Robert Mueller has advised Americans to go back and actually read his report if we want to understand what happened in 2016. “We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” he said on Wednesday morning, speaking publicly for the first time since his appointment.
But the words of the report are damning.
“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mueller wrote. This help “favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”
The Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” and it “welcomed” this help.
There is insufficient evidence to accuse the Trump campaign of criminal conspiracy with its Russian benefactors. However, “the social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.”
These contacts were covered up by a series of lies, both to the special counsel and to Congress. Lying by the Trump campaign successfully obscured much of what happened in 2016. The special counsel in some cases “was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.” In particular, the investigation never did determine what happened to proprietary Trump-campaign polling data shared with the Russians.
Within hours of the appointment of a special counsel to investigate 2016 events, Trump began defaming him. Trump had already fired the FBI director who investigated these events. His first order to fire the special counsel appointed in the director’s place was issued on June 17, 2017, a month after Mueller’s appointment. That order would be followed by many more. Trump directed his staff to lie about these orders.
Over and above his efforts to fire the special counsel, “the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.”
The subversion of the investigation was brazen. “Many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, occurred in public view.”