his term was ninja assassins.
This is like this moment at the beginning of the Avengers movies where all the superheroes are kind of spread across the globe, and Bob Mueller calls them all, and they all reassemble together in Washington to take on this new mission.
And the team Mueller has assembled may be the A-team of prosecutors for an entire generation.
Aaron Zebley, who was an FBI agent before becoming a prosecutor.
Michael Dreeben, who is one of the smartest people I know, who's argued over a hundred Supreme Court cases.
Jeannie Rhee, who was a highly respected prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office.
Andrew Weissmann, he has a reputation for being a scorched-earth prosecutor.
Mueller put Greg Andres on his team, who was an experienced mob prosecutor in New York.
I mean, that was the first sort of warning sign for the Trump White House, because, they're killers, Steve Bannon calls them.
Mueller's team had broad authority to investigate Russian interference, the Trump campaign, and, in the wake of the Comey firing, possible obstruction of justice by the president himself. Trump was under siege. In anger, he launched a counterattack.
"This is the single greatest witch-hunt of a politician in American history. There is no collusion and no obstruction. I should be given apology. You are witnessing the single greatest witch-hunt in American political history, led by some very bad and conflicted people."
The president definitely seized on that term witch-hunt. He used it again and again. He used it in tweets. He used it when he was at a microphone. It's something that he felt was working to undermine the Mueller investigation.
"After seven months of investigations and collusion with the Russians, nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad."
President Trump calling the Mueller investigation a witch-hunt has an impact in Washington, in that the people who want to be loyal to President Trump can use that same language.
"FOX & Friends" starts right now.
And, at FOX News, that's just what happened.
The president is really mad.
He tweeted this out: "As the phony Russian witch-hunt continues…"
NEWT GINGRICH (R), Former Speaker of the House: This is a very dangerous witch-hunt.
TRISH REGAN, FOX News:
Only because I think this is a witch-hunt.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX News:
And put an end to the political witch-hunt against President Trump.
At The New York Times, they had a lead on what would become the biggest story yet. They had discovered another meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
My colleagues and I had been doing some reporting on this, the idea that there was another Russian meeting that we didn't totally understand that had been undisclosed during the campaign.
They learned Donald Trump Jr. had hosted the meeting with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Also in the room, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The Times wanted a comment from the president, who was traveling on Air Force One.
My phone rings, and it's the Air Force One operator. "You know, can you please hold?"
"I know we were supposed to have a call. I know we're late. Can you just give us a little more time? We're working on this."
And, of course, we now know that, at the front of Air Force One, Hope Hicks and President Trump are kind of working on this statement.
The president had taken charge of writing the response.
He is at the center of it and driving it. You have the president physically dictating a message that he's going to put in the name of his son, Donald Trump Jr.
The lawyers for the president are losing their minds. They are not on Air Force One, but they are hearing secondhand that a statement is about to be issued to The New York Times.
ROBERT BENNETT, Former Attorney for President Bill Clinton: To write a statement, just — I mean, that's just amateur hour. But, in fairness to these lawyers, I mean, I — they couldn't control their client. They still can't control their client.
The White House response to a report in The New York Times that claims Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian.
Trump's statement, written for his son, said the meeting was about adoption of Russian orphans.
"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."
But there was a reason for the meeting that the president's statement didn't mention.
Last night, The New York Times published details about a meeting during the campaign involving a Kremlin-linked lawyer.
As the president returned to Washington, it didn't take long for the truth to come out.
The explosive news about President Trump and Russia, it involves Donald Trump Jr., breaking in the last…
It only takes about 24 hours for that statement to completely blow up.
A potential bombshell from the president's own son, Donald Trump Jr.
In the days that followed, The New York Times discovered a series of e-mails setting up the meeting.
Another day, other installment in the Russian election.
The next day, we reported that what had actually happened is that Don Jr. had been promised dirt on Hillary Clinton by this Russian lawyer.
"The crown prosecutor of Russia offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia, and would be very useful to your father."
In the e-mail setting up the meeting, Don Jr. was told that this meeting was part of the Russian government's efforts to support now-President Trump.
"This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information, but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
I mean, I remember saying, oh, my God. It says it — it says it in an e-mail? This is part of the Russian government's efforts to support Donald Trump?
And what does Don Jr. write back in an e-mail? "If it's what you say, I love it."
"I love it, especially later in the summer."
Coming on top of everything else that had come out about all these Russian contacts with the campaign, the Trump Tower e-mail trail was incredibly damning.
For his part, the president would downplay the importance of the meeting.
Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting. And, honestly, I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.
Now we have got another e-mail.
But special counsel Robert Mueller was paying close attention.
The laws in this country are very clear. It is absolutely forbidden from a foreign — for a foreign government or a foreign person for taking part in a domestic campaign. So it is — I can understand entirely why the Mueller team is focused on that meeting.
We have now learned there could have been at least eight people in the room.
Another question for Mueller's team, was there anything illegal about the president's misleading statement?
The president's lawyers, they're intensely concerned that the president has essentially now added to an obstruction case.
Mueller would look into the writing of that statement on Air Force One.
If the president's up there, and he's deliberately crafting a lie to cover the purpose of the meeting, is that another step in the obstruction investigation? Is it also another step in terms of the conspiracy/collusion investigation?
It shows that the Trump team was willing to engage with the Russians.
What is it that special counsel Robert Mueller knows?
And, before long, Mueller's investigation started to produce results.
Now there's this new reporting from The Wall Street Journal, reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller…
That special counsel Robert Mueller has issued subpoenas.
This morning, unsealing a guilty plea.
Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying about Russian contacts.
Former Trump aide George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to making false statements
Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates, were indicted on numerous charges ranging from conspiracy to money laundering.
Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates were told to surrender to federal authorities this morning.
Michael Flynn pled guilty to that charge of lying to the FBI.
White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying.
And then the FBI dramatically escalated the showdown.
Breaking news tonight, and it's a bombshell. The FBI raids the office of President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
The president, as he watched the raid on television, was furious.
Trump erupted. He was very upset. He was consumed by this news all day. It was very troubling for him and scary for him.
FBI raiding his office, his home, and a hotel room.
White House advisers are saying, can we turn off the televisions? All the president is doing, they say, is getting himself agitated. Click over to FOX.
This is a FOX News Alert. There's some breaking news today.
He watches CNN.
As the FBI raids the office of President Trump's personal lawyer.
He will go to MSNBC.
New York Times breaking the news in the last few minutes that the FBI has raided…
He will go back to CNN.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN:
Also seized e-mails, tax documents, and business records.
And he will just keep seeing those two words on the Chyron: "Michael Cohen." And it sends him into a rage.
BRET BAIER, FOX News:
The no-knock raids by FBI agents were the result of a referral by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Narrator To the president, it was a personal assault, from the FBI, the Department of Justice, and Robert Mueller.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Attorney:
A lawyer is just like a priest, a doctor, and a wife in terms of privilege. So I don't blame President Trump for being a little upset that somebody was looking into what he may have told his lawyers.
The Cohen raid was a sign Trump's personal life in New York was colliding with his presidency in Washington.
Cohen brings it right back to Trump Tower, to how Trump really operated for decades, having someone like Michael Cohen, not just a lawyer, but a fixer, at his side.
Cohen was infamous for his role in the Stormy Daniels story, orchestrating a hush money payment to the adult film star, who threatened to reveal a sexual encounter with Trump.
He cleans up messes. And an accusation about an affair, a demand for some kind of compensation to keep quiet, that's exactly the kind of problem that Cohen would like to try to solve for Donald Trump.
Michael is very good at killing stories. He's gotten Trump out of a lot of issues, I would — I would say. And that was his job, and he's done a good job out of it.
Now Cohen was the target of a federal investigation, one which could expose the work he did for the president.
There is a ton that he could tell prosecutors.
A very real possibility that he's going to cooperate.
Reportedly is connected to the Stormy Daniels story.
If he overstepped the line…
The day of the Cohen raid, the White House insisted it was business as usual. They invited the press into a national security meeting. But Trump wanted to go on the attack.
Come on in, folks. Come. Come in.
So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, good man. And it's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch-hunt.
The president is so enraged and obsessed with what's just happened that he can't keep himself from talking about it. At a public briefing, he repeatedly uses the words, disgrace, a disgrace.
And it's a disgrace. It's, frankly, a real disgrace. It's a — an attack on our country, in a true sense.
Something clearly happens with the president after Michael Cohen comes under scrutiny from the Department of Justice. The president views that very much as a threat to him.
These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I have ever seen. And I have this witch-hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now.
The investigation of Michael Cohen has to feel to the president like an arrow pointed directly at his chest. It has to feel that this is aimed precisely at uncovering the president's own history, both before he took office and since he took office, in ways that perhaps might be the most deeply sensitive to him.
This is a pure and simple witch-hunt. Thank you very much. Thank you.
It's a whole other avenue of potential exposure, criminal exposure, to the president.
Thank you all very much.
This was clearly someone who was a very close adviser and attorney to the president. And he was especially involved in what might be seen as the president's shady business.
The raid on Cohen, Mueller's continuing investigation, there was even talk of impeachment. The president was determined to escalate. He brought in a new lawyer.
The president has done nothing wrong, read my lips, nothing wrong.
He hires Rudy Giuliani, and he really hires a pit bull. He hires someone who is really going to be launching an offensive strategy.
There's been too much government misconduct. The crimes now have all been committed by the government and their agents.
Trump wants to be in warrior mode. Giuliani agrees. It goes from a private negotiation to a public war. And that's a turning point.
Trump and Giuliani initiated an unfettered attack against Mueller's investigation and any move toward impeachment.
Rudy Giuliani was going to change the strategy. He said, let's really make this into a political confrontation. Let's make it into a blue-red debate and conflict.
So our jury is — as it should be, is the American people. And the American people, yes, are Republicans, largely, independents, pretty substantially, and even some Democrats now question the legitimacy of it.
What Giuliani is saying is, impeachment will never get off the ground unless the public is behind it.
This is a FOX News Alert. President Trump is getting set to leave the White House.
In order to protect himself…
New strategy to take his message to the voters.
… the president worked to undermine public confidence in the Justice Department and the FBI.
In a campaign-style rally, a defiant President Trump.
When you look at what was going on at the top of the FBI, it is a disgrace, and everybody in this room understands it.
One thing we know about this president, he doesn't care about collateral damage. And he doesn't care about collateral damage on his associates. And he doesn't care about collateral damage on American institutions. And so the stakes could not be higher.
"It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened. Witch-hunt. I have the absolute right to pardon myself."
Look at what's happened. Look at how these politicians have fallen for this junk. Russian collusion. Give me a break.
As long as the country is sort of divided, and he has his defenders, he can undermine those who are attacking him.
Take a look at the intelligence agencies. Honestly, folks, let me tell you, let me tell you, it's a disgrace. We got to get back down to business. It's a disgrace.
It's basically a kind of divide-and-conquer kind of strategy. If we can stay in this kind of divided state, there will never be enough consensus behind the idea of impeachment to actually drive it forward.
Top story we're watching this morning, FBI agent Peter Strzok set to testify about…
Will defend himself against allegations of bias in a public hearing.
On Capitol Hill, House Republicans rallied behind the president and joined in his attack strategy.
The House oversight and judiciary hearing about to begin with the senior FBI agent.
The Republicans' target: top FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Testimony that you are about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Months before, Mueller had removed Strzok from his team.
Pete Strzok is the embodiment of the president's defenders' case that the FBI and the Justice Department are biased against Donald Trump and the people surrounding him, and this whole investigation is tainted.
The hearing focused on text messages critical of the future president between Strzok and an FBI attorney with whom he was having an affair.
You want me to read this?
Yes, sir. "OMG, he's an idiot."
Rep. Darrell Issa R-Calif.:
July 19, 2016.
"Hi. How is Trump, other than a douche? Melania?"
Rep. Darrell Issa:
July 21, 2016.
"Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be."
Ms. Page said: "Not ever going to become president, right? Right?"
"No. No, he's not. We will stop it."
Repeat that again.
Peter Strzok did and said things that gave them ammunition to say, well, you must be biased. Therefore, the whole investigation is biased. Therefore, the whole thing is discredited.
Strzok said his personal opinions didn't affect his work. And a DOJ inspector general's report found no evidence that it had.
Rep. Louie Gohmert R-Texas:
And you have come in here and said, I have no bias. And you do it with a straight face. And I watched you in the — in the private testimony you gave. And I told some of the other guys, he is really good. He's lying. He knows we know he's lying. And he could probably pass a polygraph. It's amazing.
Rep. Louie Gohmert:
No, this is my time.
Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry. Point of order.
It was an outcry of the Republican base, fed up with the establishment. A government was at war with itself in that moment, and Louie Gohmert was the congressman who personified that battle.
It's my time.
That's a disgrace.
The gentleman from Rhode Island will suspend.
No, the disgrace is what this man has done.
The gentleman from Texas will suspend for a moment.
There is the disgrace. And it won't be recaptured anytime soon, because of the damage you have done to the justice system.
And I can't help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eye and lie to her about Lisa Page?
Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous.
The credibility of a witness is always an issue and you…
Mr. Chairman, please.
Have you no decency?
This is intolerable harassment of the witness.
What is wrong with that? You need your medication?
Peter Strzok becomes a perfect exemplar for them, you know, the symbol of all that they can attach to this cabal at the top of the FBI.
President Trump is kicking off his weeklong trip to Europe.
The day after the Strzok hearing, Donald Trump was on his first presidential visit to the United Kingdom.
Also meeting with the queen of England.
As the highlight of any president's visit to the United Kingdom.
Just then, reporters at the Justice Department were told a surprise announcement was coming.
We were sitting in the seventh floor of the Justice Department waiting for this news conference to begin. The mood in that room was very tense. There was a lot of excitement. People were wondering what would happen. And on the screen was CNN footage.
Let me just stop you there. The deputy attorney general is speaking in Washington. Fascinating. Let's listen in.
Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in the election.
Rod Rosenstein came out and said, we have identified Russian GRU officers, down to the offices where they sat and their exact names.
According to the allegations…
It was a remarkable moment.
The defendants work for two units of the main intelligence directorate of the Russian general staff, known as the GRU.
It is by far the most extensive evidence laid out publicly that almost makes it irrefutable that Russia did do this.
The indictments were the work of special counsel Robert Mueller.
After a year of listening to Trump say, this is all a witch-hunt, this is all fake news, nothing is real, there was no collusion, here's Mueller's answer: Oh, really? Look at this. Look what we have.
When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it's important for us to avoid thinking politically, as Republicans or Democrats, and instead to think patriotically, as Americans.
Rosenstein, I'm quite sure, enjoyed going out there with an affirmation of Justice Department independence, to be able to announce these indictments about something that Trump says is a witch-hunt. He's been trashing this investigation for over a year. What a statement of DOJ independence.
Well, well. You have been listening to the deputy attorney general with a news conference timed literally as the U.S. president and his wife were walking into Windsor Castle for tea.
It was a dramatic scene. And for President Trump, yet again, the cloud, as he calls it, hangs over his entire presidency, that he doesn't really understand where it's going or what's coming next, and if it's coming for him.
With tensions between the U.S. and Russia at the highest level since the Cold War…
President Trump's Helsinki summit with President Vladimir Putin expected…
Three days later, in his first one-on-one summit with Vladimir Putin, President Trump showed little concern about the indictment of the Russian officers.
President Trump is standing next to the person who intelligence agencies say ordered the hacking and the meddling of our elections.
I have just concluded a meeting with President Putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries.
The staff has no idea what's going to happen, obviously. This is a president who doesn't stick to the script, so you never know for sure what — what he's going to say.
Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it's U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia.
I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish.
He launches into a monologue, a rampage about, we're to blame. The Russians might be to blame, but we're also to blame.
I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated. There was no collusion, at all. Everybody knows it.
President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.
My first question for you, sir, is, who do you believe?
Who do you believe? That's the starkest possible way to put that question — question to the president.
My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.
I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.
This was somebody who, only days after an indictment against Russian military officials, appeared to be siding with a foreign country, as opposed to the conclusions of U.S. intelligence and U.S. law enforcement.
I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
But, if you listen to his words, he's saying, well, my intelligence chief, Dan Coats, comes to me and says this, but Putin has told me very strongly that he didn't do it.
When Trump uses the words very strongly, he's using an adjective, to him, that means almost more than anything.
Just before the president left the stage, he had one final statement to make.
And — and I have to say, if anybody watched Peter Strzok testify over the last couple of days — and I was in Brussels watching it — it was a disgrace to the FBI, it was a disgrace to our country. And you would say, that was a total witch-hunt.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
The president of the United States cannot let go that someone is challenging his legitimacy.
Disgraceful play by the president.
Extraordinary moment in American history, something I thought I would never see.
There was an immediate sense that that had gone about as bad as it possibly could, that all of their efforts to corral him, prepare him for this moment had failed to protect the administration, to protect the president from his own worst impulses.
It appears Mueller has convinced yet another witness.
The Russia investigation heating up on several fronts.
Trump tried to walk back some of his remarks. But in the months that followed…
Conspiracy theory, deep state
… Mueller would close in on the president's inner circle.
Paul Manafort, guilty, sentenced to prison.
Paul Manafort convicted in federal court on financial crimes.
We got the guilty verdict in the Paul Manafort case.
Michael Cohen, guilty, and in testimony implicated the president.
His former lawyer implicating him in campaign finance violations.
Longtime associate of President Trump indicted overnight.
The president's longtime political adviser Roger Stone indicted.
And indicted by a grand jury.
Attorney general is stepping down, apparently…
Attorney General Jeff Sessions finally forced out.
Quite a dramatic night. Voters have decided on…
Democrats have actually won the House of Representatives.
And with Democrats now controlling the House…
House Democrats are already preparing for battle.
The oversight, the investigative committees will have Democratic heads.
… new investigations of the president are under way.
… it is going to be a combative environment
After almost two years, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has resulted in 37 indictments or guilty pleas…
Pins and needles.
… and 199 criminal charges.
… Robert Mueller. The investigation is now over.
Mueller's final report found that neither the president nor his campaign conspired with Russia.
The president greeted reporters with, no collusion, no collusion.
On the issue of obstruction of justice, the special counsel made no determination.
What we have learned, quite frankly, raises a lot of new questions.
He wrote: "While this report doesn't conclude that the president committed a crime, it also doesn't exonerate him."
Boy, I will tell you, it's very confusing in here. The report didn't make a decision on obstruction of justice.
And the House judiciary investigating potential obstruction of justice.
Democrats may have a very different take on the findings in that report.
Democrats pushing to see everything, everything that Robert Mueller put together.
And welcome again to this PBS special.
As Washington and the whole country take stock of the attorney general's summary of the Mueller report and its limited description of conclusions reached about conspiracy and obstruction of justice, many, especially Democrats, are demanding to see the entire report. With that in mind, I spoke earlier today with President Trump's personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Mayor Rudy Giuliani, thank you very much for joining us.
You said earlier today that the Mueller investigation was bad for the country. What do you make of the findings in terms of all we know right now?
Well, what I meant by that was, it turns out that this never happened.
So, there never should have been an investigation. I think the conclusion was good for the country. I think that they came to the conclusion definitively that there was no collusion. They came to the conclusion that they could not charge a crime with regard to obstruction.
And then the attorney general and Rod Rosenstein, the Office of Legal Counsel, because they punted it to them to make the decision, came to the decision, which I think is quite correct, that there is no element of obstruction here. And, therefore, why do we have this investigation, just to prove — I guess maybe I was in an unusual position.
I was on the campaign for four or five months. I never saw anything that even gave the whiff of some kind of collusion with Russians. It's — the president from the very beginning has been mystified as to how this could be.
How comfortable are you concluding that the president is not implicated, if not on the Russia collusion question, but on obstruction of justice, when we are told that Mr. Mueller said he couldn't reach a conclusion about that?
I'm not troubled at all.
First of all, here's the big takeaway. There was never a reason for the investigation. There was no crime committed. They were investigating what turned out to be a non-crime.
So, as the attorney general points out in his excellent two paragraphs analyzing it, it is very, very hard to commit obstruction of justice when you didn't commit the crime. It is hard to prove the intent for obstruction of justice. Doesn't mean you can't, but it is very hard to do.
Second, he didn't do any of the acts that traditionally are required for obstruction of justice, meaning, he didn't threaten anybody. He didn't destroy evidence, as Hillary Clinton did. He didn't delete e-mails. He turned over 1.4 million documents. He turned every message, every e-mail, everything they asked for.
There isn't a single thing they didn't get. You see no complaint about that. He didn't object to any of the witnesses. He could have. Bill Clinton did that. Bill Clinton objected to almost every witness. President Trump didn't object to anyone testifying. They got everything that they asked for.
Two other quick questions, Mayor Giuliani. One is, you and the president's other attorneys recommended that he not sit down for an interview with the special counsel, Robert Mueller. At one point, you called it a perjury trap.
Do you believe that any of these conclusions would have been different, findings would be different, had the president sat down?
No. They have all the — they have the explanations that the president would have given, had he sat down for an interview.
The president has given them on numerous occasions, by interviews, tweeting. They couldn't show us a question that they needed an answer to. So, that is why I believe they only wanted him for the purpose of trapping him into perjury.
So, you are saying that Mueller and his team didn't act honorably, because you said they were setting a perjury trap? You didn't walk into it.
You are darn right they didn't act honorably. Look what they did to Manafort. They got him in solitary confinement. They go question him every four days and try to get him to lie.
But is there a…
After a while — after a while…
After a while, that gets close to subornation of perjury.
The first four times — the first four times a guy you are bringing out of solitary tells you it didn't happen the way you want me to say it, by the fifth or sixth time, you are getting pretty darn close to suborning perjury. Luckily, Manafort wouldn't lie.
So you are saying they didn't act honorably, but their conclusion is the correct one. I mean, is that a contradiction?
They had no choice.
Not at all. They had no choice. What are they going to do, make things up? They had no choice. There is no evidence. They can't create it. They tried darn hard to create it. So, he was cleared by a biased staff, because, hard as they tried, however many rules they just ignored, they couldn't get what they needed, because, how about this, Judy, it didn't happen.
There was no collusion, and there was no obstruction.
Will the president, do you think, pardon any of the people who were indicted and found guilty under — by Robert Mueller, whether it is Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, anybody else?
I was asked that question by numerous reporters during the investigation. I was asked that question by some lawyers. And the answer is always the same.
The president is not going to consider pardons. He's not going to give any pardons. If that happens, it has to happen in the future, and nobody has a promise of it. Nobody should assume it. But he — obviously, he has power to do it. But have I no reason to believe he's going to exercise it.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, attorney to the president, thank you very much.
Thanks, Judy. Thank you. Thank you.
From Mayor Giuliani, we turn now to explore some of the legal questions answered and unanswered by the attorney general's summary of the Mueller report.
And we do that with Mary McCord. She's the former acting assistant attorney general for national security in the Obama administration. And she's a former federal prosecutor. Matthew Miller, he was the spokesman for the Department of Justice during the Obama administration.
Robert Ray, he was the independent counsel investigating President Clinton during the Whitewater investigation. And C. Boyden Gray, he served as White House counsel for President George H.W. Bush. We welcome all of you to the program. Thank you for being here. So, we just heard from Mayor Giuliani.
But what I want to ask — talk to all of you about for a few minutes is what we know, and actually how little we know, because it is the summary that the attorney general has given us from the Mueller report.
First of all, about conspiracy, whether there was conspiracy, coordination with the Russians, and what you have is a conclusion from the attorney general, says, after two years of investigation, Matthew Miller, the conclusion is, reached no conspiracy, no coordination. They don't use the word collusion, but nothing there. So, does Mr. Barr's summary answer all your questions?
No, not at all.
I think it answers the most significant question, was, could the special counsel prove a crime? Was he ready to charge a crime in court that he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to conspiracy with the Russian government by either the president or someone on his campaign?
And the answer to that question is no. It doesn't answer other questions about whether there was, you know, other types of collusion, or whether — it doesn't answer the question of whether he thought that it happened, but he couldn't prove it, whether there was no evidence at all.
I think the questions that the American people ought to have and that the Congress ought to have, and that hopefully will be answered when they see the full report, is, what could they show? How much evidence was there?
Did they have a theory that there was in some ways collusion out in the open, where you had the Trump campaign that knew what the Russians were doing, that encouraged them publicly, that encouraged them privately at times, and the Russians, who knew that Trump was a candidate who would back policies they supported?
And so, while there was no crime that was committed, there was a kind of collusion out in the open, where both sides knew what the other side wanted and were willing to act in a way that would encourage it.
Robert Ray, what about that, I mean, questions or not coming out of this?
Well, the last part of that, I think, is a little too fuzzy for my tastes. And that is not what prosecutors do.
Prosecutors decided, based upon an investigation, this one taking 22 months, and a lot of witnesses and a lot of subpoenas, and a lot of documents, and a lot of search warrants to decide whether or not you have a case in good faith that a prosecutor believes could be submitted to a jury, and that a jury would unanimously return a verdict as guilty, and that that determination would be sustained on appeal.
That is all a prosecutor does, gathers facts in order to make a prosecutorial judgment. And the judgment here with regard to collusion, conspiracy, and the Russian interference with the election is that members of the Trump campaign, including the president, that there's not a sustainable case, meaning there's not sufficient evidence to prove that a crime was committed there. That's telling you a fair amount. Does it tell you everything? No.
I imagine, in the next couple of weeks, probably, we will expect to see a disclosure in some fashion of the report that Bob Mueller provided to the attorney general, because that's what the attorney general has committed to do.
There are certain impediments we can talk about later…
… about how it's not going to be every single thing that was disclosed to the attorney general.
But I imagine, if the attorney general is true to his word — and I expect he will be — it will be transparent.
Mary McCord, what about this?
I mean, as you look at this, how many questions are still in your mind? Or does Mr. Barr's summary satisfy you?
Well, obviously, it's very limited, the summary. And I agree really what the other — the other panelists have said about some of the limitations of what is in here.
And I think another point, to be clear, is that conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime or to defraud the United States. And so Mr. Ray got it correctly in saying, of course, that prosecutors have to determine that every element of a crime could be met by evidence beyond — that would prove it beyond a reasonable doubt before they can bring charges.
So, what this is saying is — and what the — what the quotation from the Mueller report that A.G. Barr included in his letter to Congress is, is that the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign had conspired or colluded with the Russian government.
So — and, again, conspired meaning to commit a crime, with that — with that knowledge that the — and intent that the goal of the conspiracy was to commit a crime.
So, that's very different than sort of public encouragement of the activity or expressing approval of it or a desire for it to continue. That's — that's not the same as actually coming to an agreement to commit a crime.
Or the president, Boyden Gray, at a news conference or a speech saying to the crowd in general, or — and to — he said to the Russians, go ahead and see if you can turn up Hillary Clinton's e-mails.
I mean, there's a difference here.
C. Boyden Gray:
Oh, there is a big difference, sure, I mean, what he says publicly and what he actually does, and what his staff does, what his campaign aides do or did or did not do.
That's what really — what really matters. There's a narrative that always underlay much of the investigation, which was that here's a man who does everything Putin wants him to do. And so that creates a suspicion.
And what I find so difficult about that is, is that he is — has done very well the one thing that hurts the Russians most, that brought down the Soviet Union in the mid-'80s, which is press our energy policy to really endanger their core financial solidarity.
So, he was not doing Putin's bidding. And that's a false narrative from the very, very beginning.
You're talking about policy moves that the president made.
Well, let's — I mean, there's a lot to talk about here. Again, we don't have the whole report. We have the summary from the attorney general.
But let's turn now to the other principal conclusion from the Mueller report, and this has to do with obstruction of justice. The attorney general, William Barr, wrote the while the report did not conclude that the president committed that crime of obstruction, neither did it exonerate him.
But the attorney general also wrote that he and his deputy came down clearly on the side of President Trump on this question, that the evidence isn't there, nor is the intent. That was enough to spark opposing reactions to this.
There was no obstruction, and none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration. It's a shame that our country had to go through this.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler D-N.Y.:
These conclusions raise more questions than they answer, given the fact that Mueller uncovered evidence that, in his own words, does not exonerate the president.
Given these questions, it is imperative that the attorney general release the full report and the underlying evidence.
So, Robert Ray, what are we left with here?
I mean, I just say, on that point, prosecutors are not in the business of handing out exonerations.
You don't typically get an exoneration card after a full and fair investigation and apologies from Uncle Sam for investigating you to say, listen, we — we did an investigation, we didn't find anything, and not only are we going to make the determination to prosecute you, but we're going to hold a press conference to say that you have been completely exonerated.
That typically does not happen. So, I mean, look, the president's entitled to say, based upon a prosecutorial determination by the Justice Department, whether it be Bob Mueller in connection with the collusion piece, or Bill Barr with regard to the obstruction piece, that he's been vindicated, because the department decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution, right? Exoneration is more of the political notion of, I can walk away from this saying, I was — the president's position — I was right all along. I told you there wasn't collusion.
And with regard to obstruction, as he's been quoted in the piece that you ran in the special previously, lookit, how — how can you be seen to have obstructed an investigation, as a practical matter, that didn't have foundation to begin with?
But if you — but when you have the attorney — the special prosecutor, Matt Miller, saying, I don't know — I can't say which one it is, because I have evidence on both sides, it's difficult, and then the attorney general says, well, I think it's this way, what do we make of that?
I find the attorney general's decision to make that determination somewhat troubling, because we don't know why the special counsel didn't make a determination.
I doubt very much he didn't make the decision because he thought it was too hard, or because he thought it — thought it was difficult. He would have — if he felt it was appropriate for the Justice Department to make that decision, I feel pretty confident he would have made a decision, or at least made a recommendation to the attorney general. It's very unusual for a decision to come to the attorney general without a recommendation from the prosecutors down the line. I suspect — and I think we will see this when we see the full report — that the reason Bob Mueller didn't make a prosecutorial determination on the obstruction question is because the Justice Department's opinion is that the president can't be indicted. So, if he can't be indicted, there's no reason for the special counsel to make that determination.
In fact, there are good reasons for him not to do so.
Although he — the attorney general did say that that did not weigh into…
Well, into his — into the attorney general's determination, not necessarily into the special counsel's determination.
Well, I — but I think there's more to it than just a factual issue about what Bob Mueller was confronted with. And I think we — I think — I agree with you. I think we're going to find out more. We don't quite know the answer to it.
But I would suggest that, in that regard, I think there's a policy issue that that's created too, by virtue of an investigation of a president and the office of the president, and evaluating conduct relative to the obstruction of justice statutes.
And, as Attorney General Barr in his now famous memo to the Justice Department prior to his confirmation explained, there's a substantial legal question relative to the president's conduct. When he is the executive branch, he can hire and fire as he pleases…
And that is…
… for any reason or for no reason at all.
And to try to then evaluate that in terms of what would be needed to be proved in order to make an obstruction — obstruction case, which is corrupt intent, and I think there's not only legal — not only factual barriers to that conclusion, but also some substantial legal hurdles to overcome.
And from a policy perspective, I think it was important for the Justice Department to speak with one voice. And that voice should be the attorney general, because the resolution of this investigation on the obstruction piece not only resolves it with regard to this president, but this is precedent that will be used and considered for many years to come about how to evaluate presidential conduct in terms of application to the obstruction statute.
And I want — Boyden Gray, coming back, though, to the fact that the attorney general weighed in on one side or another after the special counsel did not, doesn't that — isn't it going to continue to leave a question, a cloud, whatever you want to call it, over this determination?
I don't see how. I don't see why, because, in a sense, once the special counsel decides he cannot prosecute, for whatever reason — and I don't think it's because he felt he couldn't indict a sitting — I think that's — that's — he never got to that point.
Once that happens, it's really over. I do agree that it's a very good thing that Rosenstein and the attorney general both, the deputy and the attorney general both agreed on this outcome, because that means the top leadership of the department was backing up — in a sense, backing up Mueller's findings.
But it is absolutely and definitely not the province of any prosecutor, any special counsel to exonerate or convict anybody. Only a jury or a judge can convict. And there's no reason to even mention exoneration, because no prosecutor can exonerate.
Mary McCord, how do you read this?
Well, I would also agree there's no reason to mention exoneration, and that includes President Trump and his counsel shouldn't be mentioning exoneration.
Clearly, what the special counsel said is, this does not exonerate him. That's crystal clear. That's quoted by A.G. Barr in his letter to Congress.
I think what's — I think we're not going to know, until — unless and until we see more of the report, why Bob Mueller decided not to make a recommendation. I think it could be — have to do with the fact that the DOJ was never going to indict, and he might have wanted to put this decision to Congress.
It could be because he reports to the attorney general, or the acting attorney general. Before, it was A.G. Barr, when A.G. Sessions was recused. And he thought that decision in a case of this significance should be made by the attorney general. I have no quarrel with that. I think, though, that what we haven't yet discussed is the fact that it's crystal clear that there is evidence here that at least went toward a potential charge of obstruction. And the A.G. then made the determination, based on really what Supreme Court precedent says is a very limited kind of understanding of what obstruction applies to, and decided to come down with the fact that the evidence would not support and sustain those charges.
Reasonable minds may differ with that if they see the evidence, if it ever comes to light.
And, as we said, he was joined in by the deputy attorney general.
Yes, and I think that's about right. I think that's right. C. Boyden Gray: It's not for the Congress.
Some talk yesterday, throughout the day was, well, this is really for Congress to decide. Barr can't do it.
No, Congress doesn't prosecute. But they can — they can make a decision about impeachment, high crimes and misdemeanors. But for an actual criminal prosecution, they have no say.
Oh, and I totally agree with that.
And I think it would have been a mistake, as some people have suggested, that Attorney General Barr should not have stepped into that void and should just to have allowed Bob Mueller to refrain from…
Leave the uncertainty there.Judy Woodruff: Yes.
I think you're absolutely correct. Matthew Miller: He could…
The job of the special counsel's investigation leading to — back to the department under the special counsel regulations, is to make a decision, and a decision needed to be made.
All right, now we're going to turn to literally what's next, what comes after what we know right now, for the legal, for the political ramifications of this investigation.
Congressional reaction, we have been talking about it. It has fallen mostly along partisan lines, some Republicans questioning the very premise of the investigation in the first place.
Sen. Lindsey Graham R-S.C.:
A counterintelligence investigation is designed to protect the entity being targeted by a foreign power. How did it fail and break down here? Was it a ruse to get into the Trump campaign? I don't know, but I'm going to try to find out.
Sen. Chuck Schumer D-N.Y.:
Neither the Congress, nor the public has seen the report itself. So it's evident, it is self-evident, overwhelmingly, in the public interest for the Mueller report to be released to the people.
And I want to bring in now reporters covering all of this, all of whom you just saw in that "Frontline" documentary. The "NewsHour"'s Lisa Desjardins, she's at Capitol — Capitol Hill, while Yamiche Alcindor joins us from the White House. And Robert Costa of The Washington Post, he's also moderator of "Washington week," he's with us tonight as well.
Hello to all of you.
And, Yamiche, I want to turn to you.
We have been talking about the president's reaction, and whether and when there is going to be more to see. What is the White House saying right now about how much more we should see, whether we should see the entire Mueller report?
So, the president has been taking a victory lap. That began this weekend when he learned that he had been cleared of the allegation that he colluded with Russia in order to interfere in the 2016 election. And he's also celebrating the fact that Attorney General Barr, of course, said that he — that there was no evidence of him obstructing justice.
However, the president earlier, before we knew the summary of the report said, he said that he thought that the Mueller report should be made public. Now the White House is somewhat walking that back.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said there might be executive privilege issues, and there might — it might be in the best interests of the country and to protect the presidency if the report did not come out.
So, what we have is the White House both saying the president is cleared, but also saying, the report, hold on a minute, we might not want that.
And I want to remind people that there's a fever pitch to see this Mueller report on both — both from Republicans, but also from Democrats.
And just as I was walking over here, there's a chant going on, a protest a couple feet away from me that said, "We the people demand the Mueller report."
So there's fever pitch feelings here that the Mueller report should be made public, but no clear answers here.
Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, how much of a fever pitch is there, there?
I can tell you, just in the past couple of hours, Judy, we have gotten a clear signal from Democrats.
The five Democratic chairmen of the House committees that have jurisdiction over this area — that includes committees like Oversight, Intelligence, Judiciary — they have written a joint letter to the attorney general tonight.
And they have said in these words that they demand that he release the full report, and they have given him a deadline of April 2. This is obviously a situation between branches. So it's not clear what would happen if the attorney general does not meet that deadline.
But they write — and this goes to some of what your panel was speaking about — they write that Congress is permitted the ability to assess the obstruction of justice situation independently.
And they are asserting what they believe is a right of a co-equal branch here. It's a rather eye-popping letter. They also write, significantly — these are the Democrats, House chairmen — they say: "We have no reason to question the special counsel Mueller's — that he has made well-considered prosecutorial judgments in two areas." They say, one, whether the Trump campaign conspired and, two, on hacking, and basically the charges against the Russians. They're sort of saying, listen, we don't — we're not questioning whether there was any collusion or not. They're clearly questioning the obstruction. That's where the focus of Democrats are going.
And this letter tells me, Judy, in this constant internal battle for Democrats between cautious restraint and sort of dogged pursuit, these are the voices pushing for dogged pursuit. We will see what voices we hear in the next couple of days after this.
And, Robert Costa, who's also joining us, Robert, I know you have done a lot of reporting since word of the report first — or we first learned that the report had been turned over to the Justice Department.
What are you hearing about just how partisan, how divided this fight is going to be over releasing the report and what to do about the report?
It's not only partisan, but it's challenging, particularly for Democrats on Capitol Hill, who want to pursue further questions on obstruction.
Yet, when it comes to obstruction of justice, you have to figure out the person's intent. Was the intent corrupt? Robert Mueller, the special counsel, did not make a firm conclusion on that front. And it will be difficult for Democrats, even on — in the committees with subpoena power, to figure out President Trump's intent in many of his decisions.
So they would like to paint a fuller picture of the president's conduct. That's why they want to see the full report. But whether it rises to level of an impeachable offense, that remains to be seen. And back to Yamiche on that.
Is the White House breathing easy? Have they — do they now assume impeachment is off the table because of this?
The sense I have gotten all day is that the White House is very glad that the Mueller report is over and that this Mueller investigation has ended.
They're not quite breathing easy in the idea of impeachment. But they are saying that Democrats are essentially now on the defense. They feel as though the positions have completely changed. They think, before the Mueller report, there was a lot — there was a lot of caution, especially on the part of the president.
He didn't speak all weekend, didn't make any comments when we found out that the Mueller report had been filed. And that's because he was waiting to see what the actual summary would say.
Now that the White House has seen the summary of the attorney general, William Barr, they feel as though they're in a good position, a stronger position, rather. So I think that the president now feels like he has the political upper hand.
And I should note that the president's political campaign, his campaign for reelection to president, they have actually started fund-raising off the idea that Democrats had a witch-hunt for two years, while he was busy really ushering in a strong economy. So they're also using this as a campaign rallying cry.
All right. Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, Robert Costa joining us, all three, thank you very much.
And I finally come back to our panel here at the table.
Let's go back at, Mary McCord, this question about how much more the public will get to see, should see, needs to see, in order to really, truly understand what the special counsel concluded.
So, certainly, the attorney general has promised that he's undertaking a review, with an eye toward disclosing publicly as much as he is able to and that he thinks is — is in the public interest to disclose.
And there's things he does have to take into consideration, such as grand jury secrecy rules. And those rules are there for a reason, because, ordinarily, after an investigation, particularly a criminal investigation, although this was not limited to a criminal investigation by the mandate of appointing the special counsel, but, typically, if there's a decision to decline a prosecution, this all remains secret, because a person shouldn't really be tainted with sort of any dirty laundry in there.
I think it's a very — when the decision was made that there wasn't sufficient evidence to charge a crime. Right.
I think we're in a very different situation, where the president, the sitting president of the United States is the person, among others, who were investigated.
He is — he is campaigning for reelection in this office of a public official that has public trust associated with it. And I think the voters are entitled to know sort of what is this delta between no evidence and evidence, but not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element of the crime.
Boyden Gray, how much does the public need to see of this report?
Oh, well, I would like — I'm sort of with all parties. I think the president all the way down and the Republican Party and all Democrats want to see the whole thing. But, as you have said, there are problems with grand jury. There are problems possibly with sources and methods, national security issues.
So, there may be some redaction. But I think it all should come out. And I want to make it — make it very, very clear that I agree with Senator Graham, in his press conference today, that, if we're going to have full disclosure, everything comes out, including the background of the FISA warrants, the background of Mueller's appointment, what happened with the Steele dossier. All of that must be equally disclosed, as everything else is.
But that's not part of the Mueller report, is it? I mean, that would be additional investigation.
Or is it?
I would think it is part of the — should be part of the Mueller report.
It's part — maybe — maybe he didn't write much about it, but it certainly was part of the charge.
And if it wasn't, let's find out why it wasn't. But we don't know what the charge was. And we need to know what the charge was. And we need to know about the warrants that he issued, that were issued under his name.
Just quickly, Matt Miller, what about that point? Matthew Miller: Those questions about the dossier have never been substantiated. And, in any event, they're under investigation by the Department of Justice inspector general. That report will be public at some point.
With respect to what ought to be made public here, I think we all agree that as much as possible ought to be made public, maybe with the exception of grand jury material, because one thing the department has made clear from the beginning of this investigation is, they are not the final arbiter of presidential misconduct. Congress is.
And for Congress to make that decision, they have to have access to all of the evidence about what the president did. And one of things for the last two years, and even in our discussion tonight, we talk about whether the president's behavior rises to the level of crime or not.
That's not the only standard for presidential misconduct. That is the lowest possible bar. Congress has to assess the entire matter. Just 15 seconds.
I don't agree with that. I don't think that's quite right, because it — the emphasis in the Constitution is on high crimes and misdemeanors, emphasis on the word crime.
I think the…
But it's not the criminal statutes. It's not the…
The impeachment inquiry is going to be circumscribed now by the determination of the special counsel and the Justice Department that, in these areas, no crimes were committed. And that — that's going to slow that train down.
So much to talk about.
Robert Ray, Boyden Gray, Mary McCord, Matthew Miller. That is it for now. We thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.
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