Voxalex.ward@vox.com Apr 19, 2019

The Mueller report, explained in 500 words

Everything you wanted to know about the Mueller report, but detailed as briefly as possible.

Robert Mueller testifies as FBI director during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee June 13, 2013, in Washington, DC. 
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Special counsel Robert Mueller released his report Thursday — and it’s nowhere near the “total exoneration” President Donald Trump claims.

The 448-page report is split into two “volumes”: one chronicling the many ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, and another outlining 10 “episodes” where Mueller said there was potential evidence of obstruction.

Here are the two main findings: First, Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the president’s team and Moscow. Second, while Mueller declined to recommend charges against Trump, he found several instances where the president tried to influence or shut down the investigation — obstructing justice in all but name.

No conspiracy, maybe collusion

Since Mueller became special counsel in May 2017, talk has centered on possible “collusion” between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

However, “collusion” has no legal definition and isn’t a federal crime. “Conspiracy” is, though, so Mueller looked into whether the Trump campaign purposefully worked with Russia to win the 2016 election.

Mueller didn’t find evidence of that. But he did find several troubling interactions that seem collusion-y. Here are just a few examples:

  • Two Trump campaign officials — Paul Manafort and Rick Gates — provided polling information to a Russian oligarch Gates believed was a “spy” for the Kremlin
  • Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, with Trump’s approval, tried to arrange meetings between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • Russia tried to hack Hillary Clinton’s office five hours after Trump called on Moscow to find her deleted emails

The report makes it clear that: 1) the Russian government tried to help Trump win; 2) the Trump campaign was eager to benefit from hackings targeting Democrats; and 3) Trump’s campaign advisers had a lot of troubling ties to Russia.

Possibly obstruction, but no charges

Mueller examined 10 episodes where Trump possibly obstructed justice during the investigation. Some of the most egregious examples:

  • Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, which McGahn refused to do
  • Trump tried to pressure then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself and curtail the investigation
  • Trump and his lawyers urged key figures (like Manafort) not to “flip” and attacked those who did flip (like Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen)

Mueller purposely avoided coming to a conclusion on whether those individual acts — or the combination of them — qualified as criminal obstruction of justice.

But nowhere did Mueller state that Trump didn’t obstruct justice, either. He wrote, “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.”

Mueller added that Trump’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.”

And he noted that “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.”

So it’s up to Congress to decide what to do — which means this is all far from over.

About Ove Svidén

Ove Svidén was born on March 10, 1937 at 12:15 in Stockholm, Sweden. M.Sc., 1960, Aircraft Engineering, KTH, Royal Inst. of Technology, Stockholm. B.A., 1980, Psychology, Education, Politics at Linköping University. Received a Ph.D. 1989, on Scenarios, Dept. Management and Economics, Linköping University. Futures Research 1988-91, Systems Engineering and Consensus Formation Office at Drive Project, DGXIII, Brussels. CEO at ARISEeeig on Road Transport Informatics, 1992-99, Brussels. President, World Peace Foundation from 2001-, Stockholm (www.peace.se).
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