The full 448-page — albeit redacted — report from special counsel Robert Mueller represented a stark contrast in the four-page summary offered last month by Attorney General William Barr.
After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, Mueller did indeed confirm that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller said he could not conclude that President Donald Trump’s campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.
However, Mueller found that a substantial number of contacts were connected to the Russian government who were interfering in the election.
He also found that Trump asked individuals affiliated with his campaign to find the deleted Hillary Clinton emails. Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said the president made “this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails,” the report stated.
In contrast to Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report, the Special Counsel in no way exonerated Trump from obstruction of justice — ironically the same charge that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation and the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Mueller also found that the Trump campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts and he concluded that content from a Russian and IRA-controlled Twitter account was cited or retweeted by those close to Trump like Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale and Michael Flynn.
Mueller also discovered that WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr. to tweet a link in order to help them with “digging through leaked emails.” Trump Jr. tweeted the link two days later.
The special counsel accepted the Office of Legal Counsel’s view on indicting a sitting president when making a determination about whether Trump obstructed justice. Apart from that precedent, Mueller’s investigators said they “recognized” that accusing Trump of a crime “would place burdens on the president’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct.”
Members of Congress have called for Mueller to testify before the House and Senate by May 23.
“With the release of the Mueller report, questions about impeachment will be given new life,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement. “Many discuss that issue as if the word impeachment is the end, rather than the beginning of the process. Impeachment is the beginning of a process that mirrors an indictment followed by a trial.”
The House acts as prosecutor and the Senate acts as both the judge and jury.
Importantly, the House may vote on articles of impeachment by majority vote, but the Senate needs two-thirds of its members to convict.
However, Norton cautioned that impeachment is a political, not a judicial, process and therefore it appears a waste of time and even politically dangerous to pursue at the moment.
“As the attempt to impeach President Clinton shows, the House, in considering impeachment would do well to follow the example set by a typical U.S. attorney, who usually does not indict unless she is sure she can convict,” Norton said.
“Even if the House had a majority for impeachment, for sure, the Senate, controlled by Republicans, would not have the 2/3 necessary for conviction,” she said, adding that the public expects Democrats to show something for the majority they’ve provided.
In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr “deliberately distorted significant portions of Mueller’s report.”
“Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him. But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading,” the leaders said.
Schumer and Pelosi noted at least four significant ways that Barr has misled the public on the contents of the Mueller report.
They said he led Americans to believe that the Office of Legal Counsel opinion did not play a significant role in Mueller’s refusal to make a decision on obstruction when, in fact, the report shows the opinion played a major role, and probably the decisive, role in Mueller’s decision not to reach a conclusion.
Also, Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice but Mueller’s report cites several instances of presidential action that appear to undercut that finding, Schumer and Pelosi said.
Muller’s own words directly and dramatically undercut Barr’s claim that the president fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation as the report shows the president, in fact, did the opposite — from firing the FBI director, to pressuring senior officials to lie, to refusing to testify, to attempting to fire the special counsel himself, the Democrats said.
“The special counsel’s report confirms that members of the Trump campaign were aware of Russian attempts to interfere with the election, but instead of reporting this to the federal authorities, like any patriotic American would have done, the Trump campaign and President Trump himself openly encouraged it for the purposes of winning a presidential election,” Schumer and Pelosi said. “That Barr omitted this from all of his public statements regarding the report should shake any patriotic American to the core. For these reasons, it is imperative that the rest of the report and the underlying documents be made available to Congress and that Mueller testify before both chambers as soon as possible.”