Inside the Mueller Report: Findings Contradict Trump’s ‘Total Exoneration’ Claim
This is the first entry in a multi-part series which takes an in-depth look at the Mueller Report.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team did not exonerate President Trump nor his administration of all crimes.
Despite the four-page summary of the Mueller Report released last month by Attorney General William Barr, the redacted 448-page report is damning to President Donald Trump’s administration.
At the time of Barr’s initial summary, a coalition of right wingers and a small fraction of the left celebrated how the Mueller Report didn’t prove any number of wrongdoings by the President; however, Thursday’s release proved Mueller’s findings did not exonerate the President either, as he has claimed.
The Best News Isn’t Great for Trump Administration
The section labeled “The Special Counsel’s Charging Decisions” maintained some of the best news for the Trump administration throughout the report, despite the information raising legal alarms.
…While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.
“The investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters,” the explanation would continue.
“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, infer 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.”
While most of the information included above was already known, the public release of the Mueller report shows Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team did not exonerate President Trump nor his administration of all crimes, stating that authenticated links could not be proven to have led to direct criminal activity.
Scope of Mueller’s Investigation
Later the report would detail the narrow scope of the investigation, which was limited to President Donald Trump’s campaign for office and wrongdoing found due to the investigation.
…The Acting Attorney General [Rod J. Rosenstein] ordered the appointment of a Special Counsel “in order to discharge [the Acting Attorney General’s] responsibility to provide supervision and management of the Department of Justice, and to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” Appointment Order (introduction). “The Special Counsel,” the Order stated, “is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017,” including:
(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and
(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and
(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a) [The authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel’s investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses.]
A later memorandum in August 2017 further detailed the scope of the investigation: “It then confirmed that the Special Counsel had been authorized since his appointment to investigate allegations that three Trump campaign officials—Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos—committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.'”
Highly Redacted Active Measures Portion
The section titled “Russian ‘Active Measures’ Social Media” is highly redacted with “Harm To Ongoing Matter” being given as the reason for such. The actions of the Russian IRA (Internet Research Agency) are detailed within the public sections of the Mueller Report.
“The IRA and its employees began operations targeting the United States as early as 2014. Using fictitious U.S. personas, IRA employees operated social media accounts and group pages designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and accounts, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists,” the report details before focusing on how the IRA worked to prop up now President Donald Trump.
By early to mid-2016, IRA operations included supporting the Trump Campaign and disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton. The IRA made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Some IRA employees, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated electronically with individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities, including the staging of political rallies.’ The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.
Before the redaction began, the Mueller Report went in-depth describing how the IRA reached “tens of millions of U.S. persons” between accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
While not detailed in the public version of the report, a joint investigation by Engadget and Point earlier in the year found accounts possibly linked to the IRA continue to reach millions of Reddit users. It’s unknown whether the public will ever be made aware if the redacted portion here is focusing on the actions of the IRA, the Trump administration or a combination of both.