How innocent is the President? Two positions that could follow the Mueller Report.

We’ve set up a debate, based on information from the Mueller Report, that we hope will roughly capture two positions, and will also give us the opportunity to dig more deeply into the findings of the investigation. This is NOT a full examination of the Report, but just a few highlights that capture some of the larger issues.

Here’s the full Mueller Report and some analysis.

The president knew he didn’t collude with Russia. And, he felt as though the special counsel investigation would get in the way of his ability to run the country which is why he did everything he could to stop it.

contact between Russians and Trump campaign officials

The Russian hacking occurred at the same time as there were contacts between Trump campaign officials and individuals connected to the Russian government. But, after two years, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government.


The Mueller Report makes no explicit recommendation regarding impeachment or indictment of the President on charges of obstruction.

false statements under oath by Jeff Sessions were inconclusive

The Mueller team found evidence that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not only met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign but that the two had discussed the presidential race on at least one occasion.

During Congressional testimony, however, Sessions denied any contact with the Russians.

But investigators concluded that Sessions’ false statements were too narrow or imprecise to prove that he had committed perjury.

can’t forget the Fox News effect

If you turned on Fox News following the attorney general’s summary of the Mueller Report, you heard: “No collusion, no obstruction. Total exoneration.” This remains the mantra, even after the release of the Mueller Report that explicitly states the President is not “exonerated” or cleared of obstruction.

According to a recent poll, if you are a regular consumer of Fox News, you are likely to believe the report “fully exonerates” the President. 83% of respondents to the poll who watch Fox News think the report clears the President on all charges.

The president didn’t conspire against the US by working with Russia, but he came close. The President obstructed justice at every opportunity, but most of his requests were shut down by the people around him.

total exoneration of obstruction was NOT in Mueller’s Report

The Fox News assertion (along with President Trump and Trump loyalists) that there was “total exoneration” is inaccurate.

Even Attorney General William Barr, in his summary of the Mueller Report, quotes directly from the Report when he says that the Report does not exonerate the President but rather—according to Barr– it provides insufficient evidence of obstruction.

According to the Mueller Report, however, there is “insufficient evidence” of conspiracy and there is “insufficient evidence” to CLEAR the president of obstruction charges. More on this below.

no exoneration

Justice Department policy prohibits prosecuting a sitting president. So, Mueller concluded the investigative team had to leave the decision to Congress about how to handle the evidence of obstruction, rather than make a decision about whether to accuse a sitting president.

“At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report said. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

campaign workers desire to use hacked email

Mueller writes , “The Trump Campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks’ releases of hacked materials throughout the summer and fall of 2016.” Most of the details are redacted here, apparently as a result of ongoing investigations.

According to deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort expressed excitement about the July 2016 release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails by WikiLeaks, the report said.

Gates also told prosecutors that by late summer 2016, the campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging based on the potential release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.

misleading and lying to American public

Publicly, Trump expressed doubt that Russia had hacked emails. He also denied fore-knowledge of the hacked communications.

more lying to American public

Trump tower in Moscow

The report describes efforts by Trump attorney Michael Cohen to launch a real estate project in Moscow during the campaign.

The report says Trump repeatedly directed aides not to disclose emails about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials and Russians. He also dictated a misleading statement about the meeting indicating that the meeting was about “adoption.”

firing James Comey to protect himself

“Substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the President’s decision to fire Comey was Comey’s unwillingness to publicly state that the President was not personally under investigation, despite the President’s repeated requests that Comey make such an announcement,” Mueller’s report stated.

Trump’s public complaints about Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation were not true, according to the report. “The President’s other stated rationales for why he fired Comey are not similarly supported by the evidence,” it states.

pressuring Don McGahn to lie or fabricate

pressuring McGahn to tell Rosenstein to fire Mueller

Trump urged White House lawyer Don McGahn to fire Mueller, according to the Mueller report.

Trump, calling McGahn twice on a Saturday from Camp David, told McGahn that he should call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts of interest and could not serve.

McGahn declined to do so. Soon after, this was reported by the NY Times.

pressuring McGahn to deny the news story about the request to fire Mueller

After the Times story broke, Trump told McGahn to deny the Times story that he (Trump) tried to fire special counsel Mueller, according to the Mueller report.

“Each time he was approached, McGahn responded that he would not refute the press accounts because they were accurate,” the report says.

The President met with McGahn, with then-chief of staff John Kelly present, and ordered McGahn–again– to deny the news report.

McGahn again refused.

pressuring McGahn to write a letter to deny the NY Times story

The president later told then-aide Rob Porter that McGahn “leaked to the media to make himself look good” and called him a “lying bastard.” He wanted McGahn to write a letter denying the story or else he might fire him, and he told Porter to deliver the message.

McGahn declined to write the letter, saying the “optics would be terrible if the President followed through with firing him on that basis.”

conclusion on pressuring McGahn

Investigators concluded that Trump behaved the way he did “for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the president’s conduct toward the investigation.”

dangling pardons

After a grand jury indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, Manafort told Gates that it was stupid to (cooperate with Mueller) because he had spoken to the president’s personal attorney and they were “going to take care of us.”

Gates told investigators that Manafort told him that after speaking with Trump’s attorney he thought they should “sit tight” and “we’ll be taken care of.” Gates added that he asked Manafort outright whether anyone mentioned pardons and Manafort said no one used that word.

“Evidence concerning the President’s conduct towards Manafort indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government,” the report reads.

The report also says, “The President’s comments also could have been intended to continue sending a message to Manafort that a pardon was possible.”

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