A brief overview of U.S. special counsel’s report into Russian interference in 2016 presidential election
These are some of the main points from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The 400-page document deals primarily with whether any members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to get him elected and whether the president sought to obstruct justice.
“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. The Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.”
The report said there were numerous contacts between members of Trump’s circle and Russia and that the campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” But it said the efforts did not amount to criminal conspiracy.
“The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin to meet in person, invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations. 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. The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The report said the special counsel investigated numerous actions by Trump “that raised questions about whether he had obstructed justice.” These included “public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation. The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the president’s conduct. At the same time, 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.
“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Efforts to remove special counsel
The report detailed an effort by Trump to have the special counsel removed.
“On June 17, 2017, the president called [White House counsel Don] McGahn at home and directed him to call the acting attorney general and say that the special counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.”
While declining to prosecute Trump for obstruction, the special counsel said such a determination could be left to the U.S. Congress. ‘Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice.
“The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source. The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”
The report details the president’s interactions with his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who is facing three years in prison for financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.
“In analyzing the president’s intent in his actions towards Cohen as a potential witness, there is evidence that could support the inference that the president intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen’s information would shed adverse light on the president’s campaign-period conduct and statements.”
Trump reacted with dismay when told by then-attorney general Jeff Sessions on May 17, 2017 that a special counsel had been appointed, according to the report.
“The president slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,’” the report said. “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,” Trump was quoted as saying. “It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”