In May 2017, a Special Counsel headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed to 1 – investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and to learn whether President Trump or anyone in his administration worked with the Russians in their interference and 2 – to learn whether the President or anyone in his administration attempted to interfere with or obstruct the investigation. On April 18, 2019 a redacted version of the Special Counsel’s report (herein called The Mueller Report) was released to congress and the public. You can read the entire Mueller Report at the New York Times.
This is the first of my series of articles based on the Mueller Report, and you can read the second in the series at my Post#2. My intention is to mostly let the analyses and summaries in the report speak for the investigation, but I plan to add some commentary for clarity and emphasis. Please note that my analyses and conclusions do not purport to be totally objective and unbiased, but they are meant to be fair and honest. I invite you to follow my posts on this important subject and to feel free to respond as you will to what I present.
I begin here with a brief description of the report layout and identify the on-line version of the report I find to be most useful for my purpose. I follow this with some excerpts taken directly from the summary of Volume I of the Mueller Report. My second post on the Mueller Report will be devoted to the summary of Volume II of the report. Note that Volume II of the report includes a conclusion, but I was unable to find a conclusion for the Volume I.
COMMENTS ON LAYOUT AND EASE-OF USE OF ON-LINE REPORTS
The Mueller Report is in two volumes: Volume I covers the investigation into the Russians’ attempts to influence the 2016 Presidential election and whether the President or anyone in his administration aided the Russians in their efforts. The second volume investigates whether the President or anyone in his administrated attempted to interfere with or obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation. I looked at several on-line versions of the report and found the New York Times version to best suit my purpose. It’s written in htm format and allows one to select and copy any portion of the document.
SELECTED TEXT FROM SUMMARY OF VOLUME I
Text in quotes are excerpts directly from the report and bold text is for my own emphasis and clarification.
“In reaching the charging decisions described in Volume I of the report, the Office [special investigatigators] determined whether the conduct it found amounted to a violation of federal criminal law chargeable under the Principles of Federal Prosecution. See Justice Manual § 9-27.000 et seq. (2018). The standard set forth in the Justice Manual is whether the conduct constitutes a crime; if So, whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction and whether prosecution would serve a substantial federal interest that could not be adequately served by prosecution elsewhere or through non-criminal alternatives. See Justice Manual § 9-27.220.
Section V of the report provides detailed explanations of the Office’s charging decisions, which contain three main components.”
“First, the Office determined that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations — violated U.S. criminal law. Many of the individuals and entities involved in the social media campaign have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections, as well as related counts of identity theft. See United States v. Internet Research Agency, et al., No. 18-cr-32 (D.D.C.). Separately, Russian intelligence officers who carried out the hacking into Democratic Party computers and the personal email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign conspired to violate, among other federal laws, the federal computer-intrusion statute, and they have been so charged. See United States v. Netyksho, et al., No. 18-cr-215 (D.D.C.).” “■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■
“Second, while the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not enough to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation.1 Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.”
“Third, the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference. The Office charged some of those lies as violations of the federal false-statements statute. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition period. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor during the campaign period, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about, inter alia, the nature and timing of his interactions with Joseph Mifsud, the professor who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the Trump Moscow project. ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■ And in February 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Manafort lied to the Office and the grand jury concerning his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik about Trump Campaign polling data and a peace plan for Ukraine.”
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“The Office investigated several other events that have been publicly reported to involve potential Russia-related contacts. For example, the investigation established that interactions between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate’s April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive. And the investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia.1 The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.”
“The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information — such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media — in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g., Justice Manual §§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or “taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well — numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.”
“Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated — including some associated with the Trump Campaign-deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.”
“Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”
From the above, it is clear that the Special Investigators could find no evidence to support the charge that the President or anyone in his administration conspired to assist the Russians in their interference with the 2016 presidential election. It is equally clear that some members of the administration attempted to reach out to the Russians to obtain information which would be helpful to the Trump campaign and would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.