The U.S. Department of Justice released a 448-page redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation Thursday that concluded inquiries into obstruction of justice and chronicled the Russian government’s interference before and during the 2016 presidential campaign and election.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017 to oversee “the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
Muller’s investigation, which spanned almost two years according to the DOJ, led to the indictments and or sentencing of three Russian entities and 34 individuals including President Donald Trump’s first campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and 13 Russian nationals.
The investigation found Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice were thwarted by his subordinates.
“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,” according to the report.
Redactions in the report were divided into four categories outlined by Attorney General William Barr ahead of the report’s release. These categories were explained in Barr’s March 29 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.
The categories include:
Harm to ongoing matters
Grand jury information
The Mueller Report’s key findings about Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election include:
Russia’s Internet Research Agency, or IRA, carried out the earliest Russian interference operations with social media campaigns “designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States.”
The IRA’s operation included “the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies in the United States.”
The IRA’s campaign operation “evolved” in 2014 and 2015 from undermining the United States’ electoral system to favoring President Trump’s presidential campaign and disparaging Hillary Clinton’s by early 2016.
The Russian contacts with the Trump campaign consisted of offers for:
Invitations for Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet in person
Invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet
Policy positions seeking improved U.S. and Russian relations
While the investigation “established multiple links” between campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government, the investigation “did not establish that the campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference.”
Trump’s 2016 campaign “expected it would benefit from information stolen and released through Russian efforts” but “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the election interference activities.”
In March and April 2016, the the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, or the GRU, hacked the email accounts of Hillary Clinton's campaign volunteers and employees, hacked the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee and stole hundreds of thousands of documents from email accounts and networks.
In mid-June 2016, the DNC announced the Russian government’s role in hacking its network. The GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas known as “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.” The GRU also later released additional materials through WikiLeaks, a “multi-national media organization” that published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses of censored and restricted materials — including war, spying and corruption — to the public.
The Mueller Report’s key findings about obstruction of justice:
The Special Counsel wrote he was unable to conclude whether or not Trump committed obstruction of justice.
“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,” according to the report. “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
Trump’s public actions and statements can be considered obstruction.
“The president’s power to influence actions, persons, and the events is enhanced by his unique ability to attract attention through use of mass communications,” according to the report. “And no principle of law excludes public acts from the scope of obstruction statutes. If the likely effect of the acts is to intimidate witnesses or alter their testimony, the justice system’s integrity is equally threatened.”
Mueller concluded that Congress does have the authority to find if the president obstructed justice.
According to the report, "With respect to whether the president can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice."
Mueller’s findings during the investigation also identified 14 incidents with evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Counsel’s jurisdiction. Of those 14 incidents, 12 are redacted under the “harm to ongoing matter” guideline outlined by Barr.
The Special Counsel identified evidence of potential wire fraud and Federal Election Campaign Act violations by Cohen. The information was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FBI’s New York Field Office, according to the report.
Mueller's report found other incidents that were referred to other legal offices including Manafort and his Deputy Rick Gates during the course of their Foreign Agency Registration Act Investigations.
Kelsey Hundley, junior public relations director for the College Democrats at UCF, said while the president may claim that the investigation’s results were a “victory” for him and his campaign, the results were inconclusive.
“They don’t have enough evidence against him … but a lot of his team and his aids were involved with the Russians and their efforts,” said Hundley, advertising and public relations and political science double major.
However, Luke Strominger, senior political science major and chairman of the College Republicans at UCF, said Mueller’s comprehensive investigation found unsubstantial proof of the Trump campaign’s coordination with Russia.
“Move on as a country and focus on other more important issues such as infrastructure and our military,” Strominger said.
After learning of Mueller’s appointment by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the report found that Trump said, “Oh my god,” according to Sessions’ Chief of Staff Jody Hunt’s notes. “This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”
In remarks after Barr’s press conference, Trump said there was not and never will be collusion or obstruction.
“No collusion,” Trump said, according to the White House. “No obstruction … There never was, by the way, and there never will be.”
Barr wrote in a March 24 four-page summary that the investigation did not find anyone associated with the Trump campaign that “conspired or coordinated with Russia.” He also wrote that while Mueller’s investigation does not “conclude that the president committed a crime,” it does not “exonerate” him, either. Barr’s summary did not fully and accurately summarize Mueller’s report.
UCF political science professor Aubrey Jewett wrote in a Thursday email that Barr’s summary “seems largely accurate” with Mueller’s findings. He said while he believes the results of the report will be important, it will not be as consequential as previous investigations.
“Since it did not find evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and ended up not charging President Trump with obstruction, it ultimately will not be as significant in American political history of some other investigations,” Jewett said.
While Jewett said he believes Trump and Republicans will continue to promote the report’s conclusions and may call for an investigation into the origin of the Special Counsel investigation, Democrats will continue to argue for further investigations into “evidence of collusion” and “obstruction.”
“Both sides will seek to use their spin to influence voters in 2020,” Jewett said. “I think, in the end, the Special Counsel investigation will not make much difference to most voters.”
Strominger said he believes people should turn to the American principle of “innocent until proven guilty” and said he agrees with Barr that the origins of the investigation should be investigated.
“There’s a lot of issues on whether the Trump campaign was being spied on by the FBI, and if that’s so, that still kind of puts the whole investigation into question,” Strominger said.
Marianna Wharry contributed to this story.
Click on the PDF to read more of the Mueller Report’s findings.