On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his report to Attorney General William Barr. As required, Barr then notified Congress that he had received the report. He also informed them that the probe had not been hindered in any way and that the Mueller team hadn't been denied any requests or made any inappropriate or unwarranted requests during the course of the investigation. The report focused on three main issues:
- Russian interference in the 2016 election
- Potential "collusion" or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia
- Possible obstruction of justice by President Trump
Over the weekend, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein worked together on a summary of conclusions based on the Mueller report. That four-page summary was sent to Congress Sunday afternoon. Click here to read it in its entirety.
- The investigation was extensive and lasted 22 months. From the summary: "In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers, approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing the use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses."
- Since the investigation began, the Special Counsel has indicted 34 individuals and three Russian businesses, including the president's former personal attorney, national security adviser, campaign manager and deputy campaign manager. Those indictments have led to seven guilty pleas, with four people having been sentenced to prison.
- On other cases and future indictments: "During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public."
"The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russians in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election." From the Mueller report itself: "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
"The Special Counsel's investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. The second element involved the Russian government's efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons associated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks."
Obstruction of Justice
"After making a 'thorough factual investigation' into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards regarding prosecution and conviction but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion - one way or the other - as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as 'difficult issues' of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction." From the Mueller report itself: "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
From Attorney General William Barr: "The Special Counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime...Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president."
RELEASE OF MORE INFORMATION
In his summary, Barr states the following on making more information from the Mueller report public: "...I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel's report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies." Barr goes on to explain the process his department will go through to find ways to make that information public and states that they will work as quickly as possible to complete the necessary steps before releasing more details from the report.
Democrats in Congress are demanding the full release of the report, as are some Republicans. It's clear from Barr's summary that DOJ won't release the entire report unredacted, which sets up a potential legal showdown between Congress and the attorney general if what does get released isn't believed to be sufficient.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
Even without having seen the full report, there's a lot to unpack. Here are some key takeaways:
- The main headline is that the Mueller investigation found the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election. That conclusion came straight from the Special Counsel.
- On the obstruction question, there's a lot we still don't know and this is the issue that will result in a political battle moving forward. The Special Counsel did not make a determination on this question one way or the other and we don't know his reasoning for taking that approach. In the summary, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did come to the conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice. That was a legal decision, but Congress is tasked with weighing impeachment, which is a political decision. Democrats will want to see the Special Counsel's findings on obstruction in order to make their own judgement as to whether or not the president's actions rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.
- Despite constant attacks from the president and his supporters about being "conflicted" and hell-bent on a particular outcome, the Special Counsel and his team never went outside their purview and never made a request that the DOJ deemed to be inappropriate or unwarranted. They followed the facts and evidence and came to a decision, specifically on collusion, that is obviously favorable to the president.
- Finally, we still don't know what's in the Mueller report. At the moment we only have a few select lines and conclusions from the report that were picked out by Attorney General Barr and Deputy AG Rosenstein. We have not been show details or the underlying evidence for those determinations.