The Mueller Report Examined These 10 Moments For Possible Obstruction Of Justice

by Chelsea Stewart and Shelby Black
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Guys, the moment you've been waiting for is here. On Thursday, April 18, Attorney General William Barr publicly released Special Counsel Robert Mueller's (redacted) report on the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and members of the Trump 2016 campaign. Although Barr summarized the findings in a letter to Congress back in March, he left some big questions about the probe unresolved, which is why this is so major. Well, now that the we have the full document in our hands, the Mueller report's findings about obstruction of justice point to 10 incidents he examined. Drum roll, please...

In the second volume of Mueller's report, the special counsel stated he considered 10 different incidences which could have been seen as obstruction of justice:

  • "Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn,"
  • "The president's reaction to to the continuing Russia investigation,"
  • "The president's termination of Comey,"
  • "The appointment of special counsel and efforts to remove him,"
  • "Efforts to curtail the special counsel's investigation,"
  • "Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence,"
  • "Further efforts to have the attorney general take control of the investigation,"
  • "Efforts to have [Don] McGahn deny that the president has ordered him to have the special counsel removed,"
  • "Conduct towards Michael Flynn," and
  • "Conduct towards Michael Cohen."

You can read the full details of the incidents starting on page 215 of the report.

Mueller himself and his investigation did not make any final call about whether these instances constituted obstruction of justice under the law. Attorney General Barr wrote in his summary of the report that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had "concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense." Trump was not charged with any crimes. The report itself, however, notably did not exonerate the president, saying that "while this report does not conclude the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) under the Department of Justice (DOJ) has generally taken the stance that a sitting president cannot be indicted for any alleged crimes, in large part due to concern about destabilization of government. It appears to be something Mueller took into consideration. Page 214 of the report notes that because there could be no trial with which to clear the president's name should the investigation come to the conclusion he had committed crimes, they did not use an approach that could "potentially" result in that judgment. It read,

We determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes. … [A] prosecutor’s judgment that crimes were committed but that no charges will be brought, afford no such adversarial opportunity [as a trial] for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.

In his press conference, Barr said that Mueller had not said he would have found a crime if not for the OLC opinion.

We specifically asked [Mueller] about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime, but for the existence of the OLC opinion. And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime. He made it very clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.

More questions? The report was also redacted, and pretty heavily in some parts. According to NPR, the redactions, which fall into four categories, are meant to protect grand jury material, foreign intelligence sources, information about ongoing cases, and anything that might violate the privacy of third parties.

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So what's next? It's unclear where this situation will go from here. While Democrats may be satisfied now that they've finally gotten their eyes on the report after voting to subpoena it on April 3, there have also been calls from members of Congress who want to see an unredacted version of the report. To boot, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement on April 18 calling for Mueller to testify about the report to Congress. So it sounds like this saga will be continuing.

As for Trump, well, he's been on a victory lap. Following Barr's summary of the report, the president tweeted, "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!"

He has also continued to criticize the investigation, which indicted six of his former associates and more than a dozen Russians, calling it things like a "witch hunt" and a hoax. In fact, on April 15 Trump tweeted:

The Mueller Report, which was written by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters), should have focused on the people who SPIED on my 2016 Campaign, and others who fabricated the whole Russia Hoax. That is, never forget, the crime..... ....Since there was no Collusion, why was there an Investigation in the first place! Answer - Dirty Cops, Dems and Crooked Hillary [Clinton]!

The day we've been waiting for has finally arrived. For those who are brave enough to read over this redacted report in full, you might want to grab a huge cup of coffee.