/Mueller Reveals Trump’s Efforts to Thwart Russian Inquiry in Highly Anticipated Report

Mueller Reveals Trump’s Efforts to Thwart Russian Inquiry in Highly Anticipated Report

WASHINGTON — Robert S. Mueller III revealed the scope of a historic Russian marketing campaign to sabotage the 2016 presidential election in a much-anticipated report made public on Thursday, and he detailed a frantic monthslong effort by President Trump to thwart a federal investigation that imperiled his presidency from the beginning.

Mr. Mueller, the particular counsel, laid out how his staff of prosecutors wrestled with whether or not Mr. Trump’s actions added up to a prison obstruction-of-justice offense. They finally selected not to cost Mr. Trump, citing quite a few authorized and factual constraints, however pointedly declined to exonerate him and recommended that it is perhaps the position of Congress to settle the matter.

The report laid naked that Mr. Trump was elected with the assistance of a international energy, and cataloged quite a few conferences between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russians looking for to affect the marketing campaign and the presidential transition staff — encounters arrange in pursuit of enterprise offers, coverage initiatives and political filth about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president.

The particular counsel concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” to decide that the president or his aides had engaged in a prison conspiracy with the Russians, though the Trump marketing campaign welcomed the Kremlin sabotage effort and “expected it would benefit electorally” from the hacks and leaks of Democratic emails.

“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,” the report said.

The special counsel found that Mr. Trump had the authority to make many of his most controversial decisions, including the firing of James B. Comey as the F.B.I. director, by virtue of the powers the Constitution grants him. At the same time, it is a far more damning portrayal of his behavior than the one presented last month in a four-page letter released by Attorney General William P. Barr.

“The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the president sought to use his official power outside of usual channels,” the report said. “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. Viewing the acts collectively can help to illuminate their significance.”

In his letter, Mr. Barr announced that while Mr. Mueller had made no judgment about whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice, he had stepped in to decide that the president had not.

Mr. Barr defended his decision in a news conference on Thursday and said that some of the president’s actions were understandable given the “context” of his situation.

“There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks,” Mr. Barr said.

The Mueller report is a sometimes gripping account of a presidency consumed by a sprawling investigation, and of a president seized by paranoia about what it might unearth.

When Mr. Mueller began his work, there were still prominent voices at both ends of the political spectrum openly debating whether the hacking and leaking of emails — and the fake news that spread like a wildfire on social media in the months before the election — was the work of Russia, China, stateless hackers or, as Mr. Trump once liked to say, “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

Even last summer, standing next to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia after a summit meeting in Finland, Mr. Trump refused to accept that the Russians had carried out the election sabotage.

Now, the voices of doubt have mostly been silenced, in part because of two indictments Mr. Mueller secured last year against a total of 25 Russian military intelligence operatives and experts in social media manipulation. The indictments gave exquisite details about the entirety of the Russian operation — how Russians paid unsuspecting Americans to stage pro-Trump rallies in battleground states, how Russian hackers penetrated the personal email account of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman and how a pair of Russian women took a scouting trip to the United States two years before the election to gather information for the planned assault.

Just weeks into his presidency, Mr. Trump declared there had been no meetings or other communications during the campaign between his advisers and Russians or other Kremlin intermediaries. A parade of news media reports followed saying otherwise — reports that the White House denounced at the time as false but that Mr. Mueller’s report showed to be accurate.

One of the most significant was a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, and a group of Russians who had promised political dirt about Mrs. Clinton.

When The New York Times revealed the meeting a year later, there was a frenzied effort by the president’s aides to mislead the public about its purpose — including putting out a news release that the meeting had primarily been about a Russian adoption program.

The report stated that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer “repeatedly and inaccurately denied that the president played any role in drafting Trump Jr.’s statement,” and that the special counsel investigated whether that meeting violated campaign finance laws. Mr. Mueller’s team found that the evidence was “not sufficient.”

Some of the meetings with Russians were a mélange of business and politics, and Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors wrapped up their inquiry still puzzled about their purpose.

In December 2016, for instance, the head of a Russian bank under sanctions met in New York with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in law and senior adviser. Mr. Kushner told the special counsel it was a diplomatic meeting with a person close to Mr. Putin set to discuss the future of relations between the United States and Russia.

Other Americans made up their minds long ago, and it is unclear what the effect will be of the release of hundreds of pages of investigative conclusions by a team of seasoned prosecutors. Those already convinced that the investigation was a witch hunt, and those already convinced that Mr. Trump conspired with Russia to win the presidency, are unlikely to be moved by the conclusions of Mr. Mueller and his team.

Mr. Mueller’s byzantine investigation amassed information from thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of search warrants and evidence turned over from more than a dozen foreign governments.

The report released on Thursday revealed that his team of prosecutors had found enough evidence of potential crimes to make 14 different criminal referrals to other federal prosecutors.

So far, only two of those have officially been made public.

Source link Nytimes.com

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