WASHINGTON — Public at last, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed to a waiting nation Thursday that President Donald Trump had tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mueller’s removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president.
The report said that in June 2017, Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest.
McGahn refused — deciding he would rather resign than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate firings fame.
For all of that, Mueller said in his report that he could not conclusively determine that Trump had committed criminal obstruction of justice.
The Justice Department posted a redacted version of the report online Thursday morning, 90 minutes after Attorney General William Barr offered his own final assessment of the findings.
The two-volume, 448-page report recounts how Trump repeatedly sought to take control of the Russia probe.
Reaction of Valley Congressmen
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) was sharply critical of Mueller’s report.
“The biggest takeaway from the entire Russia hoax is that our nation’s counter-intelligence capabilities should never again be abused to target an administration’s political opponents.” — Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare)
“The Mueller report ignored a wide range of abuses committed during the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign,” he said in a statement. “And now, with the revelation that the Special Counsel was authorized at the outset to investigate Carter Page for allegedly colluding with Russians to hack the election, it’s clear that false allegations from the Steele dossier played a major role not only in the FISA warrant application on Page but in the appointment of the Special Counsel as well.
“The biggest takeaway from the entire Russia hoax is that our nation’s counter-intelligence capabilities should never again be abused to target an administration’s political opponents. Those who colluded in this effort – the media, Fusion GPS, Democratic Party leaders in Congress, the Clinton campaign, and partisan intelligence leaders – should apologize to the innocent people they maligned and to the American people they deceived.”
Said a spokesman for Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno): “We have been clear since Day One that we believe the American public deserves full transparency for this report that they paid for.
Said Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno): “The Mueller Report proves we should be concerned about Russian interference in our elections. It’s now up to Congress to decide what we should do about it. Like all Americans, I look forward to reading the full report and drawing my own conclusions.”
Meanwhile, Politico reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Nunes, the top GOP committee member, have united to seek a classified briefing from Mueller and his team on every aspect of their findings.
Ten Episodes of Possible Obstruction
Mueller evaluated 10 episodes for possible obstruction of justice, including Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, the president’s directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate.
The president’s lawyers have said Trump’s conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller’s team deemed the episodes deserving of criminal scrutiny.
Mueller reported that Trump had been agitated at the special counsel probe from its earliest days, reacting to Mueller’s appointment by saying it was the “end of his presidency.”
Trump Denied Knowing of Any Foreign Government Trying to Help His Campaign
As for the question of whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mueller wrote, “While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.”
Mueller also said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge any campaign officials with working as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia.
Trump’s Written Responses to Special Counsel Included
The report included an appendix that contained 12 pages of Trump’s written responses to the special counsel. They included no questions about obstruction of justice, as was part of an agreement with Trump’s legal team.
Trump told Mueller he had “no recollection” of learning in advance about the much-scrutinized Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer. He also said he had no recollection of knowledge about emails setting up the meeting that promised dirt on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
He broadly denied knowing of any foreign government trying to help his campaign, including the Russian government. He said he was aware of some reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made “complimentary statements” about him.
Trump said that his comment during a 2016 political rally asking Russian hackers to help find emails scrubbed from Clinton’s private server was made “in jest and sarcastically” and that he did not recall being told during the campaign of any Russian effort to infiltrate or hack computer systems.
Trump’s legal team called the results “a total victory for the president.”