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The Mueller Report: My Initial Thoughts

This post was originally published on on 19 April 2019.

After a two-day self-imposed media hiatus, I’ve finished reading through the Introductions and Executive Summaries of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. Here are my thoughts, all 7 pages of them.

Actually, it’s a lot easier to read on Google Drive, so here’s the link to that, but I’ll still include the text below in case you want to subject yourself to that:

The Mueller Report: My Initial Thoughts (Google Drive)

The Mueller Report: My Initial Thoughts

Corey Naas

19 April 2019

Concerning Volume 1:

  1. The Russian Government interfered with the 2016 Presidential election through the manipulation of social media (which included sending operatives to the U.S.) and computer intrusion, “in sweeping and systematic fashion” (Volume 1, pg. 1)
  2. The Trump Campaign was not found to have actively conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government’s interference with the 2016 Presidential election, although the Russian Government attempted to reach out to the Trump Campaign
    1. Conspiracy being a specific crime in Federal law
    2. Coordination being “an agreement – tacit or express – between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government on election interference” (pg. 2)
  3. Important note for the rest of the report: “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” (pg. 2)
  4. The Russian Government received money from Russian Oligarchs to influence the 2016 U.S. election (pg. 4)
  5. “Although the investigation established that the Russian Government perceived that it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government in its election interference activities.” (pg. 5)
    1. Since coordination was understood to be “…more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests” (pg. 2), this conclusion does not rule out the possibility that the Trump Campaign may have independently taken actions that benefited the Russian Government, or (clearly) vice versa
  6. The Trump Campaign “…anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump’s electoral prospects…” (pg. 6)
    1. Ethically, compare with Gore campaign immediately turning over leaked Bush Campaign debate prep materials to FBI during 2000 U.S. Election
  7. Since it has been so long, a reminder: the FBI’s investigation was started based on reports by a foreign government of Trump Campaign members interacting with the Russian Government in unknown capacities (pg. 6)
  8. President Trump was worried about the Special Counsel and what it could mean for his presidency (specifically, “…that it was the end of [it]…”) (pg. 8)
  9. The investigation into Russian interference was a net positive, having charged Russian intelligence officers with hacking the DNC computers and email accounts (pg. 9)
  10. The Special Counsel made sure to note that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence: “The Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information [including information deleted by those investigated, which included people associated with the Trump Campaign (pg. 10)] would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.” (pg. 10)

Concerning Volume 2:

  1. The President “took a variety of action towards the ongoing FBI investigation” that may have constituted obstruction of justice (Volume 2, pg. 1)
  2. The Special Counsel had the jurisdiction to investigate possible obstruction, as it was directly related to their original investigation of Russian interference. They used the following four (4) considerations while investigating the possibility of obstruction
    1. However, the Special Counsel, being a part of the Department of Justice, refrained from “initiating or declin[ing] a prosecution” due to the 2000 memo by the Office of Legal Counsel (pg. 1)
      1. The OLC argues that indicting a sitting President would inhibit the President’s ability to perform his Article II duties, violating the “constitutional separation of powers” (pg. 1)
    2. According to the OLC, while a person cannot be indicted while President of the United States, there is no issue with a criminal investigation into the President being performed during his presidency (also, those who are not President are not privy to the same “protection,” and can be indicted during the course of the investigation). With this in mind, the Special Counsel conducted their investigation with the knowledge that the evidence discovered then may be used in the future (perhaps when the President is no longer President, see Counsel’s emphasis on OLC opinion above)
    3. The Special Counsel sought only to gain information and evidence, and to record it with firm neutrality, to prevent the “potential result in a judgement that the President committed crimes” (pg. 2). Because the President can not be indicted, to conclude that the President committed a crime would be unfair because the President would not be allowed to respond to the accusation in the way he could in a “speedy and public trial.” (pg. 2)
      1. The Special Counsel says “Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgement when no charges can be brought” (emphasis mine). In my mind, I read this as “no matter how much evidence we discovered or testimony was recorded, it would mean nothing because the President is, if not in law or policy then in essence, “immune”
      2. Such a conclusion could “carry consequences that extend beyond the realm of criminal justice” because of the President’s position in office
    4. In conclusion, because of the considerations listed above, the Special Counsel cannot conclude that the President has committed a crime. However, it can conclude that the President has not committed a crime, as it concluded in Volume I. It has not done so hereI believe the Special Counsel has stopped just short of concluding the President committed a crime, and explained in the details above why they had to. The concept of a “warrant canary” comes to mind, or at least the concept of the existence of information A being true based on the lack of information B
      1. “Based on the facts and applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgement [that the President did not commit obstruction of justice].” (pg. 2) I interpret this statement as stating that the quality and quantity of the evidence gained by the investigation is substantial enough that the Special Counsel believes that, if taken to trial, said trial may not result in a not guilty verdict (or, removing the double negatives, a trial may result in a guilty verdict)
  3. A charge of obstructing the process of an investigation may be made regardless of the result of the original investigation (pg. 7). It also does not matter if the statements or actions were public or private, so no “it was just a tweet, he obviously didn’t meant it!”
  4. Despite defenses from the President’s legal counsel, The Special Counsel was fully justified in investigating the President’s actions as potential obstruction of justice (pg. 7)
  5. When figuring out whether a President can be charged with a crime, specifically obstruction of justice, “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice” (pg. 8) (I feel like a “wink” could be added right after this statement)
    1. Why was Congress brought up here? It feels very jarringly added to the end of the paragraph.
  6. According to Supreme Court precedent, the President is not immune to being charged with obstruction of justice, even if he obstructed justice “through the use of his Article II power” (pg. 8)
  7. It is possible for restrictions to be made on Presidential authority without encroaching on his Article II powers, and that a Presidential action does not have to be defined as “corrupt” for its restriction to be beneficial to the law (pg. 8)
  8. “…the proper supervision of criminal law does not demand freedom for the President to act with a corrupt intention of shielding himself from criminal punishment, avoiding financial liability, or preventing personal embarrassment.” We do not have to wait until after a President’s action to decide whether that action is corrupt, because we do not have to prove that it is corrupt in order to justify the restriction. It is okay to decide that a President’s actions should be restricted in some way if only because that action might be corrupt; this does not “diminish the President’s ability to fulfill his constitutional mission” (pg. 8)
    1. It really seems to me that they’re throwing shade towards someone in particular
  9. Regardless of the accusations or discoveries made during the course of an investigation, the President should be able to perform his constitutional duties for as long as he is President.
  10. In conclusion, “Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office” (pg. 8) (again, a wink feels very implied here)

Closing Thoughts

The President has not been proven innocent or “totally exonerated!” by the Special Counsel. Not by a long shot. I believe they are unable to conclude that the President committed a crime because to do would necessarily be followed by an indictment (or else it would be unfair, see Volume 2 pg. 2), which would go against the Department of Justice’s policy of not indicting a sitting President. They will not say that not enough evidence of wrongdoing was found (because they do not believe it), but they cannot conclude that wrongdoing was found, and recommend that charges be filed against the President, to the Attorney General because for the Department of Justice to do so would require action that Attorney General Barr will not take, and, in fact, was probably chosen specifically because of that (see Barr memo to Trump). The only end result is while the Special Counsel does not believe that President Trump is innocent, they are literally not allowed to say he might be guilty.

These thought are all my own. I put myself on a self-imposed media hiatus (seriously; I got really bored last night without YouTube) until I finished reading through it and putting my thoughts together. Thank you for reading.

Works Cited

U.S. Dept. of Justice. Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. Redacted ed. PDF, 2019.