The special counsel Robert Mueller determined that President Donald Trump was mostly unsuccessful in obstructing justice in the Russia investigation — mainly because his advisers stopped him.
That’s according to a 400-page redacted report the Justice Department released Thursday. The report’s highly anticipated release marks the end of Mueller’s work as special counsel.
Mueller was tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, whether members of the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the race, and whether Trump obstructed justice in the investigation after learning of its existence in early 2017.
In the obstruction probe, Mueller found 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.”
The special counsel then outlined several instances in which Trump ordered an adviser or administration official to do something, and they declined to do so.
When the president to FBI director James Comey that the FBI should let go of its investigation into former national-security adviser Michael Flynn, Comey declined. That decision, Mueller wrote, “ultimately resulted in Flynn’s prosecution and conviction for lying to the FBI.”
In May, after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — then the acting attorney general overseeing the Russia investigation — appointed Mueller, Trump ordered then White House counsel Don McGahn to tell Rosenstein to oust Mueller. Instead, Mueller’s report said, McGahn was prepared to resign over Trump’s order, prompting Trump to back off.
In 2017, Trump asked two former campaign advisers, Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn, to deliver a message to then Attorney General Jeff Sessions telling him he should confine the Russia investigation to cover only future election-meddling. Lewandowski and Dearborn declined to do so, the report said.
Last, when The New York Times reported on Trump’s efforts to have Mueller removed as special counsel, Trump ordered McGahn to publicly deny the reporting.
But “McGahn refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President’s direction” to remove Mueller, “despite the President’s multiple demands that he do so.”
There were other instances Mueller outlined in the report, too, including one in which Trump allegedly asked the former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie while they were having lunch to call Comey and tell him Trump “really like[s] him. Tell him he’s part of the team.”
The report says that at the end of the lunch, Trump repeated his request that Christie contact Comey.
But the report said “Christie had no intention of complying with the President’s request that he contact Comey. He thought the President’s request was ‘nonsensical’ and Christie did not want to put Comey in the position of having to receive such a phone call. Christie thought it would have been uncomfortable to pass on that message.”
“Consistent with that pattern,” Mueller concluded, “the evidence we obtained would not support potential obstruction charges against the President’s aides and associates beyond those already filed.”