The Mueller report: 7 takeaways from the redacted version
By Roey Hadar, Production Associate and Kaitlyn Roman, Production Associate
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III will testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on Wednesday, July 24 and will address his two-year investigation and final report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Donald Trump's campaign.
Mueller has made only a few public statements about the report. After Attorney General William Barr released a short summary of the report on March 24, Mueller wrote a letter, later made public in early May, saying Barr “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the report. The Justice Department made the report public on April 18.
Mueller announced his departure from the Justice Department on May 29, delivering a statement that he indicated he hoped would be his final public comment on the issue. In it, Mueller said that his testimony would not go further than his report. The Justice Department has also instructed Mueller not to answer questions that go much further than what is in the report.
The report does not reach a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice, but did outline ten instances where the president may have done so. Mueller said that the actions were “mostly unsuccessful… largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
On the question of collusion, Mueller noted that “collusion” is not an official legal term and instead used the standard of criminal conspiracy. Mueller indicated he did not find enough evidence to bring charges against the president or his associates for their connections with the Russian government.
Here are seven takeaways from the special counsel’s report, which you can read in full here.
- Trump lamented Mueller’s appointment and used profanity in responding to the news. “This is terrible,” Trump said, slumping in his chair. “This is the end of my presidency,” Trump added before using a profanity to describe his situation.
- The president directed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller about a month after the probe opened up, alleging the special counsel was conflicted. McGahn refused to act on the president’s directive, deciding he would rather resign than trigger a potential crisis on par with the “Saturday Night Massacre” of firings during President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
- Although Mueller and his team did not find criminal evidence of conspiracy, the report details repeated instances of contacts or attempted contacts between Russian actors and people in the Trump campaign. The report revealed direct contacts between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, specifically Donald Trump Jr. having direct correspondence with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. The Mueller team added they did not feel they had enough evidence to charge Trump Jr. with a campaign finance violation.
- Mueller did not make a conclusion on obstruction but concluded that Congress has the authority to continue investigating the question. “With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution,” the report said, “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.” Attorney General William Barr, however, said in his March 24 letter that he concluded that Trump did not obstruct justice.
- In the aftermath of FBI Director James Comey’s firing in May 2017, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders misled reporters stating “countless numbers of FBI agents” had lost confidence in the director leading up to his departure. Sanders later told investigators her misstatements were a “slip of the tongue” and could not substantiate her claim.
- Mueller did not subpoena Trump for an in-person interview, but took issue with Trump’s written responses. The special counsel allowed Trump to answer written questions from his office but noted that the responses Trump gave were “inadequate.” Mueller wrote that an interview with Trump would be “vital” to the investigation and “weighed the costs” of a potential subpoena. He added that his office ultimately decided not to subpoena testimony from the president, citing both the costs and delays to the report’s release that any ensuing litigation over a subpoena would cause.
- Mueller and Congress have gone back and forth on when the special counsel would testify. After the report’s release in April, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) asked Mueller to testify no later than May 23. After negotiating terms of testimony and ultimately subpoenaing Mueller, Nadler and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) scheduled Mueller’s hearings for July 17, but then postponed to July 24 in exchange for time for more questioning.