WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump sought the removal of special counsel Robert Mueller, discouraged witnesses from cooperating with prosecutors and prodded aides to mislead the public on his behalf. That’s according to the redacted report from Mueller that details multiple efforts the president made to curtail an investigation into Russia meddling and possible collusion by the Trump Campaign that he feared would cripple his administration.
According to the Associated Press, Trump’s attempts to seize control of the investigation, and his effort to direct others on how to influence it, “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 wrote.
The report’s bottom line largely tracked the findings revealed in Attorney General William Barr’s four-page memo released last month — no collusion with Russia but no clear verdict on obstruction. But in addition, it added new layers of detail about Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation.
Trump himself was never questioned in person, but the report’s appendix includes 12 pages of his written responses to queries from Mueller’s team.
Mueller deemed Trump’s written answers — rife with iterations of “I don’t recall” — to be “inadequate.” He considered issuing a subpoena to force the president to appear in person but decided against it after weighing the likelihood of a long legal battle.
The report also indicated that members of the presidents staff admitted to lying to the public, including press secretary Sarah Sanders – who had told the press in May 2017 that she had heard from “countless members of the FBI” who supported the firing of James Comey. She later admitted that was a “slip of the tongue,” investigators wrote in the document.
Sanders also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made “in the heat of the moment” that was not founded on anything.
As predicted by many, supporters and opponents of the President are now using the report to amplify well-rehearsed arguments about Trump’s conduct – Republicans casting him as a victim of harassment and Democrats depicting the president as stepping far over the line to derail the investigation.
A defiant Trump pronounced it “a good day” and tweeted “Game Over” in a typeface mimicking the “Game of Thrones” logo.
Top Republicans in Congress saw vindication, too.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said it was time to move on from Democrats’ effort to “vilify a political opponent.”
Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23), who represents Chautauqua County in the house, released a statement saying that the report should be celebrated.
“Today the Mueller report was released, but the result remains the same — no Russian collusion. This should be celebrated,” Reed’s statement read. “Now it is time for our country to heal because all politics all the time is tearing our country apart and hurting real people. We must end this culture of division and work together on policies to help people.”
Reed’s statement had no mention of the obstruction charges that were left primarily unanswered.
.Democrats, meanwhile, say the report revealed troubling details about Trump’s conduct in the White House. Noting that while Mueller stopped short of saying definitively that obstruction charges should be brought forward, he also indicated that such charges could be brought forward by Congress, not the Justice Department.
“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgement,” the report said. “At the same time, 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, we are unable to reach that judgement. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) issued a joint statement on Thursday accusing Attorney General Barr of “deliberately distorting” special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
“Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” the Democratic leaders said. “But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr. Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr. Barr has been so misleading.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) added that the report “outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct.” He sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting that Mueller himself testify before his panel “no later than May 23″ and said he’d be issuing a subpoena for the full special counsel report and the underlying materials.