The Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election in two ways: they flooded social media with anti-Clinton/pro-Trump messaging, and they hacked and distributed emails that disparaged Hillary Clinton, and published those emails on WikiLeaks.
George Papadopoulos, foreign campaign advisor to then-candidate Trump, met an Australian diplomat at the Kensington Wine Rooms in London in May 2016. There, over cocktails, Papadopoulos told the Australian that the Trump campaign had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
After the WikiLeaks email dump that included unflattering information on Clinton, the Australians told the (American) FBI about the London convo.
The FBI investigation was begun.
Two years later, we have the Mueller Report.
There’s a lot to talk about and we’ll dive deeper in the debater. For now, we offer three takeaways:
The Trump team was interested in the information the Russians had on Hillary Clinton, they wanted to hear more about it, but they didn’t actually steal the information, or work with the Russians in order to steal it. From this, you’ve heard the “no collusion” conclusion in the news.
The Mueller Report indicates that the term “collusion” was meaningless for their investigation.
So, they looked at the crime of conspiracy. The question became: Did Trump conspire against the US?
In order to answer this, they considering a situation in which two parties act together to break the law; this was how they defined “to conspire.”
Mueller concluded there was insufficient evidence to support this.
The Mueller Report indicates at least ten examples of obstruction by the President but does not draw conclusions from those examples. Mueller neither exonerates (un-accuses) nor accuses, but instead lays out the facts as he discovered them.
In other words, Mueller provides the evidence for the Justice Department to do something (or not do something) after the President leaves office or, perhaps, to help Congress determine its next steps.
Better-known examples of how the President used (or misused) his power to defend himself and his presidency:
- The firing of FBI director James Comey in order to stop the Mueller investigation.
- The attempt to get Jeff Sessions (attorney general) to un-recuse himself and lead the Mueller investigation. If Sessions was in charge of the investigation he could’ve limited its scope or even terminated it.
- NOTE: Sessions disqualified himself to lead the investigation because he served as an advisor during Trump’s campaign. With the recusal, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, took the lead.
- The multiple attempts to get White House attorney Don McGahn to stop the Mueller investigation.
- NOTE: McGahn’s refusal to cooperate with President Trump’s requests may have saved Trump’s presidency (because if the investigation had been stopped it would have been hard to make a case that there was no obstruction).
As a country, we’ve almost grown accustomed to lies from President Trump—even Trump loyalists, like popular Fox News hosts agree that our President has a propensity for untruths—still the lies told to the American people and exposed by the Mueller report are worth noting and sifting through.
In order to dig in a little deeper, we’ve set up a debate based on information in the Mueller Report that we hope roughly captures two positions.
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 the investigation.
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.