An Imaginary Account of Robert Mueller Before Congress 3 22 July 2019.

Mueller: Although the team did not establish that the President and his campaign had conspired with the Russians, he might have wanted the investigation to end because of things that it might have (and did) reveal about the campaign.  It’s possible that the President would have feared that these were crimes: the public misstatements about Trump Organization’s pursuit of Russian business deals into Summer 2016, and Trump tried to get information about future Wikileaks.

Republicans: And these were crimes under which laws?

Mueller: “More broadly, multiple witnesses described the President’s preoccupation with the press coverage of the Russia investigation and his persistent concern that it raised questions about the legitimacy of his election.” (p. 256.)

Mueller: Finally, he didn’t tell the truth at first about why he had fired Comey. (pp. 256-257.)

Republicans:  And you discovered the real reason how?  He went on national television a few days later and told a journalist.

The Post-Comey Phase.

Mueller: The team immediately added an investigation of President Trump for obstruction of justice to its mandate.  President Trump reacted strongly against the appointment of a special prosecutor.  (p. 257.)

An example.

Mueller: On 9 June 2016, Manafort, Kushner, and Trump, Jr. met with some Russians in hopes of hearing about Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.  That turned out to be false advertising on the part of the Russians.  Receiving such information might have been a violation of campaign finance laws, but they got skint.  When news of this meeting first became public, President Trump repeatedly tried to mischaracterize the intended purpose of the meeting.

Mueller: It would have been obstruction of justice to prevent either Congress or the Special Prosecutor from receiving relevant documents when demanded.  The President did not do that.  (p. 280.)

Mueller: “The evidence does not establish that the President intended to prevent the Special Counsel’s Office or Congress from obtaining the emails setting up the June 9 meeting or other information about that meeting.” (p. 281.)  The only evidence we have is that the President told people to hand over emails and other information to whomever needed to have them. (p. 280.)

Republicans: This phrase you keep using—“did not establish”—what does that mean exactly?  Because in this particular case, what you have is evidence of a media strategy directed against the Democratic media combined with a demonstrated willingness to provide requested information to Congress and the Special Prosecutor.  So, does “did not establish” mean the same thing everywhere else in the Report?  As in, “did not establish” collusion/co-ordination/conspiracy with the Russians.  Does that really mean “we didn’t find any evidence of this at all”?

An Imaginary Account of Robert Mueller Before Congress 2 22 July 2019.

Mueller: The team came to think of the investigation as covering two periods.

There was the period up to the firing of James Comey.  During this period, people repeatedly told the president that he himself was not under investigation.

There was the period after the firing of James Comey, when the President found that firing Comey had put him in danger of an obstruction charge.  Thereafter the President did many things directed against the team’s investigation.

Republicans: So, you could not establish an underlying crime by the President; officials told him that he wasn’t personally under investigation, but Democrats and their share of the media kept up making accusations, and Comey would not make a public statement that the President wasn’t under investigation.  Did that lead you to inquire into Comey’s behavior during this period?

The Comey Phase.

Mueller: The team decided that none of the statutory or constitutional objections by the President’s lawyers justified NOT investigating the facts. (p. 202.)

Mueller: During the campaign, candidate Trump said a bunch of pro-Russian things; denied to the media all sorts of reports; after election, he doubted reports that the Russians had tried to help him win the election; and expressed concern that the reports would de-legitimize his victory. (p. 212.)

Republicans: So what?  He’s got a right to his own opinion on Russia, even if it differs from President Obama’s opinion; lying to the media isn’t a crime; and the Democrats have been using the Russia investigation to de-legitimize the Trump administration for better than two years now.

Mueller: Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser, lied to the FBI about a couple of phone calls to the Russian ambassador.  Trump fired him, but asked Comey to “let Flynn go.”  (pp. 217-218.)

Mueller: President Trump fired Comey after Comey refused to discuss the scope of the Russia investigation in testimony before Congress and did not state that President Trump himself was not being investigated.  Three times previously, Comey had told Trump in private that he was not being investigated.  (p. 244.)

Republicans: Did you try to evaluate the state of mind and intent of James Comey?  The IG Report on his handling of the Clinton investigation indicated some curious behaviors.  Comey’s press appearances on his book tour and afterward also might cast some light backward on his time at the FBI.

Mueller: The President believed that the Russia investigation was hurting his ability to govern.  (pp. 245, 256 and fn. 500.)

Mueller: Firing Comey could have a chilling effect on the investigation.  On the other hand, it wouldn’t stop the investigation.  (p. 253.)