By Christianna Silva and Ella Ceron
By appointment from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators and legal officials have, for the better part of two years, investigated the possibility of interference by Russian operatives in the 2016 presidential election, as well as any potential ties to the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice with regards to the investigation. In January 2017, American intelligence concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign” with regards to the election, according to the New York Times; beginning in May of that year, Mueller’s job was figure out if the Trump campaign was involved, and potentially how.
On Friday, March 22, Mueller submitted his investigation to Attorney General William Barr, who then released a short summary of what he said were key findings from the report on Sunday, March 24. This summary just wasn’t good enough for Democratic lawmakers, who fought to make the full report public.
On Thursday, April 18, the heavily redacted, 448-page report was released. It's a daunting length, to be sure, but thanks in part to keyword searches and Twitter recaps, those interested in the juiciest, most headline-making details don't have to read all 448 pages themselves.
Was this President Donald Trump’s biggest moment of clarity?
According to the report, when Trump learned that Mueller was appointed to investigate collusion, he slumped in his chair and said, “Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.” He then, allegedly, “lambasted” then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the report. “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” he asked before adding: “‘You were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect."
Louder, for the people in the back: Mueller didn’t clear Trump of obstruction of justice
Despite the president continuously claiming that the release of the investigation exonerating him, the report states, “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.”
It definitely seems like Mueller’s team tried to clarify this as best they could in the report; per Intelligencer, the report also says, “a statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” So why is there no trial? According to the report, “the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.”
Sad this investigation is over? Don’t worry — it spawned 14 spinoff investigations
Yep: There are currently 14 (fourteen!) ongoing investigations into various issues. Only two of them were not redacted: potential wire fraud and employment law violations involving Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer; and charges against former White House Counsel under President Barack Obama, Gregory Craig. Craig was accused of lying to investigators when they interviewed him about a pro-Russian government in Ukraine the New York Times reported.
... but make it fashion!
The report named Russian fashion investor Miroslava “Mira” Duma, who was all but ousted from her place of influence in January 2018 for racist and transphobic comments. According to the report, “in late December 2015, Mira Duma — a contact of Ivanka Trump's from the fashion industry — first passed along invitations [to the St. Petersburg Economic Forum] for Ivanka Trump and candidate Trump from Sergei Prikhodko, a Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.” Trump denied the invitation but was “honored to be asked to participate in the highly prestigious” event.
The White House Press Secretary admitted to lying
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told investigators that she lied to the press after the firing of James Comey. The report said that since morale was at an “all-time low,” Sanders told the press that the White House had heard from “countless” FBI agents that they had lost confidence in Comey. “Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything,” the report added.
In an interview with ABC, Sanders claimed her lie “was the heat of the moment, meaning that it wasn't a scripted talking point. I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot like the Democratic Party.” Yet she had trotted it out repeatedly in press briefings, as George Stephanopoulos pointed out.
What would a Trump campaign story be without Hope Hicks?
Trump’s former communications director, Hope Hicks, received a call from someone who “sounded foreign” on election night, and could only make out the words “Putin call.” She sent the caller to her email. The following day, Sergey Kuznetsov, an official at the Russian Embassy, emailed Hicks congratulating Trump on his victory, stating that he and Putin “look forward to working with [Trump] on leading Russian-American relations out of crisis.” Hicks immediately forwarded the email to Jared Kushner asking him to look into it and adding, “Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!”
Donald Jr. didn’t even know if he was doing crimes
The report states that Donald Trump Jr., who was in the report approximately 69 times, did plenty of investigatable actions: He received the email from Rob Goldstone of behalf of Russian pop star Emin Agalarov promising dirt on Hillary Clinton and he set up the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. The report even states that the special counsel’s office “considered whether to charge Trump Campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 meeting.”
Yet Donald Jr. ended up getting off without any charges against him, not because Mueller didn’t think he had done anything sketchy, but because Mueller decided he didn’t really know what he was doing. “The Office did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted ‘willfully,’ i.e. with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct,” the report reads. In response, the President’s son replied:
Mueller left it up to Congress to decide on obstruction
Mueller wrote in the report that Congress should decide if Trump’s conduct qualified as obstruction of justice. “With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller wrote.
And politicians are already divided about taking next steps. Per CNN, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, “Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement.” Yet in a later tweet, he said, “Congress must have the full report & all underlying evidence in order to determine what actions may be necessary to ensure that the Congress & the American people have all the info they need to know the truth & all options ought to remain on the table to achieve that objective."
Meanwhile, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar have signed onto Representative Rashida Tlaib’s impeachment resolution, which was first submitted on March 27.
Other politicians are calling for Mueller to testify in front of Congress. Representative Jerry Nadler has already invited the Special Counsel to testify “no later than May 23.” On Friday, he revealed that the House Judiciary Committee had issued a subpoena to the Department of Justice for the full report, without redactions.