The Mueller Report

25/7/19

Robert Swan Mueller III was commissioned as a special counsel in May 2017 by Rod Rosenstein, the US Deputy Attorney General, in order to investigate the firing of James Comey as FBI director and whether that happened to stop the Russia investigation by the FBI (as President Trump admitted in an interview a few days after the firing of Comey). The FBI had started an investigation into whether Trump coordinated with the Russian interference in the 2016 election after George Papadopoulos, a foreign relations advisor in the Trump campaign, disclosed a meeting he had had with a Russian professor who had information on Hilary Clinton. The investigation led to the prosecution and indictment of six former Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer. Seven of these people (including five of the six former Trump advisers) have pleaded guilty, including the guilty verdict this week of Bijan Kian, business partner of Mike Flynn, Trump’s first National Security Advisor. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to law enforcement and being an undeclared foreign agent. The indictment of 26 Russian nationals included charges for the Russian troll farm that was responsible for fake news and misinformation during the 2016 campaign. It also led to the uncovering of the activities of Maria Butina who was working with the NRA and is suspected as acting as a Russian spy.

The investigation did not find enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Trump campaign did conspire with the Russian authorities in their interference activities. It did, however, uncover over 130 meetings between Trump campaign officials and Russian oligarchs or representatives. The unique circumstance of investigating a sitting president made some elements of the investigation difficult or impossible. A president cannot stand in a criminal trial whilst serving his term, thus an indictment cannot be served on a sitting President. This was decided during the Watergate investigation. The Mueller Report also looked at how Trump interfered with the investigation as it was happening. Mueller identified 10 instances of obstruction of justice by President Trump, including attempts to fire Mueller and stop the investigation, only prevented by Trump’s Attorney not complying with his orders.

The report’s release was staggered by the new Attorney General, Bill Barr. He first released a letter to Congress and the public describing Mueller’s findings on March 22nd. Mueller wrote to Barr on 27th March to ask him to release certain sections of his report as he felt that his letter misrepresented the findings of his report. The redacted version of the report was released on 18th April. Yesterday Mueller gave evidence to the House of Congress about his report. These proceedings could be the beginning of an impeachment hearing. People have written books on the topic so this is just a cursory overview to contextualise current events for those not following them closely.

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