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Mueller report released: Recap of findings and reactions to special counsel’s investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller's report says the Trump campaign expected to benefit from Russia's efforts during the 2016 election and that staffers disobeyed orders to interfere with the investigation.

(From left to right) Attorney General William Barr, President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
(From left to right) Attorney General William Barr, President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.Read moreAP Photos / AP Photos

A redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign has been released to the public by Attorney General William Barr.

Here are some of the key findings from the report:

• Mueller wasn’t able to conclude “no criminal conduct occurred” on claims Trump attempted to obstruct justice.

• The investigation found that while Trump’s campaign didn’t take criminal steps to help the Russians interfere with the election, the campaign “expected” it would benefit from Russia’s efforts.

• On several occasions, Trump attempted to interfere with Mueller’s investigation, but subordinates did not follow his orders.

• The report describes Trump rallies in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that were organized by Russian agents.

Read on for more highlights of the redacted report’s findings, and reactions to the long-awaited document.

‘Gang of Eight,’ House and Senate Judiciary Committees to review less-redacted report

Chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees as well as the “Gang of Eight” — a nickname given to the top Congressional party leaders and ranking members of the intelligence committees — will be privy to a less-redacted version of the Mueller report next week.

The review, according to a letter from Barr to the invited parties, must take place in camera and via appointment between Monday, April 22, and Friday, April 26.

While still protecting “sensitive grand jury information,” the less-redacted report will expose previously scrubbed statements, including those that Barr said could compromise ongoing investigations, reveal intelligence-gathering techniques or informants, or violate personal privacy if made public.

Schiff says impeachment ‘one possibility,’ Trump doesn’t take questions

After formally inviting Mueller to testify before Congress, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff spoke to reporters Thursday, answering a question over whether impeachment is on the table.

“That’s one possibility,” Schiff said. “There are others.”

Schiff added that the acts detailed in the report “unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral, and unpatriotic and should be condemned by every American.”

While declining to say whether he though Barr should be removed from his post, Schiff also condemned the attorney general, telling reporters he has “done a great disservice to the country.”

“I think it was a grave error by the Senate to confirm him without requiring his recusal" from the Mueller investigation, Schiff said.

Meanwhile, Trump, who often stops to talk to reporters on the White House’s South Lawn, remained uncharacteristically quiet on his walk to his aircraft, declining to take questions from members of the media. On Twitter, however, Trump wrote: “I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted.”

The president is expected to spend the Easter weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

Mueller report: Russian operatives sought to help Bernie Sanders in 2016 election

Mueller’s findings shed new light on Russian interference in the 2016 election, showing that the Internal Research Agency not only used social media to bolster Trump’s campaign, but also that of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

From the report:

“Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them).”
Directions to IRA operators

Assertions of a pro-Sanders Russian campaign surfaced in February 2018, when Mueller’s team indicted 13 people across three companies for subverting the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

On Thursday, Sanders condemned both Trump and Russian interference in the election, and called on Congress to continue Mueller’s investigation.

Sanders admitted to Mueller she misled reporters about Comey

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was untruthful when detailing the events following Trump's firing of then FBI Director James Comey, according to the report.

On May 10, the day following the firing, Sanders partially attributed the president’s decision to “the rank and file of the FBI” who “had lost confidence in their director.” In a reply to a reporter who pointed out that many had in fact supported Comey’s leadership, Sanders said, “we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.” Trump was pleased by the comments and didn’t “point out any inaccuracies,” according to the report.

The report revealed that Sander’s reference to hearing from “countless members” was a “slip of the tongue.”

In what the document cites as a “separate press interview,” Sanders’ comments “that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey” were made “in the heat of the moment” and weren’t founded on anything.

On May 11, Fox’s John Roberts again questioned Sanders, asking what had the White House “to believe that [Comey] had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI when the Acting Director [Andrew McCabe] says it’s exactly the opposite.” She replied that she was speaking from her “own personal experience.”

“I’m sure that there are some people that are disappointed but I’ve certainly heard from a large number of individuals and that’s just myself, and I don’t even know that many people in the FBI,” she said.

Pa. Democrat says their investigations will continue

U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Pa.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Democrats will continue their own investigations, and expect to have Barr and Mueller testify soon.

Dean, of Montgomery County, had not read the report in full but had seen key points from aides.

In an interview, she said it showed that Mueller “does not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice,” and that “there’s been a PR campaign started with a press conference without a report to try to say yet again that there’s some possibility that the report exonerates [Trump]. It does not.”

An issue as serious as Russian interference in a U.S. election, she said, is “not something that should be glossed over.”

Dean, however, said it would be “foolhardy” to jump to a pursuit of impeachment at this stage.

“I don’t think we’re there yet. I think we have to actually do our job and speak to the people and expose to the light of the day,” the details of the investigation and other potential wrongdoing by Trump.

HBO responds to Trump tweet

Ahead of the redacted report’s release, Trump tweeted out a photo of himself that said, “No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and the radical left democrats - game over,” borrowing a likeness from HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which premiered its eighth season Sunday.

“Though we can understand the enthusiasm for ‘Game of Thrones’ now that the final season has arrived, we still prefer our intellectual property not be used for political purposes," HBO said in a statement to The Hill.

Reactions ranged on the social-media platform, as many continued to dig through the 448-page report. Some pointed at the large voids left by redactions, while other commented on differences between Barr’s summary and the full document. Others were satisfied with there being no evidence of collusion and urged for those unhappy to “move on.”

Kellyanne Conway says it’s ‘time to move on’

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said it was “time to move on” following the release of the redacted Mueller report.

Conway, speaking at the White House Thursday afternoon, reiterated Trump’s claims of “no collusion” and told reporters “we’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them.”

Conway also told reporters that she had already finished reading the full-448 page report, even though it had only been released about two hours earlier. “I read the full report and I got it very recently," Conway boasted.

Democrats call out ‘stark’ differences between what Barr said and Mueller wrote

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said there were “stark” differences between what Barr said about Trump’s possible obstruction of justice, and what Mueller included in his report.

“Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller’s report appears to undercut that finding,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

“We clearly can’t believe what Attorney General Barr tells us," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) told reporters in a Thursday afternoon press conference.

Mueller deemed Trump’s written answers ‘inadequate’

Trump repeatedly told Mueller’s investigators that he could not remember key events in the Russia probe, leading the special counsel to deem the president’s written answers “inadequate.”

Among the nearly three dozen times the president said he had fuzzy recollection: Regarding the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Russian officials, adding that he had “no independent recollection” of his personal whereabouts during the meeting.

Though Mueller repeatedly requested an in-person interview with Trump, the president declined, instead providing a written responses narrowly focused on any interactions with Russia.

From the report:

The written responses, we informed counsel, ‘demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format, as we have had no opportunity to ask follow- up questions that would ensure complete answers and potentially refresh your client 's recollection or clarify the extent or nature of his lack of recollection.’
We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that ‘[t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all of the evidence we have gathered.’ The President declined.

Mueller explains why he didn’t prosecute Donald Trump Jr.

Mueller declined to prosecute Donald Trump Jr. and other members of the campaign for campaign finance violations, explaining that prosecutors would “encounter difficulties” proving Trump Jr. “willfully violated the law” when meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016.

From the report:

Accordingly, taking into account the high burden to establish a culpable mental state in a campaign-finance prosecution and the difficulty in establishing the required valuation, the Office decided not to pursue criminal campaign-finance charges against Trump Jr. or other campaign officials for the events culminating in the June 9 meeting.

Report: Pennsylvania’s Miners for Trump rallies were organized by Russian trolls

The October 2016 pro-Trump rallies, promoted in Pittsburgh and at Philadelphia’s “Marcony [sic] Plaza,” were among the dozens of U.S. rallies orchestrated by Russian internet trolls, Mueller’s report states.

Posing as grassroots activists, 80 Russian workers organized and promoted U.S. political rallies from an office in St. Petersburg, backed by millions of dollars and using Facebook and Twitter to fuel the discord, an indictment filed in February 2018 revealed.

» READ MORE: ‘Miners for Trump:’ The story behind the Russian-organized Philly rally highlighted in Mueller’s report

In Pennsylvania, a state that proved crucial to Trump’s win in the 2016 election, the Russian intelligence agency organized rallies a month before the vote in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. While it remains unclear how many people attended the rallies, the events’ internet presence was strong.

“As far as Mr. Trump pursues the goal of creating jobs and supports the working class,” a Facebook post from an account titled “Being Patriotic” read. “He said he would put miners back to work. We could help Mr. Trump win Pennsylvania which is a battleground state.”

Similar pro-Trump rallies were promoted in New York and Florida in the months leading up to the election, with a Miami rally drawing the support of the Trump campaign, the report states.

14 cases have been sent to other jurisdictions. We only know about 2.

Special Counsel’s Office has referred 14 cases to other jurisdictions for investigation, but we only know the details of two, according to the redacted report.

All but two of the cases are blacked out because they are ongoing investigations. The two listed are for Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to wire and violations of the federal election campaign laws, and Gregory Craig, who was White House counsel under President Barack Obama and has been indicted on charges of lying and hiding information related to his foreign lobbying work for Ukraine in 2016.

Trump’s legal team declares ‘total victory’

Trump’s legal team declared “total victory” in a statement on Thursday following the release of Mueller’s redacted report.

“The results of the investigation are a total victory for the President,” Trump’s legal team — which includes Rudolph W. Giuliani, Jay Sekulow, Jane Serene Raskin, and Martin R. Raskin — said in a statement. “The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning — there was no collusion — there was no obstruction.”

Mueller explains why he didn’t subpoena Trump

The special counsel said his team sought a voluntary interview with the president, who declined.

“Ultimately, while we believed that we had the authority and legal justification to issue a grand jury subpoena to obtain the President 's testimony, we chose not to do so,” the report said. “We made that decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation.”

Mueller’s report contradict’s Barr’s claim about Trump’s cooperation

During his press conference, Barr claimed that Trump “took no act” that deprived Mueller’s investigation of the “documents and witnesses” needed to complete his investigation.

But throughout the report, Mueller details several instances where Trump took actions "directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons.” The report notes that many of these actions occurred in public.

From the report:

Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations… These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.

Toomey: I haven’t read the report, but all Americans ‘should be pleased’

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) said in a statement Thursday that he had not yet read the lengthy report, "all Americans should be pleased" that it found no evidence of collusion. He was also "pleased" that no redactions were granted on the basis of executive privilege and that an fuller version of the report would be shared with select lawmakers in the future.

“The Special Counsel’s findings are a stark reminder that Russia’s goal is to undermine the trust the American people have in our democratic process and government," he said.

Trump called appointment of special counsel ‘the end of my presidency’

Trump thought the appointment of Mueller as special counsel would bring an end to his presidency, according to the Mueller report.

“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked,” Trump said, according to notes written by Jody Hunt, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff.

More from the report:

The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” … The President returned to the consequences of the appointment and said, “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.

Chris Christie called Trump’s request to contact Comey ‘nonsensical’

Trump tried to enlist former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the effort to try to make sure that fired FBI director James Comey “felt like part of the team,” according to the Mueller report.

During lunch with the president on Feb. 14, 2017, Trump told Christie to call Comey, a friend of the former governor, and tell him that the president “really likes him. Tell him he is part of the team.” At the end of the lunch, the president repeated his request. Christie had no intention of doing the errand, Mueller’s team said.

Christie told investigators that Trump’s request was “nonsensical” and that he did not want to put the FBI director in the position of having to receive such an awkward phone call.

Christie was called and served as a sounding board on some of Trump’s biggest decisions during the investigation, and footnotes in the report suggest Christie gave his interview with the FBI on his involvement only this February.

After Trump fired Comey, he got Christie — also a former U.S. attorney — on the line and complained he was getting “killed” in the press. The president asked what he should do. “Did you fire [Comey] because of what Rod wrote in the memo?” Christie asked, referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who authored a memo critical of Comey’s handling of the 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. “Yes,” Trump said, according to the report. Christie suggested that the White House should “get Rod out there” to defend the decision. Trump told Christie it was a “good idea” and indicated he was going to call Rosenstein as soon as possible.

» READ MORE: Trump sought Chris Christie’s advice on Comey fallout, whether to fire Mueller

Report: Trump’s subordinates did not obey orders to interfere with investigation

Mueller’s report states that Trump attempted to interfere with the special counsel’s investigation, but his orders were not carried out by subordinates. From the report:

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.

Mueller pointed to four instances where subordinates did not obey orders from Trump:

Comey did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in [Former National Security Advisor Michael] Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. [Former White House Counsel Don] McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. [Former campaign manager Cory] Lewandowski and [former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick] Dearborn did not deliver the President’s message to [former Attorney General Jeff] Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so.

Mueller’s investigation did not clear Trump on obstruction

Mueller’s report states that because the investigation did not make a prosecutorial judgement, they did now draw “ultimate conclusions” about Trump’s conduct. But the report also states the evidence it obtained about Trump’s actions present "difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.”

More from the conclusion of Volume II of Mueller’s report:

“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. 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.”

» READ MORE: Time after time, Trump’s team refused to follow his orders to undermine the Mueller probe

Report states Trump campaign ‘expected’ it would benefit from Russian efforts

Mueller’s report states that the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts” but that the investigation did “not establish” members of the campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russians.

According to the report, Mueller’s investigation looked only at conspiracy and not collusion because there is no legal standard for collusion. But Mueller’s investigation found that Russian interference “favored” Trump, and “identified numerous links between the Russian government and and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.”

Mueller report released

The redacted version of the Mueller report was posted on the special counsel’s website shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday. Read Mueller’s redacted report here.

Barr has no objection to Mueller testifying to Congress

Barr said he had “no objection” to Mueller, who was not present at this morning’s press conference, testifying to Congress about his report.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) sent a letter to Mueller this morning, requesting the special counsel to testify before the House Judiciary Committee “no later than May 23.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) have also called on Mueller to testify.

A handful of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Senators Cory Booker (N.J.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), were quick to join their calls.

“Congress & the American people need to hear directly from the person who authored the report,” N.J. Sen. Cory Booker tweeted Thursday.

Barr: ‘The Russian government sought to interfere in our election process’

Barr said during his press conference that the special counsel’s report shows Russian operatives did in fact attempt to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

“The Russian government sought to interfere in our election process,” Barr said, adding that Mueller’s investigation found no evidence that any Americans “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”

“After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes,” Barr added.

Barr criticized for timing of release

According to multiple reports, Barr won’t release Mueller’s report until sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, a move that drew harsh criticism from several top Democrats, including Pelosi, Schumer, and Nadler.

“This is wrong,” Nadler told reporters. “The fact that the attorney general is not releasing even the redacted report to Congress until after his press conference will again result in the report being presented through his own words, instead of the words of special counsel Mueller."

Trump is already on Twitter

Ahead of Barr’s press conference and the report’s release, Trump is on Twitter repeating claims that the special counsel’s investigation — which has led to indictments against 34 people — was a “hoax.”

Trump also shared several tweets made by the conservative activist group Judicial Watch, which range from various Fox News video clips to claims about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

During an interview with WMAL Radio’s Larry O’Connor on Wednesday, Trump suggested he might hold his own press conference Thursday.

“Attorney General Barr will be giving a press conference, maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see,” Trump said.

Barr to make less-redacted version available to some Congressional leaders

The process of redacting Mueller’s report took Barr and the Department of Justice more than three weeks to complete. Barr said his goal was to limit redactions to four types of information: grand jury material, sensitive intelligence, matters that could affect ongoing investigations, and infringements on the privacy rights of “peripheral third parties.”

During two days of testimony on Capitol Hill last week, Barr made it clear he did not intend to release an unredacted version of Mueller’s report to Congress. But during his Thursday morning press conference, Barr said he would allow a group of bipartisan Congressional leaders to see a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report.

“In an effort to accommodate congressional requests, we will make available to a bipartisan group of leaders from several congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information,” Barr said.

The House Judiciary Committee voted earlier this month to authorize a subpoena for Mueller’s full, unexpurgated report and all the evidence gathered by investigators. Chairman Nadler called Barr “biased” and said Trump’s attorney general was “entitled to be a defender of the administration, but he’s not entitled to withhold the evidence from Congress.”

“If the chairman believes that he’s entitled to receive [the unredacted Mueller report], he can move the court for it,” Barr said during his testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee.

Counter-report in the works

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, has said the president’s lawyers were working on a counter-report to Mueller’s findings. Giuliani told Politico earlier this week that the counter-report was 34 or 35 pages long.

What Barr’s summary said

Barr’s initial four-page memo summarizing Mueller’s findings was sent to lawmakers March 24 and only contained a few direct quotations from the report, including that the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” Barr also quoted Mueller directly on the issue of potential obstruction of justice: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Despite that, Trump has repeatedly cited Barr’s memo as a “complete and total exoneration,” even while referring to Mueller’s investigation as “an illegal take-down that failed.

Charges resulting from the probe

Over his nearly two-year investigation, Mueller brought criminal charges against six Trump associates — former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, senior campaign aide Rick Gates, national security adviser Michael Flynn, former layer and fixer Michael Cohen, political advisor Roger Stone, and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. In total, 34 people, including 25 Russians, were charged directly as a result of Mueller’s investigation.

» TIMELINE: Key dates in Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election

Staff writers Jonathan Tamari, Patricia Madej, and Oona Goodin-Smith contributed to this report.