Key Insights From Mueller Report

Without taking questions from reporters about the Mueller report, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Marine One for the short trip to Joint Base Andrews then on to his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., at the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2019. Earlier in the day, Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CN) – It spans 448 pages. There are 1,092 footnotes and three appendices. Some of the nuggets of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report are bound to slip through the cracks. Here are some snippets from the investigation worth your attention. 

Mueller on the firing of ex-FBI director James Comey 

Though President Donald Trump claimed to have fired Comey based on Justice Department recommendations, Mueller found this to be pretextual but that the true reason was inconclusive.

“The evidence does not resolve whether those concerns were personal, political, or both,” the report says.

Trump said he only wanted to be treated fairly which could “reflect his perception that it was unfair he was being investigated while Hillary Clinton was not,” according to Mueller.

“But a principal effect of that act would be to restore supervision of the Russian investigation to the attorney general – a position that the president frequently suggested should be occupied by someone like Eric Holder and Bobby Kennedy, what the president described as protecting their presidents,” Mueller’s report states.

The only reasonable inference that could be drawn, the special counsel wrote, is that the “president believed that an unrecused attorney general would play a protective role and could shield the president from the ongoing Russia investigation.” 

Mueller on a standoff between Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn 

Among the several people in Trump’s inner circle to fall in the Russia investigation, his former personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen and his ex-National Security adviser Michael Flynn both received praise from Mueller for their cooperation.

Several months before flipping to Mueller’s team, however, Cohen tried to keep Flynn in line with the president.

“I understand your situation,” Cohen told Flynn in November 2017, shortly after Flynn had begun cooperating with prosecutors. “But let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms. It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal … with the government. … There’s information that implicates the president, then we’ve got a national security issue. … We need some kind of heads up.”

Cohen assured the general that Trump’s “feelings” for him – that Flynn was a “good man” – remained.

Mueller’s report notes Flynn’s attorneys returned the call to the White House, reiterating that they were “no longer in a position to share information under any sort of privilege.”

Cohen was “indignant,” Mueller wrote, and informed Flynn he would tell Trump of the “hostility” Flynn had toward the president.

“Flynn’s attorneys understood the statement to be an attempt to make them reconsider their position because the president’s personal counsel believed Flynn would be disturbed to know that such a message would be conveyed by the president,” the report states.

Mueller said that the communication between Trump’s lawyers and the general could have potentially affected Flynn’s decision to cooperate. “Because of privilege issues,” however, Mueller said there is no determination whether Trump was “personally” involved or knew about the message left for Flynn. 

Mueller on Trump’s evolving view of Paul Manafort 

The report also details promises of friendly treatment by the president to his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was found guilty on multiple counts of bank and tax fraud following a lengthy trial in Virginia last year.

In January 2018, three months after Manafort’s indictment, Manafort told his then-associate and co-defendant Rick Gates that Trump was “going to take care of us,” according to Mueller’s report.

Gates ultimately did not heed Manafort’s guidance to pass on a deal, agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel just one month later.

As Manafort’s trial in Virginia unfolded that summer, Trump watched from afar. The report contrasts how the president publicly lashed out at prosecutors via his Twitter pulpit, saying that Manafort was being treated “unfairly” while voicing criticism of Manafort in private.

Trump confided in aides that he “never liked Manafort” and that “Manafort did not know what he was doing on the campaign,” according to the report. 

Mueller on Trump dangling pardons 

Though Paul Manafort was only sentenced for his crimes last month, evidence that he had been tampering with witnesses led a federal judge to revoke the lobbyist’s bail back in June 2018. Mueller’s report emphasized that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani hit the media circuit around that time with talks of a pardon.

At least two full pages related to Manafort and the president’s discussions of pardons are redacted.

The report quotes Trump as tweeting after the verdict against Manafort that his former campaign chair was “convicted of nothing,” and that the trial put a “stain” on the nation. Mueller said such complaints highlight the president’s desire to encourage his former campaign chairman not to cooperate.

Manafort staved off a second trial in Washington by pleading guilty, but Mueller’s report says his probe found evidence that Trump intended, “at least in part,” to influence the jury. 

Mueller on Congress’ power to probe obstruction of justice

Rebuking assertions by Trump’s attorneys, Mueller found exploring whether the president obstructed justice would not chill Trump’s duties under Article II of the Constitution in violation of the separation of powers.

“Direct or indirect action by the president to end a criminal investigation into his own or his family members’ conduct to protect against personal embarrassment or legal liability would constitute a core example of corruptly motivated conduct,” he wrote. “So too would action to halt an enforcement proceeding that directly and adversely affected the president’s financial interests for the purpose of protecting those interests.”

Mueller on the burden of proof

Mueller’s findings “did not establish that members of Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government,” which has inspired extensive debate about what those words mean.

Besides this being a selective quotation by Attorney General William Barr, Mueller’s report describes the trouble prosecutors would have encountered in proving that the value of the information offered by the Russians at the meeting exceeded the amount required for a felony conviction.  

“Accordingly, taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr., or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting,” the report states, referring to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-linked attorney who offered the campaign damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

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