Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report revealed a two-year campaign of obstruction by Donald Trump, senior Democrats said Thursday, vowing to hold the US president accountable.
“Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
“The responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions,” he said in a statement.
Attorney General Bill Barr on Thursday released the redacted 400-page report after already declaring that it provided no proof that Trump colluded with Russian intelligence to influence the 2016 presidential election.
But the report made no conclusion on whether Trump tried to obstruct justice in the ensuing investigation.
Nadler, who has asked Mueller to testify before his committee by May 23, said the report directly contradicted Barr’s findings and accused him of failing to cooperate with Congress.
“Attorney General Barr appears to have shown an unsettling willingness to undermine his own department in order to protect President Trump,” Nadler said.
Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said the report “paints a stunning picture of bottomless corruption.”
He said, “When a foreign adversary attacked our democracy, Donald Trump and his team were thrilled to reap the benefits.
“When an investigation was launched to get to the bottom of that effort, he launched a two-year interference campaign to conceal the truth from the American people.”
Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee of the Senate, where Republicans remain in control, asked for an unredacted report and a commitment by Barr not to “interfere” in other ongoing investigations.
“The Mueller report lays out not only how Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but also related activities carried out by Trump campaign officials,” Feinstein tweeted.
“It also details many instances where President Trump tried to obstruct or stop the investigation.”
Report’s main points
The 400-page document deals primarily with whether any members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to get him elected and whether the president sought to obstruct justice.
“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations.
“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 report said there were numerous contacts between members of Trump’s circle and Russia and that the campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
But it said the efforts did not amount to criminal conspiracy.
“The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin to meet in person, invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved US-Russian relations.
“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.
“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The report said the special counsel investigated numerous actions by Trump “that raised questions about whether he had obstructed justice.”
These included “public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.
“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.
“Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the president’s conduct.
“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, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.
“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The report detailed an effort by Trump to have the special counsel removed.
“On June 17, 2017, the president called [White House counsel Don] McGahn at home and directed him to call the acting attorney general and say that the special counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed.
“McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.”
While declining to prosecute Trump for obstruction, the special counsel said such a determination could be left to the US Congress.
“Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a president for obstructing justice.
“The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source.
“The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”
The report details the president’s interactions with his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who is facing three years in prison for financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.
“In analyzing the president’s intent in his actions towards Cohen as a potential witness, there is evidence that could support the inference that the president intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen’s information would shed adverse light on the president’s campaign-period conduct and statements.”
Trump reacted with dismay when told by then-attorney general Jeff Sessions on May 17, 2017, that a special counsel had been appointed, according to the report.
“The president slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,’” the report said.
“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,” Trump was quoted as saying. “It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything.
“This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
– with reporting by AFP