The Mueller Report Distilled

No time to read the 448 pages of the Mueller report to find out what it really says? This post is for you because it boils down the main narrative of the Mueller report to a 30 minute read (about 13 or so pages.) If you don’t even have that much time, try just reading the headers I give — jumping into the details only if interested.

I extracted out of the Mueller reports the parts of the narrative that jumped out as me the most and seemed the most relevant. To keep the length down, obviously I was forced to make hard decisions of what to keep and what to cut. I’m sure many will disagree with my choices. But the text of this post is (except where indicated) straight from the Mueller report. The pages numbers listed are the PDF page numbers rather than the number Mueller himself uses so that it’s easier to look up. (Searchable version here.) I do not add my own commentary or analysis at this time — but do reserve the right to do so in a future post. You can also buy a copy on Amazon or get a free audio version from Audible.

I entirely skip the first volume of the report — the portion about Russian Interference — as ultimately there was no “collusion” found between Trump and Russia so it’s less relevant today.

When it comes to the sections called “Mueller’s Analysis” I didn’t even attempt to summarize. Instead, I grabbed a line or two that I felt indicated Mueller’s final opinion.

  1. Michael Flynn Stops Russia from Escalating Despite Obama Sanctions

On December 29, 2016… the Obama Administration announced that it was imposing sanctions and other measures on several Russian individuals and entities. (p. 236) Immediately after discussing the sanctions… on December 29, 2016, Flynn [Trump’s intended National Security Advisor] called Kislyak [the Russian ambassador] and requested that Russia respond to the sanctions only in a reciprocal manner, without escalating the situation. … Flynn [said]… that the Russian response to the sanctions was not going to be escalatory because Russia wanted a good relationship with the Trump Administration. On December 30, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures… (p. 237) and would instead “plan… further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.” (p. 238)

2. Washington Post Asks If Flynn Broke the Logan Act

On January 12, 2017, a Washington Post columnist reported that Flynn and Kislyak communicated on the day the Obama Administration announced the Russia sanctions. The column questioned… whether Flynn’s communications had violated the letter or spirit of the Logan Act. … The Logan Act makes it a crime for “[a]ny citizen of the United State… to… directly or indirectly commence or carr[y] on any correspondence… with any foreign government… in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States…” (p. 241)

3. Flynn Lies About His Meeting With Russian Ambassador

Flynn directed McFarland [Deputy White House National Security Advisor] to call the Washington Post… and inform… that no discussion of sanctions had occurred. McFarland made the call as Flynn had requested although she knew she was providing false information… (p. 241)

When… incoming Administration officials questioned Flynn internally… Flynn maintained that he had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak. (p. 241)

On January 24, 2017, Flynn agreed to be interviewed by agents from the FBI. During the interview… Flynn falsely stated that he did not ask Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation… (p. 242)

Eisenberg [legal advisor to National Security Council] noted the United States had never successfully prosecuted an individual under the Logan Act and… Flynn could have possible defenses, and… he believed it was unlikely that a prosecutor would pursue a Logan Act charge… (p. 244 and 245)

4. Trump is Warned Not to Interfere with Investigation

[The] Department of Justice… notified the White House… [to] not… take action that would interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation of Flynn. (Order reversed, p. 245)

…on January 27, the President called FBI Director Comey and invited him to dinner… Priebus [White House Chief of Staff] recalled that before the dinner, he told the President… “don’t talk about Russia, whatever you do,” and the President promised he would not talk about Russia… McGahn [White House Counsel] had previously advised the President that he should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid the perception or reality of political interference in law enforcement. (p. 246)

[Note: Comey mentions during the dinner that the President is not being investigated] (p. 246)

5. Trump Asks Comey for Loyalty

…the President stated, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” Comey responded, “You will always get honesty from me.” (p. 246) …substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account of the dinner invitation and the request for loyalty. [Including evidence in the president’s own journal, Comey’s memorandum after the meeting to cover himself, and Comey talked to people right after the meeting mention the situation.]

6. Trump Asks Flynn if He Lied

…the President asked [Flynn] whether he had lied… Flynn responded that he may have forgotten details of his calls, but he did not think he lied. (p. 249)

7. Trump Asks Comey to Let Flynn Go

On February 14, 2017… [Chris] Christie told the President not to talk about the investigation even if he was frustrated at times [or it would extend the investigation.] (p. 250–251)

…that afternoon, the President met with Comey… for a briefing. At the end of the briefing, the President dismissed the other attendees and stated that he wanted to speak to Comey alone. (p. 251) …the President began the conversation by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” …the President [said] “[Flynn] is a good guy and has been through a lot. … I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” (p. 252) Shortly after… Comey began drafting a memorandum documenting their conversation. … Comey… requested that Sessions [Attorney General] not leave Comey alone with the President again. (p. 253)

8. Trump Asks McFarland to Draft a Memo Saying He Did Not Direct Flynn to talk to Kislyak

…the President asked Priebus to have McFarland draft an internal email that would confirm that the President did not direct Flynn to call the Russian Ambassador about sanctions. … McFarland told Priebus she did not know whether the President had directed Flynn to talk to Kislyak about sanctions… (p. 254) … Later that evening, Priebus told her not to write the email and forget he even mentioned it. (p. 255)

9. Summary of Mueller’s Analysis

…substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account. (p. 256) …the President’s decision to clear the room… is consistent with the delivery of a message of the type Comey recalls… (p. 257)

10. Sessions Recuses Himself

In.. February 2017, the Department of Justice began an... analysis of whether Sessions should recuse from the Russia investigation based on his role in the 2016 Trump Campaign. …[and for] not [disclosing] two meetings he had with Russian Ambassador Kislyak before the presidential election… (p. 260)

…the President called McGahn and urged him to contact Sessions to tell him not to recuse himself… (p. 261) McGahn understood the President to be concerned that a recusal would make Sessions look guilty for omitting details… [and would] leave the President unprotected from an investigation that could hobble the presidency… Sessions replied that he intended to follow the rules on recusal.

That afternoon, Sessions announced his decision to recuse… [believing] it was not a close call, given the applicable language in the Code of Federal Regulations… the President was very upset with him and did not think he had done his duty as Attorney General. (p. 261–262)

11. Trump is Told to Not Contact Sessions About the Matter

…the White House Counsel’s Office directed that Sessions should not be contacted about the matter. [This is documented in the Counsel’s Office notes as “No contact w/Sessions and “No comms/Serious concerns about obstruction.”] (p. 262)

The President wanted McGahn to talk to Sessions about the recusal, but McGahn told the President that DOJ ethics officials had weighted in on Sessions’s decision to recuse. …[The President] screamed at McGahn about how weak Sessions was. Bannon [White House chief strategist] recalled telling the President that Sessions’s recusal was not a surprise and that before the inauguration they had discussed that Sessions would have to recuse… (p. 263)

12. Trump Contacts Sessions Anyway

That weekend, Sessions and McGhan flew to… meet with the President. …the President pulled him aside to speak to him alone and suggested that Sessions should “unrecuse” from the Russia investigation. (p. 263)

On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation…. The duration of the President’s efforts… spanned from March 2017 to August 2018…. [In one instance] …the President said… “Not telling you to do anything…. I’m not going to do anything or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly.” (Out of order — p. 324)

13. Comey Instructed to Not Comment on Who is Being Investigated

On March 20, 2017, Comey was scheduled to testify… Dana Boente, who at the time was the Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation… [told] Comey [that he] should decline to comment on whether any particular individuals, including the President, were being investigated. (p. 264)

14. Comey Won’t Say That the President Isn’t Under Investigation

[During the hearing] Comey added that he would not comment further on what the FBI was “doing and whose conduct [it] [was] examining”… Comey was… asked whether President Trump was “under investigation during the campaign” or “under investigation now.” Comey declined to answer… (p. 265)

Press reports following Comey’s March 20 testimony suggested that the FBI was investigating the President, contrary to what Comey had told the President at the end of the January 6, 2017 intelligence assessment briefing. …the President was upset with Comey’s testimony and the press coverage that followed because of the suggestion that the President was under investigation. (p. 266)

15. The President Asks for Help To Get Word Out He Didn’t Collude with Russia

In the weeks following Comey’s March 20, 2017 testimony, the President repeatedly asked intelligence community officials to push back publicly on any suggestion that the President had a connection to the Russian election-interference effort. (p. 267)

…the President complained about the Russia investigations, saying… “I can’t do anything with Russia, there’s things I’d like to do with Russia, with trade, with ISIS, they’re all over me with this.” (p. 268)

On March 26, 2017… the President called NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers. … The President… said that the news stories linking him with Russia were not true and asked Rogers if he could do anything to refute the stories. Deputy Director… Richard Ledgett… said it was the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service. [They drafted a memorandum to protect themselves but] did not perceive the President’s request to be an order… or to push back on the Russia investigation itself. (p. 268–269)

16. President Asks Comey to “Lift the Cloud”

On… March 30, 2017, the President reached out to Comey directly about the Russia investigation. … The President asked Comey what could be done to “lift the cloud.” … Comey also told the President that congressional leaders were aware that the FBI was not investigating the President personally. The President said several times “We need to get that fact out.” … Comey… was uncomfortable with direct contact from the President about the investigation. (p. 269–270)

The President acknowledged that McGahn would not approve of the outreach to Comey because McGahn had previously cautioned the President that he should not talk to Comey directly to prevent any perception that the White House was interfering with investigations. …Comey [later said] there was nothing obstructive about the calls from the President, but they made [him] uncomfortable. (p. 271)

17. Summary of Mueller’s Analysis

…the evidence does not establish that the President asked or directed intelligence agency leaders to stop or interfere with the FBI’s Russian investigation… (p. 272)

18. Comey Again Won’t Answer if Trump is Under Investigation

On May 3, 2017, Comey was scheduled to testify at an FBI oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. McGahn recalled that in the week leading up to the hearing, the President said that it would be the last straw if Comey did not take the opportunity to set the record straight by publicly announcing that the President was not under investigation. … At the hearing, Comey declined to answer questions about the Russia investigation, stating… that he was “not going to say another word about it” until the investigation was completed. Comey also declined to answer questions about whether investigators had… “ruled out the president…” (p. 274–275)

19. Trump Gets Mad at Sessions, Who Suggests Replacing Comey

[In a meeting with McGahn and Sessions] the President asked… how Comey had done in his testimony and McGahn relayed that Comey had declined to answer questions about whether the President was under investigation. The President became very upset and directed his anger as Sessions [for having recused himself.] … [During the same meeting] Sessions… stated that a new start at the FBI would be appropriate and the President should consider replacing Comey as FBI director. (p. 275–276)

Bannon [later]… told the President that firing Comey was not going to stop the investigation… (p. 276)

20. Trump’s Letter to Fire Comey; Insists He’s Not Under Investigation

At a dinner on Friday, May 5… the President stated that he wanted to remove Comey and had ideas for a letter that would be used to make the announcement. … the President told Miller that the letter should start:

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me that I am not under investigation concerning what I have often stated is a fabricated story on the Trump-Russia relationship — pertaining to the 2016 presidential election, please be informed that I, and I believe the American public… have lost faith in you as Director of the FBI.” (p. 276)

Miller said he believed that the fact [that the letter included that he was not under investigation] was important to the President to show that Comey was not being terminated based on any such investigation. (p. 277)

The President told the group that Miller has researched the issue and determined the President had the authority to terminate Comey without cause. (p. 278)

21. The President Asks For Advice About Firing Comey and is Told to Do It

The President… asked Sessions and Rosenstein for their views. …Sessions responded that he had previously recommended that Comey be replaced. …Rosenstein described his concerns about Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. (p. 279)

22. Summary of Mueller’s Analysis

The anticipated effect of removing the FBI director, however, would not necessarily be to prevent or impede the FBI from continuing its investigation. (p. 286) 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… (p. 287) Although the FBI director is an inferior officer, he is appointed by the President and removable by him at will… and it is not clear that Congress could constitutionally provide the FBI director with good-cause tenure protection. (p. 287)

23. Appointment of Mueller and Trump’s Reaction

On May 17, 2017, Acting Attorney General Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller, III as Special Counsel and authorized him to conduct the Russia investigation and matters that arose from the investigation. …when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, “Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m F*****” … The president became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse… [The President said] “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This the worst thing that ever happened to me.” (p. 290)

The President then told Sessions he should resign as Attorney General. (p. 291) …[later]the President returned [Session’s resignation] letter… with a notation saying, “Not accepted.” (p. 292)

24. Trump Claims Mueller Has Conflicts of Interest

In the days following… the President repeatedly told advisers… that Special Counsel Mueller had conflicts of interest. The President cited as conflicts that Mueller had interviewed for the FBI Director position shortly before being appointed as Special Counsel, that he had worked for a law firm that represented people affiliated with the President, and that Mueller had disputed certain fees relating to his membership in a Trump golf course… The President’s advisers… [told] the President they did not count as true conflicts. (p. 292) …and that claiming [a legal conflict over a golf course] was “ridiculous and petty.” (p. 293)

On May 23, 2017, the Department of Justice announced that ethics officials had determined… Mueller had been cleared to serve. (p. 293)

25. Trump Continues to Claim Conflicts of Interest — Warned Not To Interfere

McGahn recalled that around the same time, the President complained about the asserted conflicts and prodded McGahn to reach out to Rosenstein about the issue. … McGahn advised that the President… it would “look like still trying to meddle in [the] investigation and ‘knocking out Mueller’ would be “[a]nother fact used to claim obst[ruction] of just[ice].” McGahn told the President that his “biggest exposure” was not his act of firing Comey but his “other contacts” and “calls,” and his “ask re: Flynn.” (p. 293–294)

26. Special Counsel’s Reasons for Investigating the President

By the time McGahn provided this advice… there had been widespread reporting on the President’s request for Comey’s loyalty, which the President publicly denied; his request that Comey “let Flynn go,” which the President also denied… (p. 294) …but added [in private to Priebus] that he was “allowed to hope.” (p. 256)

…Comey testified before Congress about his interactions with the President before his termination, including the request for loyalty, the request that Comey “let Flynn go,” and the request that Comey “lift the cloud” over the presidency caused by the ongoing investigation. Comey’s testimony led to a series of news reports about whether the President had obstructed justice. On June 9, 2017, the Special Counsel’s Office informed the White House Counsel’s Office that investigators intended to interview intelligence community officials who had allegedly been asked by the President to push back against the Russian investigation. (p. 294)

On the evening of June 14, 2017, the Washington Post published an article stating that the Special Counsel was investigating whether the President had attempted to obstruct justice. (p. 296)

27. Trump Tries to Remove Special Counsel Again

On Saturday, June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn… On the first call, McGahn recalled that the President said something like, “You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod.” (p. 297) When the President called McGahn a second time to follow up on the order to call the Department of Justice, McGahn recalled that the President was more direct, saying something like, “Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel.” McGahn recalled the President telling him “Mueller has to go” and “call me back when you do it.” (p. 298)

28. McGahn Decides to Try to Resign

McGahn decided he had to resign. … He… drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter. … Priebus and Bannon both urged McGahn not to quit, and McGahn ultimately returned to work that Monday and remained in his position. He had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, and when they next saw each other the President did not ask McGahn whether he had followed through with calling Rosenstein. (p. 299)

…the President [later]… told McGahn that he had simply wanted McGahn to bring conflicts of interest to the Department of Justice’s attention. (p. 300)

29. Summary of Mueller’s Analysis

Substantial evidence… supports the conclusion that the President… in fact directed McGahn to call Rosenstein to have the Special Counsel removed. (p. 300)

30. Trump Sends Message to Sessions Suggesting Russia Investigation be Limited to Future Elections

…two days after [the incident with McGahn above] the President met one-on-one… with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. (p. 302–303) … The President… asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to Sessions…. [suggesting he] give a speech publicly [saying:]…. (p. 303)

“I know that I recused myself from certain things having to do with specific areas. But our POTUS…is being treated very unfairly. He shouldn’t have a Special Prosecturor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong. I was on the campaign w/ him for nine moths, there were no Russian involved with him. I know it for a fact b/c I was there. He didn’t do anything wrong except he ran the greatest campaign in American history. … Now a group of people want to subvert the Constitution of the United States. I am going to meet with the Special Prosecutor to explain this is very unfair and let the Special Prosecutor move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections so that nothing can happen in future elections.” (p. 303)

Lewandowski wanted to pass the message to Sessions in person…. And arranged a meeting for the following evening… but Sessions had to cancel…. Shortly thereafter, Lewandowski left Washingto, D.C. without having an opportunity to meet with Sessions…. (p. 304)

31. The President Follows Up with Lewandowski

On July 19, 2017…. the President raised his previous request and asked if Lewandowski had talked to Sessions. …the President told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired. (p. 304–305) [Lewandowski then delivers the message to Dearborn, the Former White House chief of Staff, who never delivers it.]

[In a later conversation with Hope Hicks, the White House communications director] Lewandowski recalled telling Hicks about the President’s request that he meet with Sessions and joking with her about the idea of firing Sessions as a private citizen if Sessions would not meet with him. …Lewandowski told her the President had recently asked him to meet with Sessions and deliver a message that he needed to do the “right thing” and resign. (p. 306)

32. Mueller’s Analysis

Substantial evidence indicates that the President’s efforts to have Sessions limit the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation to future election interference was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the President’s and his campaign’s conduct. (p. 309)

33. The President Asks McGahn to Deny the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel

On January 25, 2018, the New York Times reported that in June 2017, the President had ordered McGahn to have the Department of Justice fire the Special Counsel. … The article stated that the president “ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.” (p. 325–326)

On January 26, 2018, the President’s personal counsel called McGahn’s attorney and said that the President wanted McGahn to put out a statement denying that he had been asked to fire the Special Counsel and that he had threatened to quit in protest. … McGahn’s attorney informed the President’s personal counsel that the Times story was accurate in reporting that the President wanted the Special Counsel removed. Accordingly, McGahn’s attorney said, although the article was inaccurate in some respects, McGahn could not comply with the President’s request to dispute the story. (p. 326)

34. Trump Asks McGahn to Create a Record Denying the NYT Story

[Later] [t]he President… directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. … The President referred to McGahn as a “lying bastard” and said that he wanted a record from him. (p. 327) Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, “If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him.” (p. 327–328) … McGahn shrugged off the request, explaining that the media reports were true. … McGahn dismissed the threat… [of being fired because] the optics would be terrible…. (p. 328)

35. Trump Asks McGahn Again to Deny the NYT Story

The President… [meeting with McGahn later, told] McGahn that the New York Times story did not “look good” and McGahn needed to correct it. McGahn recalled the President said, “I never said to fire Mueller. I never said ‘fire.’ This story doesn’t look good. You need to correct this.” (p. 328) … McGahn responded, “What you said is, ‘Call Rod [Rosenstein], tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel.” The President responded, “I never said that.” The President said he merely wanted McGahn to raise the conflicts issue with Rosenstein and leave it to him to decide what to do.” … The President asked McGahn whether he would “do a correction,” and McGahn said no. (p. 329)

Following the… meeting, the President’s personal counsel called McGahn’s counsel and relayed that the President was “fine” with McGahn. (p. 330)

36. Mueller’s Analysis

Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President’s conduct towards the investigation. (p. 332)

37. Flynn Cooperates with Mueller

In late November 2017, Flynn began to cooperate…. Later that night, the President’s personal counsel [i.e. Dowd] left a voicemail for Flynn’s counsel that said:

“I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms…. [I]t wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal… with the government….. [I]f… there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issues, … so you know, … we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake or protecting all our interests if we can…. [R]emember what we’ve always said about the President and his feelings towards Flynn and, that still remains.” (p. 333)

38. Michael Cohen Works With Trump on Moscow Trump Tower Project

According to Cohen [Former vice president of Trump Organization], in approximately September 2015 he obtained internal approval from Trump to negotiate on behalf of the Trump Organization to have a Russian corporation build a tower in Moscow that licensed the Trump name and brand. Cohen thereafter had numerous brief conversations with Trump about the project. Cohen recalled that Trump wanted to be updated on any developments with the Trump Tower Moscow and on several occasions brought the project up with Cohen to ask what was happening on it. In the fall of 2015, Trump signed a Letter of Intent for the project… (p. 347)

…around May 2016, [Cohen] again raised with candidate Trump that possibility of a trip to Russia to advance the Trump Tower Moscow project. (p. 349)

39. Trump Continues to Work with Cohen After Denying any Dealings with Russia

During the summer of 2016… candidate Trump publicly claimed that he had nothing to do with Russia and then shortly afterwards privately checked with Cohen about the status of the Trump Tower Moscow project, which Cohen found “interesting.” At some point that summer, Cohen recalled having a brief conversation with Trump in which Cohen said the Trump Tower Moscow project was going nowhere…. Trump said that was “too bad,” and Cohen did not recall talking with Trump about the project after that. Cohen said that at no time during the campaign did Trump tell him not to pursue the project or that the project should be abandoned. (p. 349–350)

40. Cohen Lies to Public About Trump’s Moscow Tower

In approximately January 2017, Cohen began receiving inquiries from the media about Trump Tower Moscow, and he recalled speaking to the President-Elect when those inquiries came in. Cohen was concerned that truthful answers about the Trump Tower Moscow project might not be consistent with the “message” that the President-Elect had no relationship with Russia. (p. 350)

In an effort to “stay on message,” Cohen told a New York Times reporter that the Trump Tower Moscow deal was not feasible and had ended in January 2016. Cohen recalled that this was part of a “script” or talking points he had developed with President-Elect Trump and others to dismiss the idea of a substantial connection between Trump and Russia. (p. 350–351)

Cohen thought it was important to say the deal was done in January 2016, rather than acknowledge that talks continued in May and June 2016, because it limited the period when candidate Trump could be alleged to have a relationship with Russia to an early point in the campaign, before Trump had become the party’s presumptive nominee. (p. 351)

41. Cohen Joins Joint Defense Agreement with Trump

In early 2017, Cohen received requests from Congress to provide testimony and documents in connection with congressional investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. … Cohen eventually entered into a joint defense agreement (JDA)… with the President and other individuals who were part of the Russia investigation. In the months leading up to his congressional testimony, Cohen frequently spoke with the President’s personal counsel. (p. 351)

Cohen recalled that the President’s personal counsel told him the JDA was working well together and assured him that there was nothing there and if they stayed on message the investigation would come to an end soon. At the time, Cohen’s legal bills were being paid by the Trump Organization, and Cohen was told not to worry because the investigations would be over by summer or fall of 2017. … Cohen recalled that the President’s personal counsel reminded him that “the President loves you” and told him that if he stayed on message, the President had his back. (p. 352)

42. Cohen Makes False Statements to Congress

In August 2017, Cohen began drafting a statement about Trump Tower Moscow to submit to Congress along with his document production. The final version of the statement contained several false statements about the project. [One such false statement was that]…although the Trump Organization continued to pursue the project until at least June 2016, the statement said, “The proposal was under consideration at the Trump Organization from September 2015 until the end of January 2016.” (p. 352)

43. Trump’s Lawyers Remove Truthful Statements from Cohen’s Statement

Cohen’s statement was circulated in advance to, and edited by, members of the JDA. Before the statement was finalized, early drafts contained a sentence stating, “The building project led me to make limited contacts with Russian government officials.” In the final version of the statement, that line was deleted [presumably by the JDA lawyers.] (p. 353)

Cohen recalled telling the President’s personal counsel, who did not have first-hand knowledge of the project, that there was more detail on Trump Tower Moscow that was not in the statement, including that there were more communications with Russia and more communications with candidate Trump than the statement reflected. Cohen stated that the President’s personal counsel responded that it was not necessary to elaborate or include those details because the project did not progress and that Cohen should keep the statement short and “tight” and the matter would soon come to an end. Cohen recalled that the President’s personal counsel said “his client” appreciated Cohen, that Cohen should stay on message and not contradict the President, that there was no need to muddy the water, and that it was time to move on. (p. 355)

On August 28, 2017, Cohen submitted his statement about the Trump Tower Moscow project to Congress. Cohen did not recall talking to the President about the specifics of what the statement said or what Cohen would later testify to about Trump Tower Moscow. (p. 356)

44. Cohen Sticks with Party Line Due to Trump Paying Legal Fees

…Cohen[] understood that his legal fees were still being paid by the Trump Organization, which he said was important to him. Cohen believed he needed the power of the President to take care of him, so he needed to defend the President and stay on message. (p. 359)

45. Cohen Pleads Guilty — Trump Claims He’s Lying To Get Reduced Sentence

On November 29, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress based on his statements about the Trump Tower Moscow project. …on November 29, after Cohen’s guilty plea had become public… [t]he President… said that Cohen was… “…trying to… get a reduced sentence. So he’s lying about a project that everybody knew about.” … The President added, “Even if [Cohen] was right, it doesn’t matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign.” (p. 362)

46. Trump Begins to Publicly Attack Cohen

On December 3, 2018, after Cohen had filed his sentencing memorandum, the President tweeted, “‘Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.’ You mean he can do all of this TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump,things having to do with fraud, big loans… and not serve a long prison term?” (p. 363)

In an interview on Fox of January 12, 2019, the President was asked whether he was worried about Cohen’s testimony and responded:

“[I]n order to get his sentence reduced, [Cohen] says ‘I have an idea, I’ll ah, tell — I’ll give you some information on the president.’ Well, there is no information.” (p. 364)

47. Giuliani Possibly Confirms Cohen’s Story

…in January 2019, Giuliani [Trump’s Lawyer] gave press interviews that appeared to confirm Cohen’s account that the Trump Organization pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project well past January 2016. Giuliani stated that “it’s our understanding that [discussions about the Trump Moscow project] went on throughout 2016. Weren’t a lot of them, but there was conversations. Can’t be sure of the exact date. But the president can remember having conversations with him about it. … The president also remembers… could be up to as far as October, November.” In an interview with the New York Times, Giuliani quoted the President as saying that the discussions regarding the Trump Moscow project were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.” (p. 364)

On January 21, 2019, Giuliani issued a statement that said: “My recent statements about the discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow ‘project’ were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president.” (p. 364)

48. Mueller’s Analysis

…Cohen said that he and the President did not explicitly discuss whether Cohen’s testimony about the Trump Tower Moscow project would be or was false, and the President did not direct him to provide false testimony. Cohen also said he did not tell the President about the specifics of his planned testimony. (p. 365)

49. Conclusion: Mueller’s Explanation of Not Reaching a Judgement

First, a traditional prosecution… decision entails a binary determination to initiate or decline a prosecution, but we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that “indictment of criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutional assigned functions…”

Second, while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President’s term is permissable. The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office…. we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.

Third… Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching [a judgement to prosecute] when no charges can be brought. The ordinary means for an individual who believes he was wrongly accused can use that process to seek to clear his name. In contrast, a prosector’s judgment that crimes were committed, but that no charges will be brought, affords no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator. …

Fourth, 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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgement. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. (p. 214)

Bruce is a Master's student specializing in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence at the Georgia Institute of Technology.