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Mueller ‘Unable’ to Clear Trump of Obstruction

by AFP

John Moore-Getty Images North America—AFP

Special counsel’s final report says there is ‘substantial evidence’ that U.S. president tried to stifle investigation

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Thursday described numerous attempts by President Donald Trump to interfere with the Russian meddling investigation, citing them as the reason why he could not clear the president of allegations of obstruction of justice.

Mueller’s final report detailed multiple instances in 2017 and 2018 in which Trump desperately sought to derail the probe, including firing FBI director James Comey, demanding that Mueller himself be removed, and publicly dangling pardon offers to witnesses. It cited a furious Trump, just months into his term, swearing over Mueller’s appointment and saying his presidency was doomed.

“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,” Trump told then attorney general Jeff Sessions, the report recounted.

Witnesses to the investigation, including White House counsel Don McGahn, told Mueller’s team that they had fended off repeated demands by the president to remove or undermine Mueller. Mueller’s report said there was “substantial evidence” in many of the cases, including Comey’s firing, showing Trump’s intent was to stifle the investigation—though the president was ultimately not successful. That led Mueller to conclude that he could not exonerate the president from criminal allegations of obstruction of justice.

“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,” Mueller’s long-awaited report said. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

The report outlined numerous instances in which the president sought to interfere with the probe into whether his 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia. It described him suggesting to his intelligence chiefs that they help end it; attempting to have Sessions curtail Mueller’s investigatory mandate; attempting to hide evidence about a key meeting his campaign had with Russians; and attempting to influence potential witnesses against him.

It also detailed what it said were Trump’s efforts to prevent Paul Manafort from cooperating with investigators by suggesting the former campaign chairman could be pardoned. The evidence “indicates that the president intended to encourage Manafort not to cooperate with the government,” the report says.

In March, Manafort was sentenced to 90 months in prison for financial crimes, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.

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