A few more interesting things from Mueller report

Attorney General William Barr's release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report Thursday caused a splash in Washington and revealed the conclusions of a 22-month probe into President Trump’s conduct and that of his associates.

The roughly 400-page report into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia and potential obstruction of justice into subsequent probes reveals that Mueller’s team did not find any collusion during the campaign and could not reach a conclusion regarding any obstructive activities. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said they would not bring any obstruction of justice charges after reviewing Mueller’s evidence.

While the top line conclusions coming out of Mueller’s findings certainly buoy the president, the report contains several anecdotes that could prove embarrassing for the White House.

Here are the report’s seven most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report.

Trump initially feared Mueller's appointment

Trump was initially fearful of Mueller’s appointment in 2017 and said it could end his presidency.

“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f---ed,” Trump said when he was informed by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions of Mueller’s appointment.

“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

Trump blamed the appointment on then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Justice Department’s Russia probe.

“How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump asked Sessions, adding that he had “let [him] down.”

The recusal sparked an acrimonious relationship between Trump and the nation’s top cop, with the two agreeing that Sessions would resign, a decision they reversed a day later.

Sarah Sanders misled press about FBI agents' morale with agency's leadership

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders admitted she misled the press when she said in May 2017 that she spoke with “countless” FBI agents who had lost faith in former FBI Director James Comey shortly before his firing.

“The president, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey,” Sanders said in an opening statement at the May 10 briefing. “The DOJ [Department of Justice] lost confidence in Director Comey. Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey. And most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.”

Sanders later doubled down on the claim when asked how many people she had spoken with, saying “we've heard from countless members of the FBI” who were disappointed in Comey.

Sanders told investigators that her misstatements were a "slip of the tongue” and that the claims were unfounded.

Trump had excoriated Comey since he announced that the bureau was investigating alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,’” Trump explained in May 2017 when asked about the firing.

Mueller chose not to subpoena Trump for an in-person interview

Mueller chose not to subpoena for Trump to sit down for an in-person interview amid concerns it would have sparked a prolonged court battle.

“We thus weighed the costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits for our investigation and report,” the special counsel wrote. “We determined that the substantial quantity of information we had obtained from other sources allowed us to draw relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility.”

Mueller wrote that he had sought to interview Trump since Dec. 2017 because his answers were considered “vital” for the investigation.

Trump’s personal legal team worried that an in-person interview would be a “perjury trap” and permitted the president to submit written answers to questions about interactions with Russia and not matters related to obstruction of justice.

The Hill counted 37 instances in which Trump said he did not remember events or matters regarding interactions with Russians. Mueller also wrote in his report that he found other answers to be “incomplete or imprecise.”

The special counsel said the answers “demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format, as we have had no opportunity to ask follow-up questions that would ensure complete answers and potentially refresh your client's recollection.”

McGahn refused to ask DOJ to fire Mueller

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn refused repeated requests from Trump to ask the Justice Department to fire Mueller and refused subsequent requests to deny media reports about the conversations.

Trump called reports about the request “fake news” at the time and asked McGahn to deny them as well.

“Each time he was approached, McGahn responded that he would not refute the press accounts because they were accurate in reporting on the President’s efforts to have the Special Counsel removed,” Mueller’s report states. “McGahn refused and insisted his memory of the President’s direction to remove the Special Counsel was accurate.”

McGahn threatened to resign if Trump forced his hand into taking action against the special counsel.

Trump sought to fire Mueller over alleged conflicts of interest, including his interviewing for the FBI director job before his appointment and a dispute over fees for his membership to a Trump golf course in Virginia.

Mike Flynn led an effort to look for deleted Clinton emails

Gen. Michael Flynn, who ultimately became the White House national security adviser, contacted multiple people to obtain 30,000 emails Hillary Clinton deleted.

Flynn recalled that Trump repeatedly asked individuals affiliated with his campaign to find the documents and that other associates were already searching for them before he began his own hunt.

Once Barbara Ledeen, an aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who was coordinating her efforts with Flynn, found a cache of emails she believed to be from Clinton’s server, she reached out to Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and brother to now-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for funds to hire a tech expert to verify the documents.

"Ledeen claimed to have obtained a trove of emails (from what she described as the 'dark web') that purported to be the deleted Clinton emails. Ledeen wanted to authenticate the emails and solicited contributions to fund that effort. Erik Prince provided funding to hire a tech advisor to ascertain the authenticity of the emails," Mueller wrote.

"According to Prince, the tech advisor determined that the emails were not authentic."

Sessions walked around the White House with a resignation letter

Sessions, burdened by the pressure of his tense relationship with Trump, carried a resignation letter with him every time he visited the White House for months as he continued to face public and private criticism over his recusal.

Trump eventually relented from his demands for several associates to obtain Sessions’ resignation, but continued to publicly assail his attorney general on Twitter and in speeches.

“[I]n light of the President's frequent public attacks, Sessions prepared another resignation letter and for the rest of the year carried it with him in his pocket every time he went to the White House,” Mueller wrote, citing notes from Jody Hunt, Sessions' chief of staff at the time.

Trump’s attacks on Sessions were part of Mueller’s probe into whether the president obstructed any probe into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia in 2016. Mueller ultimately decided to neither implicate nor exonerate the president on obstruction of justice.

Trump fired Sessions after the 2018 midterm elections.

No collusion, but campaign expected to benefit from Russian efforts

While Mueller was definitive in his conclusion that no member of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow, he said staffers expected to benefit from Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 race.

“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.

The report noted that Russian officials made several outreaches to individuals associated with the Trump campaign including “business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations.”

But the special counsel found that no action by any campaign official rose to the level of conspiracy as defined by federal law.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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