The redacted report from Robert Mueller’s special investigation has been released, and it’s a doozy.
In spite of both media outlets and politicians quickly chiming in with what the report does and does not say, it’s going to take time to comb through the entire 400-page document.
One thing that the report makes very clear, however, is that President Trump carried out a concerted effort to obstruct the investigation.
On June 17, 2017, after the media reported that Mueller investigation was looking into whether or not President Trump had obstructed justice, Trump called former White House Counsel Don McGahn and instructed him to call the acting attorney general and tell him that “the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed.” McGahn refused, saying that he “would rather resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.”
The report then goes on:
Two days after directing ( former White House Counsel Don) McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation. On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions. The message said that Sessions should publicy announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was “very unfair” to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and “let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.” Lewandowski said he understood what the President wanted him to do.
One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions’ job was in jeopardy. Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President’s message personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through.
According to Mueller, it was the people around the President who protected the investigation against Trump’s efforts at obstruction.
“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. Comey did not end the investigation of Flynn, which ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI. McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order. Lewandowski and Dearborn did not deliver the President’s message to Sessions that he should confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only. And McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so. Consistent with that pattern, the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the President’s aides and associates beyond those already filed.
Muller states that the evidence clearly shows that the President had a number of possible personal motives and that his acts discouraging witnesses from cooperating with the government and suggesting future pardons could constitute obstruction. “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 now leaves the decision up to Congress, citing their power under checks-and-balances to investigate and potentially impeach the President over obstruction of justice. “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.”
“Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President, such as suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses, or fabricating evidence, because those prohibitions raise no separation-of-powers questions.”
We will have more on this story.
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.