Mueller: Dangling the possibility of presidential pardons in the media during the trials of people like Flynn and Manafort. Did that prevent any of them from testifying?
Republicans: You got a bunch of people to roll. You got Manafort on the tax and fraud stuff from 2014 and earlier. You got Rick Gates on the same stuff. What did they say about Trump-Russia contacts? You got Flynn on the lying to the FBI thing and on some other stuff. What did he say about Trump-Russia contacts? You got Cohen on a bunch of stuff. You got Papadopoulos on lying to the FBI. He was the first contact reported between the campaign and the Russians. What did he tell you? Do you have any evidence that President Trump’s words altered their decisions about co-operation? Is it your theory that President Trump is incredibly artful? That his continued public sympathy for Flynn after Flynn abandoned the shared defense agreement with Manafort was just for show? Do you suspect that each of these people held out some essential secret that would otherwise have revealed the true Trump-Russia conspiracy?
Mueller: Cohen provided false testimony to Congress and the President had to know that this testimony was false. But we can’t tell if the President got Cohen to give the false testimony. (p. 316.)
Republicans: So, this would be the first real danger to the President from your investigation? Yet it is actually unrelated to Russian intervention in the election. And you “failed to establish” any collusion between Trump and the Russians. And Cohen is unlikely to have been called to give the testimony without the investigation into that alleged collusion.
Mueller: “Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment. The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong.” (pp. 320-321.)
Republicans: Fair enough. Most of us have been to law school. Given your interest is in defending “the integrity of the justice system,” then can you comment on the Randy Weaver and Ted Stevens cases?
Mueller: While the investigation did not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference, he may have had other personal motives for his actions. For example, he may have thought that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting or advance knowledge of the Wikileaks would be construed as crimes that delegitimized his election. These could fall under the definition of obstruction of justice. (p. 321.)
Republicans: And Justice is?
Mueller: Much of this was done “in public,” but he’s the President and he has the power to pardon.
Republicans: And so you yourself and your subordinates felt intimidated?
Mueller: The President ordered subordinates to do many things that might have obstructed justice, but mostly those subordinates didn’t do them. (p. 322.)
Republicans: Is there a federal statute that bars “wanting to obstruct justice” as differentiated from actual obstruction of justice”?