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Mueller for Dummies, Part I: Russia

Everything was made even more complicated for us when Attorney General William Barr and his deputy AG Rod Rosenstein decided to jump the gun and mischaracterize the report while keeping from Congress and the public the most easily understood sections of Mueller’s finding: the summaries.

Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election
Presented with Related Materials by the Washington Post
Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotsky
Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Copyright © 2019 by WP Company LLC

Most of you, like me, never made it to law school, which puts us at a significant disadvantage when it comes to easily appreciating all nuances of the Mueller Report. So please, take no offense at the title: Most of us are dummies when it comes to some of the most legalistic aspects of the Mueller Report.

Of course, everything was made even more complicated for us when Attorney General William Barr and his deputy AG Rod Rosenstein decided to jump the gun and mischaracterize the report while keeping from Congress and the public the most easily understood sections of Mueller’s finding: the summaries.

Attorney General Williams Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at Rosenstein’s May 9 Justice Department farewell ceremony. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the process, they did their boss, President Trump, an extraordinary favor by announcing: “After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation … After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

Which spurred the President and his supporters and FOX News to trumpet again and again, ever more loudly: No Collusion. No Obstruction.

The more you familiarize yourself with the actual Mueller Report, the more you appreciate that this was your classic dirty fight—the old let’s count to three, then cold-cock your opponent at two. If you saw Mueller during his only TV appearance May 29, 2019, you know what I mean. Trying his best to uphold the law, Mueller remained his quintessential self: highly detailed, extremely principled, once a Marine always a Marine, and unwilling to compromise his complete and utter precision or deviate in any way from protocol, his orders, and the rules of the game, even if those Department of Justice rules were not only overly complicated and confused but highly unfair.

In an effort to correct the record, Mueller said: “As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.

“We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the President did commit a crime. The introduction to volume two of our report explains that decision.It explains that under long-standing Department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view—that too is prohibited.

“The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that Department policy. Charging the President with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.” (emphasis added).

Compare that precision to the inaccurate “No Collusion. No Obstruction.” Having read the complete Mueller Report, I now know exactly what Mueller meant. For those who haven’t been watching MSNBC’s small law firm’s worth of consulting attorneys, let me attempt a hopefully useful, highly abbreviated Mueller for Dummies.

Before I begin, it’s important to always bear in mind that the Mueller team was dealing with people who did their best to hide what they were doing and who, if caught, often lied and did whatever they could to stymie the investigation. Here’s a critical, frightening admission from the Executive Summary:

“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.” (Emphasis added).

This wasn’t ever a fair fight.

Let’s look at the first section of the report, Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Quickly and convincingly, Mueller contradicts FOX News’ ill-informed coverage, and Barr’s repeated claim of FBI spying, and his calls for yet another unnecessary investigation into the investigators. Mueller recounts how the investigation into the Trump campaign actually began: “In late July 2016, soon after WikiLeaks’s first release of stolen documents, a foreign government contacted the FBI about a May 2016 encounter with Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.”

Flip it around: What if a foreign government told the FBI the Russians were intervening to help Hillary win the election? Wouldn’t Republicans have expected them to investigate?

What Mueller did discover: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion … 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 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 its election interference activities.” (Emphasis added.)

Some details about the Internet Research Agency, a group funded by Putin’s friend, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin: “By early to mid-2016, IRA operations included supporting the Trump Campaign and disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton … By the end of the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts. Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of U.S. participants. IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who retweeted IRA-created content. In November 2017, a Facebook representative testified that Facebook had identified 470 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017. Facebook estimated the IRA reached as many as 126 million persons through its Facebook accounts.6 In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1.4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.” (Emphasis added.)

Why does Congress need to see the entire report? Because there are multiple pages redacted. Here’s but a small example:

“By February 2016, internal IRA documents referred to support for the Trump Campaign and opposition to candidate Clinton. For example, [+ + + + + + + + + + + + +] directions to IRA operators [+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +] “Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them).”[+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +]  (Ongoing matter redactions and emphasis added).

Mueller notes: “The investigation identified two different forms of connections between the IRA and members of the Trump Campaign. (The investigation identified no similar connections between the IRA and the Clinton Campaign.) First, on multiple occasions, members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign promoted—typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting—pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA through IRA-controlled social media accounts. Additionally, in a few instances, IRA employees represented themselves as U.S. persons to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign in an effort to seek assistance and coordination on IRA-organized political rallies inside the United States …

“In sum … the Office concluded (and a grand jury has alleged) that Prigozhin, his companies, and IRA employees violated U.S. law through these operations, principally by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections.” (Emphasis added.)

Remember when President Trump feigned confusion about who actually hacked the Democratic emails: the 400-pound guy lying in his bed or the Chinese? The Mueller report pinpoints those responsible: “Beginning in March 2016, units of the Russian Federation’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) hacked the computers and email accounts of organizations, employees, and volunteers supporting the Clinton Campaign, including the email account of campaign chairman John Podesta … In total, the GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. The GRU later released stolen Clinton Campaign and DNC documents through online personas, “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” and later through the organization WikiLeaks. The release of the documents was designed and timed to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and undermine the Clinton Campaign.”(Emphasis added).

As for possible coordination that may never be provable or perhaps one of the very greatest coincidences: “On July 27, 2016 … candidate Trump made public statements that included the following: ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press’ …  

“Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office. After candidate Trump’s remarks, Unit 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 email accounts at the domain [# # # # #] including an email account belonging to Clinton aide [# # # # #] The investigation did not find evidence of earlier GRU attempts to compromise accounts hosted on this domain. It is unclear how the GRU was able to identify these email accounts, which were not public.” (Ongoing matters redactions, emphasis added).

Image: Tami Burages

More redactions. Mueller’s section on ‘Contacts with the Campaign about WikiLeaks’ is almost unreadable: “According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks. [+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +]. [+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +] while Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia Airport. [+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +], shortly after the call candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.

[+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +] (Ongoing matters redactions).

The report acknowledges that “Both the GRU and WikiLeaks sought to hide their communications, which has limited the Office’s ability to collect all of the communications between them. Thus, although it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks, [= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =] (Ongoing matters redactions, emphasis added).

Now, this especially critical threat has received less attention than it ought to: “GRU officers also targeted individuals and entities involved in the administration of the elections. Victims included U.S. state and local entities, such as state boards of elections (SBOEs), secretaries of state, and county governments, as well as individuals who worked for those entities. The GRU also targeted private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administering election-related software and hardware, such as voter registration software and electronic polling stations. The GRU continued to target these victims through the elections in November 2016. While the investigation identified evidence that the GRU targeted these individuals and entities, the Office did not investigate further. The Office did not, for instance, obtain or examine servers or other relevant items belonging to these victims. The Office understands that the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the states have separately investigated that activity …

“GRU officers, for example, targeted state and local databases of registered voters using a technique known as ‘SQL injection,’ by which malicious code was sent to the state or local website in order to run commands …The GRU then gained access to a database containing information on millions of registered Illinois voters, and extracted data related to thousands of U.S. voters before the malicious activity was identified.

“GRU officers [= = = = = = = = = = = =] scanned state and local websites for vulnerabilities. For example, over a two-day period in July 2016, GRU officers [= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =] for vulnerabilities on websites of more than two dozen states. [= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =] Similar [= = = = =] for vulnerabilities continued through the election.(Ongoing matters redactions. emphasis added).

Again, the Mueller team acknowledges the limitations of their work when it comes to voting: “August 2016, GRU officers targeted employees of [# # # # #], a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network.Similarly, in November 2016, the GRU sent spearphishing emails to over 120 email accounts used by Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. election.191 The spearphishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer. The FBI was separately responsible for this investigation.We understand the FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government. The Office did not independently verify that belief and, as explained above, did not undertake the investigative steps that would have been necessary to do so.” (Ongoing matters redactions. emphasis added).

Over and over again, pundits and politicians alike have assured us that no vote was changed during the 2016 section, and that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the election was compromised. But the preceding paragraphs seem to imply (and that is without the benefit of knowing what’s beneath the ongoing matters redactions) that, so far as we know, there was nothing stopping the GRU from accomplishing that, and that we have no idea what the FBI did or didn’t do to investigate further.

All of which makes Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s refusal to bring to a vote legislation to prevent future interference in the 2020 election maddening and remarkably irresponsible.

 

As for the No Collusion refrain, the Mueller team clarifies: “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 those reasons, the Office’s focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal 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.” (emphasis added.)

Ironically, a close reading of the Mueller Report reveals that, in many ways, it was the blundering incompetence of the Trump people, including folks like Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen that hampered a more effective coordination with the Russians. Nevertheless, they met many times with Russians or their agents, tried to establish backdoor communications with the Russians and elude notice by the U.S. intelligence services, change the Republican platform to better conform with Russian foreign policy, as all the while the Trump Company tried to negotiate an extraordinarily profitable real estate deal, combining commercial, hotel and residential properties known as the Trump Moscow project. And bear in mind that while the Mueller team couldn’t prove “more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests,” the American people and Congress might find these actions completely contrary to established norms, perhaps so inappropriate as to qualify for impeachment.

Image: Tami Burages

An example: contradicting his 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Mueller report puts Donald Trump Jr. at the center of plans for the Moscow project: “Donald J. Trump Jr. served as the primary negotiator on behalf of the Trump Organization;Emin Agalarov (son of Aras Agalarov) and Irakli “Ike” Kaveladze represented the Crocus Group during negotiations, with the occasional assistance of Robert Goldstone.In December 2013, Kaveladze and Trump Jr. negotiated and signed preliminary terms of an agreement for the Trump Tower Moscow project. On December 23, 2013, after discussions with Donald J. Trump, the Trump Organization agreed to accept an arrangement whereby the organization received a flat 3.5% commission on all sales, with no licensing fees or incentives. The parties negotiated a letter of intent during January and February 2014.”

As for daughter Ivanka Trump, Mueller notes: “In February 2014, Ivanka Trump met with Emin Agalarov and toured the Crocus City site during a visit to Moscow. From March 2014 through July 2014, the groups discussed ‘design standards’ and other architectural elements

Though this deal never materialized, Mueller details the family’s involvement in another possible Moscow development deal: “In approximately September 2015, Felix Sater, a New York- based real estate advisor, contacted Michael Cohen, then-executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald J. Trump …

“Beginning in late 2015, Sater repeatedly tried to arrange for Cohen and candidate Trump, as representatives of the Trump Organization, to travel to Russia to meet with Russian government officials and possible financing partners. Sater wrote:

“Please call me I have Evgeney [Dvoskin] on the other line. He needs a copy of your and Donald’s passports they need a scan of every page of the passports. Invitations & Visas will be issued this week by VTB Bank to discuss financing for Trump Tower Moscow. Politically neither Putins office nor Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot issue invite, so they are inviting commercially/business. VTB is Russia’s 2 biggest bank and VTB Bank CEO Andrey Kostin, will be at all meetings with Putin so that it is a business meeting not political. We will be invited to Russian consulate this week to receive invite & have visa issued.

Cohen also discussed the Trump Moscow project with Ivanka Trump as to design elements (such as possible architects to use for the project and Donald J. Trump Jr. (about his experience in Moscow and possible involvement in the project during the fall of 2015. (Emphasis added.)

While the Trump family has always minimized their relationship with Russia, they stood to make a fortune if relations improved and they could do business with Putin and Russia. Mueller reveals that the Letter of Intent provided significant financial benefit: “The LOI … called for ‘[a]pproximately 250 first class, luxury residential condominiums,’ as well as ‘[o]ne first class, luxury hotel consisting of approximately 15 floors and containing not fewer than 150 hotel rooms.’ … Under the LOI, the Trump Organization also would receive a $4 million ‘up-front fee’ prior to groundbreaking. Under these terms, the Trump Organization stood to earn substantial sums over the lifetime of the project, without assuming significant liabilities or financing commitments.”

Footnote 322 elaborates: “The LOI called for the Trump Organization to receive 5% of all gross sales up to $100 million; 4% of all gross sales from $100 million to $250 million; 3% of all gross sales from $250 million to $500 million; 2% of all gross sales from $500 million to $1 billion; and 1% of all gross sales over $1 billion. LOI, Schedule 2.”

Sater linked the project with political benefits for the Trump campaign: “On November 3, 2015, the day after the Trump Organization transmitted the LOI, Sater emailed Cohen suggesting that the Trump Moscow project could be used to increase candidate Trump’s chances at being elected, writing:

“Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process. Michael, Putin gets on stage with Donald for a ribbon cutting for Trump Moscow, and Donald owns the republican nomination. And possibly beats Hillary and our boy is in. We will manage this process better than anyone. You and I will get Donald and Vladimir on a stage together very shortly. That the game changer.’ (Emphasis added.)

So. while a conspiracy not provable beyond a reasonable doubt, many may regard as remarkably suspicious the many contacts and connections that existed between the Trump Campaign and the Russians.

Another example: “On June 9, 2016, senior representatives of the Trump Campaign met in Trump Tower with a Russian attorney expecting to receive derogatory information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. The meeting was proposed to Donald Trump Jr. in an email from Robert Goldstone, at the request of his then-client Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian real-estate developer Aras Agalarov. Goldstone relayed to Trump Jr. that the ‘Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump Campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia’ as ‘part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’ Trump Jr. immediately responded that ‘if it’s what you say I love it,’ and arranged the meeting through a series of emails and telephone calls.

Image: Tami Burages

“Trump Jr. invited campaign chairman Paul Manafort and senior advisor Jared Kushner to attend the meeting, and both attended. Members of the Campaign discussed the meeting before it occurred, and Michael Cohen recalled that Trump Jr. may have told candidate Trump about an upcoming meeting to receive adverse information about Clinton, without linking the meeting to Russia. According to written answers submitted by President Trump, he has no recollection of learning of the meeting at the time, and the Office found no documentary evidence showing that he was made aware of the meeting—or its Russian connection—before it occurred.

Then there’s the activities of Paul Manafort: “Paul Manafort served on the Trump Campaign, including a period as campaign chairman, from March to August 2016. Manafort had connections to Russia through his prior work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and later through his work for a pro-Russian regime in Ukraine. Manafort stayed in touch with these contacts during the campaign period through Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort employee who previously ran Manafort’s office in Kiev and who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence.

Manafort instructed Rick Gates, his deputy on the Campaign and a longtime employee, to provide Kilimnik with updates on the Trump Campaign—including internal polling data, although Manafort claims not to recall that specific instruction. Manafort expected Kilimnik to share that information with others in Ukraine and with Deripaska. Gates periodically sent such polling data to Kilimnik during the campaign. (Emphasis added).

Image: Tami Burages

“Manafort also twice met Kilimnik in the United States during the campaign period and conveyed campaign information. The second meeting took place on August 2, 2016, in New York City. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a message from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was then living in Russia. The message was about a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort has since acknowledged was a ‘backdoor’ means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine. Several months later, after the presidential election, Kilimnik wrote an email to Manafort expressing the view—which Manafort later said he shared—that the plan’s success would require U.S. support to succeed: “all that is required to start the process is a very minor ‘wink’ (or slight push) from [Donald Trump].” The email also stated that if Manafort were designated as the U.S. representative and started the process, Yanukovych would ensure his reception in Russia “at the very top level.”

Add some these together and speculate for a moment: stolen Hillary Clinton campaign data and strategy, the transfer of up-to-date sophisticated polling data via Manafort to Russia, and a sophisticated targeted Russian IRA propaganda campaign aimed at dissuading potential Clinton voters. In return for what? U.S. acceptance of Russian control of the Ukraine? An end to crippling economic sanctions?

Image: Tami Burages

Significantly, Mueller reminds us: “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. (Ongoing matters redactions, emphasis added).

Robert Mueller at the Department of Justice May 29. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Lastly, it is critically important to acknowledge that everything the Mueller team did was shaped by current Department of Justice policy and the infamous Office of Legal Counsel opinion that insists a sitting President could not be prosecuted for crimes anyone else could be prosecuted for. Remember, Robert Mueller and his team were acting employees of that very same Department of Justice and bound by this opinion. Mueller, scrupulously fair, goes on to explain that given that current DOJ policy, it would have been unfair to charge the President with crimes because he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to defend himself against those charges and prove his innocence in a normal court proceeding.

Given all that, it is completely disingenuous for Attorney General Barr to suggest Mueller, if he felt he was guilty, should have charged the president, or to claim that by not charging President Trump, Mueller signaled that the president was innocent. Mueller, honorable to a fault, was prohibited from doing exactly what Barr suggests he should have done. And Barr and his fellow Trump supporters would have been the first to criticize Mueller had he done so.

So, Mueller states the obvious. Department of Justice guidelines make it impossible and unconstitutional to charge the president. Only Congress, under the Constitution, has that power.

Next time, obstruction. In the meantime, here’s a short summary of Mueller’s accomplishments by Washington Post reporters Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky: “In federal court, his team racked up an extraordinary record. His prosecutors charged thirty-four people, including twenty-six Russian nationals. They secured guilty pleas from seven people, including a former national security adviser and the chairman of Trump’s campaign. They reconstructed the day-to-day interactions of Trump’s closest aides and his adult children, exploring dozens of instances of Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. They documented the Russian attack on American democracy in breathtaking detail, even tracing individual keystrokes of Russian military officers in Moscow.”

___________________________________________________________________

Sources

Barr Press Conference on Mueller Report
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/18/barr-mueller-report-news-conference-transcript/?

Mueller Statement May 29, 2019
http://time.com/5597514/robert-mueller-statement/

“Russian trolls who interfered in 2016 U.S. election also made ad money, report says”
Some accounts were set up months in advance. And some trolls used fake accounts to make money, researchers found, with one perhaps generating $1 million.
Ken Dilanian, June 5, 2019, NBC News
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/russian-trolls-who-interfered-2016-u-s-election-also-made-n1013811

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