ROCKVILLE – The Department of Justice released a redacted version of the Special Counsel’s Report, which detailed Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election and cleared the president of cooperation with the Russian government in the form of collusion.
The report, written by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, spelled out how the Russian government attempted to influence the 2016 Presidential Election and how the Trump Campaign sought stolen information. While the report cleared President Donald J. Trump of colluding with the Russian government, the report did not clear Trump of obstruction of justice.
While no U.S. citizens were charged with any crimes related to collusion during the 2016 Election, the report did not completely clear Trump of any wrongdoing.
“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller wrote in the report.
For almost two years, the Special Counsel’s investigation into the Trump Administration and whether it had colluded with the Russian government consumed American politics, as many accused the president of treason and speculated that Congress would move to impeach him after the report was completed.
While the report refuted many of the most severe claims of collusion with the Russian government, it did not clear Trump or his campaign from potentially unethical actions.
In addition to Russian collusion, Mueller also investigated whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by firing FBI Director James B. Comey, concluding that there was not enough evidence to either conclude if Trump was guilty of the charge or that he was innocent.
“Fourth, 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 wrote in his report. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
In May 2017, Trump fired Comey, which triggered the special counsel’s investigation. While Trump originally cited Comey’s mismanagement of the investigation into former Security of State Hillary Clinton’s emails as the reason for his sacking, Trump later explained to NBC’s News Anchor Lester Holt that he fired Comey because he thought the FBI’s investigation into the 2016 Election was a hoax.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as an independent special counsel to investigate whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia and whether the president committed obstruction of justice by firing Comey.
While U.S. Attorney General William Barr wrote a letter in March summarizing the findings of the Mueller Report, last week was the first opportunity the public had to read it. Many portions of the report are redacted, given that some people are still being investigated for criminal offenses, but the report is a comprehensive summary of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In his report, Mueller detailed how members of the Trump campaign sought to benefit from information stolen from the Russian government. It cited a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, in which members of the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, on the pretense that she could provide incriminating information on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
That meeting, which became public in 2017, was seen by many as evidence that the Trump Administration colluded with Russia. However, Mueller indicated in his report that the Trump campaign did not successfully obtain the stolen information that was promised at the meeting and that no members of his campaign could be charged with any crime related to collusion.
During the nearly two-year investigation, Trump heavily criticized the special counsel’s investigation, frequently calling it a “witch hunt.” Despite his objections to the investigation, Trump said that the report exonerated him of collusion.
“The Trump Haters and Angry Democrats who wrote the Mueller Report were devastated by the No Collusion finding! Nothing but a total ‘hit job,’ which should never have been allowed to start in the first place!” Trump said in a tweet.
However, some did not see the more than 400-page report as an exoneration of the president.
“President Trump consistently took steps to deny Russian involvement in tampering in our elections, resisted efforts to hold Russia accountable, besmirched the reputation of the special counsel while trying to dismiss him or willfully impede his investigation, and repeatedly attacked the integrity of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
While no grand juries indicted any U.S. citizens for crimes related to collusion, several members of the Trump campaign were convicted of other felonies, thanks to the special counsel investigation.
In March, federal judges sentenced former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort to seven-and-half years in prison after a jury convicted him of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account.
In addition, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pled guilty to making false statements to federal investigators. Neither Manafort nor Flynn was indicted for any charges related to Russian collusion.