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Question: I understand the Mueller report is a really big book, 448 pages. What does it actually say? I’m not interested in anyone’s interpretation or spin.
Answer: I’ve read this report. Fortunately, I was able to buy it in large print and could not put it down.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is scheduled to testify before Congress on July 17 after House Democrats issued a subpoena for his appearance, a move that paves the way for a reluctant special counsel to answer questions publicly for the first time about his 22-month investigation into President Donald Trump.
When he spoke last month, Mueller argued that he did not need to testify because he would not go beyond what was in the written report. “The report is my testimony,” Mueller said. But when Mueller testifies publicly on July 17, will he go beyond the text of his report?
Mueller’s report was written in two volumes:
• “Volume I describes the factual results of the special counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and its interactions with the Trump campaign.
As set forth in detail in this report, the investigation established that Russia interfered in the election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored Republican presidential candidate Trump and disparaged Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer intrusion operations against entities and volunteers working on the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.
The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.
“In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of ‘collusion.’ … But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For these reasons, the office’s focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in the federal law. …
“In connection with that analysis, we addressed the factual question whether members of the Trump campaign ‘coordinated’ with Russian election interference activities. Like collusion, ‘coordination’ does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.
“We applied the term ‘coordination’ in that sense when stating in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
In sum, Mueller paints a deeply disturbing picture. It details what Mueller, in his only public statement about the investigation, described as the “central allegation” of the grand jury’s indictments: “Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system.”
Mueller repeated the allegation at the end of his brief comments, asserting a rare, unqualified opinion: “And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”
The fact that a hostile power “launched a concerted attack” on the foundation of our democracy should be enough to raise extreme alarm throughout the land. Yet, barely a “What are we doing about it?” creeps into the national conversation.
• “Volume II addresses the president’s actions toward the FBI’s investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and related matters, and his actions toward the special counsel’s investigation.”
In Volume II, Mueller documented nearly a dozen episodes of possible obstruction of justice such as: “the campaign’s response to reports about Russian support for Trump; conduct involving FBI Director James Comey and (national security adviser) Michael Flynn; the president’s reaction to the continuing Russia investigation; the president’s termination of Comey; the appointment of special counsel and efforts to remove him; efforts to curtail the special counsel’s investigation; efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence; conduct toward Flynn, Paul Manafort (who served for a brief time as chairman of the Committee to Elect Donald Trump President and has been found guilty by a jury and entered his guilty plea to multiple federal crimes); conduct toward Michael Cohen (former adviser to the president and incarcerated pursuant to guilty plea); and, conduct directing the White House counsel (Don McGahn) to have the special counsel removed.”
In sum, ”… 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 applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.
“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Perhaps it is all the distractions that have resulted in it seeming as if the report has quickly faded in importance, overwhelmed by subsequent news cycles.
Mueller has done his work. Have we permanently conceded that the serious business of governance just takes too much cooperation and too much attention to detail?
Trump keeps tweeting. And it seems that the future of our democratic institutions and the rule of law depend on whose version of the truth prevails.
You cannot afford to ignore the Mueller report.
To ask a legal question, email AskAttyBernie@timesonline.com or send mail to Ask Attorney Bernie, c/o Beaver County Times, 400 Fair Ave., Beaver, PA 15009.
Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠
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