Special Counsel Robert Mueller told the country in a dramatic statement that it was ‘not an option’ for his office to have charged President Trump with an obstruction crime and that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for him to speak further about his probe of Russian election interference.
In a public statement he said would likely be his only one, Mueller restated parts of his 448-report – including the controversial decision not to charge Trump with a crime.
The president has repeatedly cited the report – and his own attorney general’s decision not to charge him – as proof that there was ‘no obstruction.’
But Mueller, in his sudden statement delivered with no public notification, said his decision rested on Justice Department policy – not on the guilt or innocence of President Trump.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes a statement about the Russia investigation on May 29, 2019 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC
Charging Trump as such would have been ‘unconstitutional,’ he said – making a technical legal point that nevertheless flies in the face of President Trump’s repeated claims that he has been effectively ruled innocent by the special counsel. In fact, Mueller plucked from the report a statement that investigators would have said so if they had been able to establish that Trump did not commit an obstruction crime.
He cited ‘longstanding’ Justice Department policies that a president cannot be charged while in office and noted as does the report that if charged the president couldn’t defend himself as in court.
‘That is unconstitutional,’ Mueller said – emphasizing that the fundamental reason not to charge Trump didn’t have to do with guilt or innocence, but rather those foundational factors.
‘By regulation it was bound by that department policy,’ said Mueller. ‘Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.’
Mueller repeated a key conclusion of the report – although one that was not included in Attorney General Barr’s original four-page letter.
Mueller said it would have been unconstitutional and not fair to the accused were he to charge President Trump with obstruction of justice
Mueller said virtually nothing publicly during the course of his two-year investigation until his press statement Wednesday
‘And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.’
Mueller explained: ‘Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited. A special counsel’s office is part of the department of justice, and by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.’
He also said he does not want to appear before Congress as Democrats are demanding.
‘Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report,’ Mueller said.
‘The report is my testimony. I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.’
‘It contains our findings and analysis and the reasons for the decisions we said. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself.’
‘I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation,’ said Mueller.
Mueller finally broke his silence Wednesday to speak about the
Mueller ‘will make a statement on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election,’ the special counsel’s office announced Wednesday morning shortly before the event was to be held.
‘This will be a statement only, no question and answer period to follow,’ according to Mueller’s office.
His appearance is set for 11 am at a conference room in the Justice Department – the same venue where Barr provided his own comments about what was in the report before he released it – saying it showed ‘no collusion’ between the Trump campaign or other Americans and Russia’s election hacking.
The decision for Mueller not to take questions is already drawing criticism from Democrats in Congress who are pushing for more disclosure – and want to bring him before lawmakers to answer for his conclusions and information he gathered during his probe.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller will finally speak publicly Wednesday morning
Mueller turned in a 448-page report to Attorney General Bill Barr in March but has not yet spoken publicly about it. The only glimpse of his views came in a letter he wrote to Barr raising concerns about how the attorney general had presented his findings.
Mueller investigated ten cases of potential obstruction of justice by President Trump, but made no decision on whether he should be prosecuted for the conduct his report spelled out. He also made no finding that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government-backed election hacking, although he examined a skein of Russia contacts by campaign officials and Trump associates.
Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-Va.), a prominent House Democrat, told CNN he wished Mueller would take questions from the press, as it might be the only way to get at real splits within the Justice Department about decisions about how to release the report and describe to the public what was in it. Lawmakers also are girding to ask Mueller about his decision not to make a final decision himself on whether to charge Trump.
Mueller took the unusual step of memorializing objections in writing about Attorney Geenral William Barr’s own four-page letter summarizing his report
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats are demanding access to an un-redacted version
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said Mueller does not want to testify publicly about his report
Mueller found that the ‘Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systemic fashion’
House Judiciary Democrats and other committees want Mueller to appear to testify about the report, but negotiations have yet to bear fruit, amid a broad clash with the Trump White House over documents and access to information.
Barr spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee but did not appear to the House committee after a clash with committee leadership over Democrats’ insistence that committee counsel be allowed to join the grilling.
A senior White House official said the White House ‘was notified’ that Mueller might speak. The notification came ‘last night,’ according to the official – an indication Trump and his team had hours to plan for how to handle any revelations Mueller might make – unless they were already briefed on what he might say.
Democrats also have been pushing for the White House to make available the entire un-redacted version of the Mueller report.
Mueller took the unusual step of memorializing objections in writing about Barr’s own four-page letter summarizing his report.
That letter served as the main public source of information about it for weeks after it was released, allowing Trump to state repeatedly that Mueller found ‘no collusion’ and ‘no obstruction.’
Mueller wrote Barr to say that his own letter ‘did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance’ of the report.
Wrote Mueller: ‘The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.’
‘There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,’ Mueller added.
The two men had a subsequent phone call that Barr spoke about sparingly during his own testimony in the Senate.
Barr ultimately publicly released the bulk of the report, although Democrats want the release of redacted information that Barr held back to protect people’s reputations as well as to protect secret Grand Jury information and intelligence information.
After weeks of back and forth with the administration, Nadler told MSNBC last week that Mueller ‘doesn’t want to participate in anything that he might regard as a political spectacle.’
‘We’re saying we think it’s important for the American people to hear from him and to hear his answers to questions about the report,’ Nadler added.
Mueller was famously publicity adverse during his nearly two-year investigation. He never gave a press conference, and took pains to stay out of the limelight. His absence from the public scene was such that it made news when he was spotted in an airport and at an Apple store.
Mueller’s report found that the ‘Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systemic fashion.’
It cited the hack of Democratic National Committee emails and of information ‘damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton,’ and said the Russian government was behind the effort. Prosecutors rand down a string of leads, including an infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians in June 2016, and back-and-forth between Trump and his aides over a misleading statement describing how the meeting got set up.
Mueller’s team of prosecutors also examined ten areas of potential obstruction of justice by Trump – including statements by Trump’s own staffers that he ordered them to force out Mueller. They also examined Trump’s conduct toward former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who is now serving a 7 1/2 year prison sentence on tax and money laundering charges. They also delved into a Trump Moscow tower project that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who is also in jail, did not reveal during his own initial House testimony.
The report stated that ‘if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.’ But it said they were ‘unable to reach that judgment.’
In another of its famous conclusions, Mueller’s report states: ‘Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’
There were scant clues about how Trump would respond to the man whose inquiry he blames for tormenting him for two years of his presidency and repeatedly labels a ‘witch hunt.
There was no Marine stationed outside the West Wing Wednesday morning, which would suggest Trump had made his way to his office.
The White House would not say whether Trump was planning to make a statement after Mueller.
There were not any indications of an event being set up in the Rose Garden, a natural venue for any presidential push-back, although the mercury in Washington was expected to reach the 90s.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a ‘no comment’ when asked if the White House was informed in advance what Mueller would say.
Fifteen shocking revelations from the Mueller report
Many of these revelations do not involve President Trump directly, but rather the people around him, from his family to his administration.
From Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr avoiding charges due to their ignorance and Sarah Sanders admitting she supplied false information to the press, to the money Betsy DeVos’ brother fronted to try and get
Sarah Sanders provides the press with false information
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is seen above holding a press briefing on May 10, 2017
The reasoning behind President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey was the focus of the White House press briefing on May 10, 2017.
Sarah Sanders told the reporters in attendance that the Department of Justice, President Trump and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle had lost confidence in the FBI director.
Then she took things one step further by stating: ‘[a]nd most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director. Accordingly, the President accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General to remove James Comey from his position.’
It was then noted by one reporter that a ‘vast majority’ of agents supported Comey, prompting the press secretary to note: ‘Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.’
Sanders later admitted that her comment about speaking to ‘countless members’ of the FBI was a ‘slip of the tongue’, and that the remark about the ‘rank-and-file’ FBI agents losing their confidence in Comey was unfounded and ‘made in the heat of the moment’.
She never informed the press of this ‘slip of the tongue’ or unfounded comment.
Donald Trump Jr is a mouthpiece for WikiLeaks
Donald Trump Jr. got a message that read: ‘Great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us’
On October 3, 2016, the WikiLeaks Twitter sent a direct message to Donald Trump Jr asking ‘you guys’ to share a post that alleged Hillary Clinton ‘had advocated using a drone to target Julian Assange’.
Trump Jr revealed he had already done so, and began to talk about WikiLeaks with increasing frequency.
On October 12 he got another message that read: ‘Great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us.’
He was the given a link to to help in ‘digging through’ leaked emails, while being told that the organization had ‘just released Podesta emails Part 4.’
Trump Jr shared the link two days later.
President Trump launches search for Hillary Clinton’s emails
Multiple individuals were involved in finding 30,000 deleted Clinton emails including former White House strategist Steve Bannon and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway
Then-candidate Trump asked those affiliated with his campaign to find the 30,000 deleted emails.
‘Michael Flynn… recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails. Barbara Ledeen and Peter Smith were among the people contacted by Flynn,’ states the report.
Multiple individuals were soon involved, including former White House strategist Steve Bannon and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.
Ledeen and Smith would often communicate regarding efforts to retrieve the emails, and Smith drafted several emails suggesting he was in contact with Russian hackers.
‘[I]n one such email, Smith claimed that, in August 2016, KLS Research had organized meetings with parties who had access to the deleted Clinton emails, including partieswith ties and affiliations to Russia,’ said the report.
‘The investigation did not establish that Smith was in contact with Russian hackers or that Smith, Ledeen, or other individuals in touch with the Trump Campaign ultimately obtained the deleted Clinton emails.’
Erik Prince funds the vetting of Hillary’s emails
When emails that may have come from Hillary Clinton needed to be vetted, it was Betsy DeVos’ brother who put up the money to have them examined.
Barbara Ledeen, whose husband had co-authored a book with General Michael Flynn, had emails that she claimed were from the ‘dark web.’
A tech adviser was needed to authenticate the emails, and so Ledeen started to solicit donations.
Erik Prince agreed to find the operation, which ultimately concluded that the emails were not in fact real.
Manafort’s lost millions
Former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is seen at the Republican National Convention, in Cleveland in July 2016
Paul Manafort did not have many job prospects at the time he came on board to work for the Trump campaign, and was of the belief that taking a role would be ‘good for business’.
That was a reference to the $2 million he was owed for work he did for questionable operatives in the country that he had not been paid for at that time.
He also hoped that his new job might help him get Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska a visa, and that the man would in turn drop a lawsuit against him.
And for reasons that are still somewhat unclear, Manafort kept Ukrainian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik abreast of all developments in the campaign and how Trump was polling.
Robert Mueller goes clubbing
‘In October 2011, Mueller resigned his family’s membership from Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, in a letter that noted that “we live in the District and find that we are unable to make full use of the Club” and that inquired “whether we would be entitled to a refund of a portion of our initial membership fee,” which was paid in 1994,’ notes the report. Mueller is seen above
President Trump wanted Mueller gone in the days following his appointment, and began to toss out potential conflicts
He pointed out that ‘Mueller had interviewed for the FBI Director position,’ that ‘he had worked for a law firm that represented people affiliated with the President,’ and that he had disputed fees at a Trump golf club he belonged to in Virginia.
That claim was played up, even though the reality of the situation told a much different story.
‘In October 2011, Mueller resigned his family’s membership from Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, in a letter that noted that “we live in the District and find that we are unable to make full use of the Club” and that inquired “whether we would be entitled to a refund of a portion of our initial membership fee,” which was paid in 1994,’ notes the report.
‘About two weeks later, the controller of the club responded that the Muellers’ resignation would be effective October 31, 2011, and that they would be “placed on a waitlist to be refunded on a first resigned I first refunded basis.”‘
Hope Hicks hangs up on Putin
Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is seen in this February 2018 photo
Hope Hicks received a phone call from a unknown Russian man shortly after President Trump’s victory on election night.
Unsure who it was she instructed the person to email her, but did hear the words ‘Putin call.’
She received an email the next morning from Sergey Kuznetsov, an official at the Russian Embassy to the United States, with the subject line ‘Message from Putin.’
The letter congratulated Trump and noted that he was looking forward to the two men working together, but Hicks was afraid to pass it along to her boss.
So she instead decided to email Jared Kushner, asking: ‘Can you look into this? Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!’
Kushner said the best way to do this would be by contact the ambassador, but was unable to remember his name.
That man was Sergey Kislyak, and within days Kushner and General Flynn were meeting with him at Trump Tower to discuss setting up a secure line between President Trump and Putin.
President Trump is f***ed
‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’ m f***ed.,’ said President Trump while slumping in his chair. Trump is pictured above last month
On May 17, 2017, Robert Mueller was named Special Counsel by Rod Rosenstein.
Notes taken from a meeting that day revealed that when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed President Trump of the news he was less than thrilled about the appointment.
‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’ m f***ed.,’ said President Trump while slumping in his chair.
‘How could you let this happen, Jeff?’
President Trump then continued to bemoan the news, telling Sessions: “You were supposed to protect me’ and noting: ‘Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency.’
Wise guys Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr
Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner are seen above in a file photo from a book party in 2009
Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort managed to avoid being charged for violating campaign finance law by not being smart enough to know that they were engaging in unlawful activity.
In summarizing his findings from the infamous June 2016 meeting between members of the Trump campaign and Russian Natalia Veselnitskaya, Robert Mueller wrote that unlawful activity did take place, but the men who broke them were unaware of their illegal actions.
‘On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful,’ reads the report.
‘The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context.’
‘Even assuming that the promised “documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” constitute a “thing of value” under campaign-finance law, the government would encounter other challenges in seeking to obtain and sustain a conviction,’ wrote Mueller.
He then explained how reasonable doubt would make it hard to convict Don Jr and Kushner.
‘To prove that a defendant acted “knowingly and willfully,” the government would have to show that the defendant had general knowledge that his conduct was unlawful,’ wrote Mueller.
In closing out the reasons why no charges would be pursued, Mueller broke down the potential problems with getting a conviction for the three campaign members.
‘Additionally, in light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving “documents and information” of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law,’ wrote Mueller.
‘Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense.’
He then noted: ‘And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.’
The Steele dossier lives on
The dossier prepared by former agent Christopher Steele (seen above) claiming that a compromising tape of President Trump was in the possession of powerful Russians is backed up by Mueller
The dossier prepared by former agent Christopher Steele claiming that a compromising tape of President Trump was in the possession of powerful Russians is backed up by Mueller.
The nature of the tape is unknown, but in October 2016 Michael Cohen receive a message from a Russian businessman by the name of Giorgi Rtskhiladze.
‘Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know,’ stated that message in part.
Those tapes were ‘rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group, which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia.’
Hacking in hours
On July 27, 2016, Trump appeared at a rally where he stated: ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’
That was a reference to the emails stored on Clinton’s server.
It took just five hours for GRU officers to target Clinton’s personal office in an attempt to hack into the system and obtain the emails.
Seth Rich exonerated
The report states once and for all, and without a shadow of a doubt, that murdered DNC worker Seth Rich (pictured) did not help leak emails
The report states once and for all, and without a shadow of a doubt, that murdered DNC worker Seth Rich did not help leak emails.
‘Beginning in the summer of 2016, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016,’ states the report.
‘The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails.’
Despite this, Assange still used the boy’s death to strongly suggest he was the source of the leaked emails to the cryptic statements he made at the time.
‘ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich,’ tweeted the WikiLeaks account after his death.
And when asked about his interested in the murder, Assange said: ‘We’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged WikiLeaks sources.’
Trump goes silent
Mueller’s team did not issue a subpoena to force President Trump to give an interview to the special counsel because it would have created a ‘substantial delay’ at a late stage in the investigation.
President Trump refused an oral interview and provided only written answers for the questions he was willing to answer.
‘We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President’s actions and his public and private statements describing or explaining those actions, we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony,’ states the report.
Friends and frenemies
Trump and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort are seen at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016
Mueller said evidence he collected indicates Trump intended to encourage his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, not to cooperate with the investigation.
There was also evidence that appeared to support the idea that Trump wanted Manafort to believe that he could receive a presidential pardon.
‘During Manafort’s prosecution and when the jury in his criminal trial was deliberating, the President praised Manafort in public, said that Manafort was being treated unfairly, and declined to rule out a pardon,’ notes the report.
‘After Manafort was convicted, the President called Manafort “a brave man” for refusing to “break” and said that “flipping” “almost ought to be outlawed.’
By contrast, he expressed ‘hostility’ towards General Flynn after learning he was cooperating with the investigation.
‘Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,’ reads the report.
‘The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels.
‘These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.’