LISTEN TO Hits FM ANYWHERE!

ABC - Politics News
Subscribe To This Feed

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General William Barr on Thursday morning transmitted a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's highly anticipated report on Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign to members of Congress, making public for the first time substantial portions of the nearly 400-page document.

The Justice Department's release of the redacted report comes just weeks after Barr penned a four-page letter conveying the special counsel's "principal conclusions."

In that letter, Barr described "two main" Kremlin-backed efforts to influence the election, but states definitively that the special counsel's office did not find evidence to suggest that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russians.

The special counsel's office made no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, Barr noted, but the attorney general himself determined that the evidence against Trump did not amount to a crime.

ABC NEWS WAS PROVIDING LIVE UPDATES THROUGHOUT THE DAY ON ALL THE MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS.

4:17 p.m.: Trump leaves White House, does not take questions


President Donald Trump, holding hands with first lady Melania Trump, took no questions from reporters and headed straight for Marine One on Thursday afternoon.

The Trumps were heading to Mar-a-Lago for the holiday weekend.

On Wednesday, Trump said he might hold a news conference after the redacted report was released and earlier on Thursday counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said that she expected him to speak to reporters before departing.

Walking from the White House, the president only waved as questions were shouted at him. Then, at Andrews Air Force Base, he boarded Air Force One shortly after Marine One landed.

4:07 p.m.: Mueller's reference to allegations of Russian "kompromat" on Trump

The special counsel report offers new details suggesting then-candidate Donald Trump was aware of rumors of a compromising video recording being circulated by the Russian government during his 2016 campaign.

A footnote in the Mueller report discusses the unverified allegation, which was first raised in the so-called dossier -- a series of opposition research memos prepared by a former British agent. The dossier suggested Russians had recorded a tape of Trump during a 2013 visit to Moscow showing Trump cavorting with prostitutes in his suite at the Moscow Ritz hotel.

Trump has always maintained the allegations are false. It has been previously reported that then-FBI Director James Comey shared information about the salacious allegations with Trump after the 2016 elections, during the transition period.

"During the 2016 presidential campaign, a similar claim may have reached candidate Trump," the Mueller report says.

Two weeks before the election, the report says Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen received a text from a Russian businessman that said, "Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there's anything else. Just so you know . . .. "

The businessman said the "tapes" referred to "compromising tapes of Trump rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group, which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia," the report quotes. Trump had partnered with the Crocus Group to host the beauty pageant.

The report says Cohen told investigators that he spoke directly to Trump about the issue after receiving those texts. The businessman, Giorgi Rtskhiladze, later told investigators the tapes were fake, but added that he had not communicated that to Cohen at the time.

2:57 p.m.: Nadler weighs in

In a brief press conference, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said the Mueller report "makes clear that the president refused to be interviewed by the special counsel and refused to provide written answers to follow up questions."

2:55 p.m.: Trump asked people affiliated with campaign to find Clinton’s emails “repeatedly,” according to Flynn

After Trump’s July 2016 press conference inviting the Russians to find them, Michael Flynn contacted multiple people about finding the “missing” Hillary Clinton emails from her personal server, according to the report. That included contact Flynn made to the late Chicago financier Peter Smith and Barbara Ledeen (a long-time staffer to Sen. Chuck Grassley who was already on the hunt).

Erik Prince provided funding to try and authenticate some emails that were obtained by Ledeen but the tech advisor hired said they weren’t real.

The special counsel didn’t find evidence Flynn or other campaign-linked figures initiated or directed Smith’s efforts.

2:10 p.m.: 2020 candidates slam AG Barr as Mueller report sends ripples through Democratic field

Democratic presidential candidates were quick to vent their frustration on Thursday at the conduct of Attorney General William Barr, swiftly called on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress and demanded that the full unredacted report be released to the public.

The ire directed at Barr comes after he held a press conference defending President Donald Trump's actions and to speak publicly and take questions from journalists before the report from the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election was released.

None of the sitting U.S. senators who have declared a presidential bid voted for Barr's confirmation.

1:31 p.m.: Insight into Trump's written responses to the special counsel team's questions


The answers President Donald Trump gave to special counsel Robert Mueller have finally been released as part of the redacted version of the special counsel's report.

Trump's willingness to participate in an interview with the special counsel, the topics of the questions and whether that interview would take place in person or in writing was the subject of a months-long negotiation between Trump's legal team and the special counsel.

In June of 2017, the president told ABC News' Jonathan Karl that he would "one hundred percent" be willing to speak under oath to his version of events if Mueller asked him to. Eventually, the president and his legal team backed off of Trump's initial willingness to sit for an interview, instead advocating that the president respond to select questions in writing. Trump submitted his written responses to the special counsel on November 21, 2018.

Read his responses here.

12:12 p.m.: Trump orders White House counsel Don McGahn to deny the president tried to fire the special counsel

After news broke that Trump ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel, Trump pressured McGahn to deny that he had been directed to do so, even suggesting to aides that he would fire him unless he complied. Mueller concludes that there is evidence to suggest Trump acted this way to impede his investigation.

According to the report: "The President then directed [staff secretary Rob] Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file "for our records" and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a 'lying bastard' and said that he wanted a record from him. 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'."

Mueller concluded that "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."

12:08p.m.: Trump tried to block release of emails related to June 9 Trump Tower meeting: Report

In a section of the report divided into four subsections, Mueller’s team cites at least three occasions "between June 29, 2017 and July 9, 2017- when the president directed Hope Hicks and others not to publicly disclose information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian attorney. The office of the special counsel concluded that" these efforts by the president were directed at the press, adding that these acts would amount to obstructive acts only if the president sought to withhold information or mislead congressional investigations or the special counsel. On May 17, 2017, the president’s campaign received a document request from SSCI that clearly covered the June 9 meeting."

In the analysis section, the special counsel specifically addresses the phrase attributed to Hope Hicks, “it will never get out”—in reference to the emails setting up the June 9 meeting. Hicks said she "had no memory of making" that comment and always believed the emails would eventually be leaked. The Special Counsel writes that the Hicks statement "can be explained as reflecting a belief that the emails would not be made public if the President’s press strategy were followed, even if the emails were provided to Congress and the Special Counsel."

11:46 a.m.: Cohen had "extensive" discussions with the president's personal counsel

The Mueller report states that Michael Cohen, President Trump's then-personal attorney, had "extensive" discussions with the president's personal counsel while working on his statements to Congress.

The report further lays out myriad instances of the president's conduct with Cohen including:

--Cohen had numerous brief conversations with Trump about the Trump Tower Moscow project from Sept. 2015 onward, as well as conversations with Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. In Dec. 2015, Felix Sater asked Cohen for a copy of his and Trump's passports to facilitate travel to Russia. By Jan 2016, growing frustrated with Sater, Cohen reached out directly to Dmitry Peskov and later had a conversation with Peskov's assistant that he recounted to Trump.

--The day after Cohen's conversation with Peskov's assistant, Sater texted Cohen saying that the Russian government liked the project and invited Cohen to come visit Moscow. Cohen continued to brief Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on the project through the spring. Cohen and Sater worked to determine a time for a potential visit from then candidate Trump to Russia. The visit never happened. Cohen also decided not to visit. Cohen recounts telling trump that the project was "going nowhere" sometime during the summer of 2016.

--In January 2017, Cohen received press inquiries about Trump Tower Moscow, and told President-Elect Trump about the inquiries. He was concerned being honest about the project would not be consistent with the president's previous comments about his relationship with Russia.

--To stay on message Cohen told a NYT reporter that the Trump Tower Moscow deal ended in January 2016. Cohen said he discussed this talking point with Trump.

--Cohen entered into a joint defense agreement with the president and others after Congress requested he testify. Cohen assumed he would be asked about allegations in the Steele Dossier. Cohen spoke with the president's personal counsel "frequently" leading up to his congressional testimony.

--Cohen was told by the president's personal counsel that the joint defense agreement was working well. His bills were being paid by the Trump Org. Cohen said the president's personal counsel told him he was protected by the JDA, and he wouldn't be if he "went rogue"

--Cohen prepared a draft letter to congress which included several false statements. That letter was circulated around and edited by members of the JDA. The president's personal counsel also told Cohen not to make reference to an attempt to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin during the 2015 United Nations general Assembly.

--Cohen submitted his statement. He recalled speaking to the president "more generally" about his plans to stay on message during his testimony

Earlier in the day, Cohen vowed "Soon I will be ready to address the American people again...tell it all...and tell it myself!"

11:45 a.m.: The president’s further efforts to have AG Jeff Sessions take over the investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to conclude that President Trump’s actions with regard to Jeff Sessions could constitute as obstruction.

“On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation of Hillary Clinton…There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President’s conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that could restrict its scope…A reasonable inference from those statements and the President’s action is that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation.”

11:31 a.m.: Mueller considered Trump's answers 'inadequate'

Mueller lays out his negotiations with Trump’s attorneys regarding an interview with the president. Mueller writes in the introductory note that they advised counsel that “a[n] interview with the President is vital to our investigation.” Mueller says that Trump “stated on more than 30 occasions that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an “independent recollection’” of information called for by the questions.” Mueller received the president’s responses in November 2018. Beginning in December 2017 they sought to interview the president on “topics relevant to both Russian-election interference and obstruction-of-justice.”

Mueller writes that “Other answers were incomplete or imprecise.”

“We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that [t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all the evidence we have gathered. The President declined.”

Mueller says “we considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony” given that Trump would not volunteer an interview. “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate. But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed to costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits from our investigation and report.”

11:26 a.m.: On looking into potential obstruction of justice

The report says while they believe they had legal authority “and legal justification” to subpoena Trump” for an interview, they chose not to due to the delay in investigation that it would cause. “We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the President’s actions and his public and private statements ... we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the President’s testimony.”

As for retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador, the report notes: “some evidence suggests that the President knew about the existence and content of Flynn’s calls when they occurred, but the evidence is inconclusive and could not be relied upon to establish the President’s knowledge.”

On the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting, the report says Trump had “substantial involvement” in the communications strategy over the Russia probe. But “the evidence does not establish that the president intended to prevent” Mueller or Congress from getting those emails to Donald Trump Jr. or other information related to the meeting.

11:16 a.m.: On looking into potential collusion

The probe “Uncovered numerous links — I.e. contacts — between Trump campaign officials and individuals having or claiming to have ties to the Russian government.”

Among the people: Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Jared Kushner, JD Gordon, Paul Manafort, Erik Prince and Jeff Sessions. The report notes, as ABC News first reported, that Sessions, when he was attorney general, was investigated for perjury over his testimony to Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

The “collusion” report talks extensively about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting and the promise of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

The Russians reached out again after the meeting to the transition team, but the transition team did not respond.

Mueller’s team determined it would be hard to prove “campaign officials or individuals connected to the campaign willfully violated the law.”

“On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”

“Schemes involving the solicitation or receipt of assistance from foreign sources raise difficult statutorily and constitutional questions.”

11:15 a.m.: The report has posted

The full report has posted:

www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf

10:29 a.m.: 10 episodes of potential obstruction to be disclosed in Mueller report

There are ten episodes depicting potential obstruction of justice outlined in the impending Mueller report, according to Barr's remarks at the Department of Justice.

The special counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgement on obstruction of justice, as was outlined in Barr's letter last month.

"Instead the report recounts ten episodes involving the president and discusses legal theories for connecting those activities," Barr said. "After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report and in consultation with the office of legal counsel and other department lawyers. The deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not subject to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense."

In Barr's March 24 letter, he wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

10:01 a.m.: Trump tweets "Game Over"

Minutes after Barr's press conference ended, Trump tweeted "No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and radical left Democrats--Game Over," an apparent reference to the Game of Thrones television show.

9:34 a.m.: Barr's press conference begins

At a news conference Thursday morning, Barr said he was committed to providing "the greatest degree of transparency" that is "consistent with the law."

"As the special counsel report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election process, but thanks to the special counsel's thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign, or the knowing assistance of any other American for that matter. That is something all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed," Barr said.

"In other words, there was no evidence of the Trump campaign’s collusion of the Russian government’s hacking," he said.

Barr held the news conference hours before he was set to send Mueller's redacted report to Congress and make it public, drawing sharp criticism from congressional Democrats. Barr, after thanking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his efforts, also confirmed that he intends to transmit redacted versions of the report to the chairman and ranking members of the House Judiciary committees.

Rosenstein joined Barr for the news conference Thursday morning.

8 a.m.: Trump tweets ahead of release

Ahead of the Mueller release, Trump tweets that the investigation is "the Greatest Political Hoax of all time!"

Trump will have the chance to watch the DOJ press conference at 9:30 this morning -- the first thing on his schedule Thursday is the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier ride at 10:30 a.m. in the East Room where he is expected to deliver remarks.

8 a.m.: Topics Barr is expected to address during his presser

Barr is expected to address three topics during his press conference scheduled for 9:30 this morning, according to Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec.

Those three topics are:

  • Executive privilege and whether it was involved.
  • White House interactions with the Department of Justice over the past several weeks since the last letter issued by Barr on March 29.
  • The redaction process.

The press conference is expected to last 20-30 minutes.

8 a.m.: Mueller arrives at office, not attending Barr newser

Mueller arrived at his office as he usually does, driving himself in his Subaru. He will not attend Barr's news conference at the Justice Department, a spokesman said.

7:42 a.m.: Barr arrives at Justice Department

Barr arrived at the Justice Department in a two-car detail ahead of his news conference later this morning.

6:15 a.m.: Top Democrats call for Mueller to testify before Congress 'as soon as possible'

In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr's handing of the report release has created a "crisis of confidence" and said having Mueller testify was the "only way to begin restoring public trust."

“Attorney General Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality," they said.

"We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth,” Schumer and Pelosi said in the statement.

Mueller submitted his findings to the Justice Department on March 22, and Barr spent the next two days reviewing the document before releasing his initial letter to Congress.

Since then, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for the full release of Mueller's report.

House Democrats set a deadline for Barr to release the full report by April 2, but the attorney general declined that request, citing the need to redact sensitive grand jury material, information legally blocked from public release, information that could compromise intelligence sources and methods, and any "information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties."

Though Thursday's anticipated release of a redacted version of Mueller's report may answer lawmakers' demands for more information, it will likely be met with calls for even more.

In a letter from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent just hours after Barr's initial letter, the Democratic leaders wrote that "Congress requires the full report and the underlying documents so that the Committees can proceed with their independent work, including oversight and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise."

The amount of underlying documents supporting the report is expected to be substantial. In his letter, Barr wrote that "the Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants" and "interviewed approximately 500 witnesses."

Mueller's full report covers the scope of an investigation lead by a team of federal prosecutors that lasted 22 months and lead to 37 indictments and seven guilty pleas. Some of the cases related to the special counsel's probe are ongoing and have since been turned over to prosecutors in U.S. Attorney's offices.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Within minutes of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler announced he would subpoena the Justice Department for a full, unredacted version even as Republicans celebrated the findings of the special counsel and urged Democrats to “move on" from the Russia investigation.

"We clearly can't believe what Attorney General Barr tells us," Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters at a news conference in New York City Thursday afternoon. "The special counsel made clear that he did not exonerate the president and the responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions."

When asked if Congress holding Trump “accountable” means impeachment, Nadler said “that is one possibility” as he believes the report “was probably written with the intent of providing Congress a road map,” but he added “it’s too early to reach those conclusions.”

In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer contended the differences between what Barr said regarding whether President Donald Trump had committed obstruction of justice and what Mueller wrote about possible obstruction “are stark.”

"As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller's report appears to undercut that finding,” Pelosi and Schumer stated.

Nadler pointed to details in the report he said “contradicted” Barr’s remarks in his news conference Thursday morning,

For example, Nadler pointed to a line in the Mueller report that a “thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would have risen to personal and political concerns.”

“Even in its incomplete form, the Mueller report outlines disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice and other misconduct,” Nadler wrote in a statement Thursday afternoon. “The Special Counsel made clear that he did not exonerate the President.”

“Because Congress requires this material in order to perform our constitutionally-mandated responsibilities, I will issue a subpoena for the full report and the underlying materials,” Nadler vowed.

A committee aide indicated Nalder is not expected to issue the subpoena on Thursday.

House Oversight and Reform chairman Elijah Cummings also urged Congress to subpoena "the full report and all underlying documents."

“The President and his Attorney General expect the American people to be blind to what we can now see. This report catalogues in excruciating detail a proliferation of lies by the President to the American people, as well as his incessant and repeated efforts to encourage others to lie," Cummings, D-Md., stated. "Contrary to Attorney General Barr’s attempts at misdirection, it is crystal clear from the report that the Justice Department’s policy against indicting a sitting President played a key role in Special Counsel Mueller’s analysis—in fact, it is the very first point in the obstruction section of his report."

Barr pledged to make portions of the unredacted report privately available to a select few members of Congress, perhaps as limited as the so-called Gang of Eight, which is comprised of senior elected leadership of the House and Senate and the House and Senate Intelligence committee chairmen and ranking members, potentially not giving Nadler or Cummings access to an unredacted version.

Nadler, who aides say has been in constant communication with the Justice Department in recent weeks ahead of the report release, said he has not heard anything “about receiving a less-redacted version of the report.”

Shortly before the report was released Thursday morning, Nadler wrote Mueller a letter requesting he testify at the House Judiciary Committee on the Russia investigation, “no later than May 23.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff piled on, formally inviting Mueller to testify at his committee “at a mutually agreeable date in May” as well.

“The House Intelligence Committee has formally invited Special Counsel Mueller to testify on the counterintelligence investigation,” Schiff, D-Calif., stated. “After a two year investigation, the public deserves the facts, not Attorney General Barr’s political spin.”

While there was no immediate response from Mueller, Barr said he had no objection to Mueller testifying.

After almost two years of the Russia investigation, Republicans are urging Democrats to "move on."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that “nothing” from the publicly released report changes “the underlying results of the 22-month long Mueller investigation that ultimately found no collusion.”

“Democrats want to keep searching for imaginary evidence that supports their claims, but it is simply not there,” McCarthy noted. “It is time to move on.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, argued that it “would be a miscarriage of justice to use cherry-picked bits of information from the report to sow further divisiveness and spread conspiracies that serve only to undermine our democratic institutions.”

“One thing, however, is clear with the release of the report today: this sad chapter of American history is behind us,” Jordan, R-Ohio, stated. “It is time to turn back to the people's work of improving the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of how their tax dollars are spent.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the public release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated and redacted report on Thursday, pundits and politicians were parsing its findings on the question of "obstruction of justice."

Obstruction of justice accounts for a federal crime in which someone "corruptly" attempts to “influence, obstruct or impede” the “due and proper administration of the law” in a pending proceeding, according to federal code. The president’s critics have pointed to his dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey – and subsequent explanations for that decision – as evidence that Trump obstructed justice.

In his letter to Congress describing the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s report, Attorney General William Barr indicated that while Mueller did find at least some evidence suggesting Trump tried to obstruct the investigation, the evidence did not amount to a criminal offense.

Here's what the report suggests about obstruction of justice.

Here's the issue:

The 11 possible instances of Obstruction of Justice investigated

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Volume 2, pages 3-6

Here's the summary:

These are the 11 potential actions of obstruction of justice investigated by the special counsel’s office as described in the report. During his news conference Thursday morning before the report' release, Barr mentioned 10 such instances. Each of these examples is extrapolated upon in both the executive summary and in the report.

Here's what the report says:

1. The Campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump

2. Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn

3. The President's reaction to the continuing Russia investigation

4. The President's termination of Comey

5. The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him

6. Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel's investigation

7. Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence

8. Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation

9. Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed

10. Conduct towards Flynn, Manafort, [REDACTED – HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]

11. Conduct involving Michael Cohen

Here's the issue:

"Overarching Factual Issues"

Here's where you can find it in the report:


Vol. 2, pages 156-158

Here's the summary:

The report outlines general conclusions concerning the President’s course of conduct.

Here's what the report says:

PART 1: The Special Counsel offers three features that render this case atypical from traditional obstruction of justice prosecutions

PART 1: The Special Counsel offers three features that render this case atypical from traditional obstruction of justice prosecutions

1) As head of the Executive Branch provides him with unique and powerful means of influence

2) Obstruction cases involve attempted or actual cover up of an underlying crime, proof of such a crime is not an element as obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, like avoiding personal embarrassment.

PAGE 157 - PARAGRAPH 2: "The evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President's conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events-such as advance notice of WikiLeaks's release of hacked information or the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family."

3) Many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses occurred in public view.

PART 2: This second section deals with the President’s discrete acts. “It is important to view the President’s pattern of conduct as a whole.”

1) Investigators found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, however they conclude the President’s efforts to influence the investigation were “mostly unsuccessful but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

2) The President’s actions can be divided into TWO distinct phases reflecting a possible shift in the President’s motives. The first phase involved the firing of Comey, and the Special Counsel’s conclusion that "the President deemed it critically important to make public that he was not under investigation." After Comey’s firing, the second phase began when the President became aware that investigators were conducting an obstruction of justice inquiry into his own conduct. The President then began launching public attacks on the investigation and individuals involved in it.

Here's the issue:

“The President’s Efforts to Prevent Disclosure of Emails about the June 9, 2016 Meeting between Russians and Senior Campaign Officials”

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Vol. 2, pages 98 - 107

Here's the summary:

This section is divided into four subsections: (1) The President Learns about the Existence of Emails Concerning June 9, 2016 Trump Tower Meeting, (2) President Directs Communications Staff Not to Publicly Disclose Information About the June 9 Meeting, (3) President Directs Trump Jr.’s Response to Press Inquiries About the June 9 Meeting, and (4) The Media Reports on the June 9, 2016 Meeting.

Mueller’s team cites at least three occasions between June 29, 2017 and July 9, 2017- when the President directed Hope Hicks and others not to publicly disclose information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and a Russian attorney. The OSC concludes that these efforts by the President were directed at the press, adding that these acts would amount to obstructive acts only if the President sought to withhold information or mislead congressional investigations or the SC. On May 17, 2017, the President’s campaign received a document request from SSCI that clearly covered the June 9 meeting.

In the analysis section, the Special Counsel specifically addresses the phrase attributed to Hope Hicks, “it will never get out”—in reference to the emails setting up the June 9 meeting. Hicks said she had no memory of making that comment and always believed the emails would eventually be leaked. The Special Counsel writes that the Hicks statement can be explained as reflecting a belief that the emails would not be made public if the President’s press strategy were followed, even if the emails were provided to Congress and the Special Counsel.

Here's what the report says:

The report adds that “the only evidence we have of the President discussing the production of documents to Congress or the Special Counsel is the conversation on June 29, 2017, when Hicks recalled the President acknowledging that Kushner’s attorney should provide emails related to the June 9 meeting to whomever he needed to give them to. We do not have evidence of what the President discussed with his own lawyers at that time.” The Special Counsel also addresses “intent” writing about the President’s desire to “minimize public disclosures about those connections.” [campaign’s connections to Russia]. The report states the evidence does not establish the President intended to prevent the Special Counsel’s Office or Congress from obtaining the emails setting up the June 9 meeting or other information about that meeting.

Here's the issue:

"The President Orders McGahn to Deny that the President Tried to Fire the Special Counsel"

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Vol. 2, page 113

Here's the summary:

SUMMARY: After news broke that Trump ordered McGahn to fire the Special Counsel, Trump pressured McGahn deny that he had been directed to do so, even suggesting to aides that he would fire him unless he complied. Mueller concludes that there is evidence to suggest Trump acted this way to impede his investigation.

Here's what the report says:

The President then directed [staff secretary Rob] Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file "for our records" and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a "lying bastard" and said that he wanted a record from him. 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."

“Porter told McGahn that he had to write a letter to dispute that he was ever ordered to terminate the Special Counsel. McGahn shrugged off the request, explaining that the media reports were true. McGahn told Porter that the President had been insistent on firing the Special Counsel and that McGahn had planned to resign rather than carry out the order, although he had not personally told the President he intended to quit.804 Porter told McGahn that the President suggested that McGahn would be fired if he did not write the letter. McGahn dismissed the threat, saying that the optics would be terrible if the President followed through with firing him on that basis. McGahn said he would not write the letter the President had requested.”

But the President's efforts to have McGahn write a letter "for our records" approximately ten days after the stories had come out- well past the typical time to issue a correction for a news story-indicates the President was not focused solely on a press strategy, but instead likely contemplated the ongoing investigation and any proceedings arising from it…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.

Here's the issue:

The President's conduct involving Michael Cohen

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Page 134

Here's the summary:

The Mueller report states that while working on his statements to Congress, President Donald Trump's then-personal attorney Michael Cohen had "extensive" discussions with the president's personal counsel. The report also states Trump passed messages of support to Cohen and Cohen discussed pardons with the president's legal team. Cohen believed if he cooperated he would get a pardon, according to the report.

Here's what the report says:

"While working on the congressional statement, Cohen had extensive discussions with the President's personal counsel, who, according to Cohen, said that Cohen should not contradict the President and should keep the statement short and 'tight.'

"Cohen also discussed pardons with the President's personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message, he would get a pardon or the President would do 'something else' to make the investigation end."

Here's the issue:

The President's conduct involving Michael Cohen

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Pages 134-144

Here's the summary:

• Cohen had numerous brief conversations with Trump about the Trump Tower Moscow project from Sept. 2015 onward, as well as conversations with Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. In Dec. 2015, Felix Sater asked Cohen for a copy of his and Trump's passports to facilitate travel to Russia. By Jan 2016, growing frustrated with Sater, Cohen reached out directly to Dmitry Peskov and later had a conversation with Peskov's assistant that he recounted to Trump. • The day after Cohen's conversation with Peskov's assistant, Sater texted Cohen saying that the Russian government liked the project and invited Cohen to come visit Moscow. Cohen continued to brief Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on the project through the spring. Cohen and Sater worked to determine a time for a potential visit from then candidate Trump to Russia. The visit never happened. Cohen also decided not to visit. Cohen recounts telling trump that the project was "going nowhere" sometime during the summer of 2016. • In January 2017, Cohen received press inquiries about Trump Tower Moscow, and told President-Elect Trump about the inquiries. He was concerned being honest about the project would not be consistent with the president's previous comments about his relationship with Russia. o To stay on message Cohen told a NYT reporter that the Trump Tower Moscow deal ended in January 2016. Cohen said he discussed this talking point with Trump. • Cohen entered into a joint defense agreement with the president and others after Congress requested he testify. Cohen assumed he would be asked about allegations in the Steele Dossier. Cohen spoke with the president's personal counsel "frequently" leading up to his congressional testimony. • Cohen was told by the president's personal counsel that the joint defense agreement was working well. His bills were being paid by the Trump Org. Cohen said the president's personal counsel told him he was protected by the JDA, and he wouldn't be if he "went rogue" • Cohen prepared a draft letter to congress which included several false statements. That letter was circulated around and edited by members of the JDA. The president's personal counsel also told Cohen not to make reference to an attempt to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin during the 2015 United Nations general Assembly. • Cohen submitted his statement. He recalled speaking to the president "more generally" about his plans to stay on message during his testimony

Here's what the report says:

• Page 137: "Cohen remembered that Trump said that he would be willing to travel to Russia if Cohen could "lock and load" on the deal. • Page 137: "During the summer of 2016, Cohen recalled that 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." • Page 139: "Cohen said that he discussed the talking points with Trump but that he did not explicitly tell Trump he thought they were untrue because Trump already knew they were untrue." • Page 140: "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 of fall of 2017. Cohen said that the President's personal counsel also conveyed that, as part of the JDA, Cohen was protected, which he would not be if he "went rogue". 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. • Page 142: "He was not concerned that the story would be contradicted by individuals who knew it was false because he was sticking to the party line adhered to by the whole group." • Page 143: "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."

Here's the issue:

The President's conduct involving Michael Cohen

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Pages 144-152

Here's the summary:

• The special counsel did not look into payments to women during the campaign period. On Feb. 19, the day after the NY Times wrote a story attributing the payment to Cohen, Cohen got a text from the President's personal counsel that stated "client says thanks for what you do." • The president called Cohen a few days after the FBI raid on his home, hotel and office and encouraging him to "hang in there" and "stay strong" • On or about April 17, Cohen starts speaking with Robert Costello, who told Cohen he had a "back channel of communication" to Giuliani and that Giuliani said the "channel" was "crucial" and "must be maintained." Costello had conversations with Cohen that made him feel that he would be taken care of as long as he stuck to party lines. • After the raids on his home and office, Cohen spoke with the president's personal counsel about pardons. Cohen wanted to know "what was in it for him" and was told if he stayed on message everything would be fine. • Beginning in July, Cohen signaled his willingness to flip on the president, first in an ABC News exclusive interview. He pleaded guilty in the SDNY. The president tweeted contrasting Cohen with Manafort • The special counsel's office asked Trump about the timing of the Trump Tower Moscow project in written questions. The president "did not provide any information" about the timing of his discussions with Cohen related to the project. • After the president made public statements that he "decided not to do the project" (see full public statement by the president below) the special counsel went back to the president to seek information about whether he participated in any discussions about the project being abandoned and about "what period of the campaign" he was involved in during discussions of the project. The president's personal counsel declined to answer and states that "the President has fully answered the question at issue."

Here's what the report says:

• Page 144-145: In January 2018, the media reported that Cohen had arranged a $130,00 payment during the campaign to prevent a woman from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter she had with the President before he ran for office. This office did not investigate Cohen's campaign-period payments to women." • Page 146: "Cohen recalled that REDACTED, a friend of the President's, reached out to say that he was with "the Boss" in Mar-a-Lago and the Prsident had said "he loves you" and not to worry. Cohen recalled that REDACTED for the Trump Organization, told him "the boss loves you." And Cohen said that REDACTED, a friend of the President's, told him, "everyone knows the boss has your back." • Page 147 "In an email that day to Cohen, Costello wrote that he had spoken with Giuliani. Costello told Cohen the conversation was "Very Very Positive [.] You are 'loved'... they are in our corner... Sleep well tonight [], you have friends in high places." • Page 147: "Cohen understood based on his conversations and previous conversations about pardons with the President's personal counsel that as long as he stayed on message, he would be taken care of by the President, either through a pardon or through the investigation being shutdown." • Page 150: "I had few conversations with Mr. Cohen on this subject. As I recall, they were brief, and they were not memorable. i was not enthused about the proposal, and I do not recall any discussion of travel to Russia in connection with it. I do not remember discussing it with anyone else at the Trump organization, although it is possible."

Here's the issue:

President again seeks to have Sessions reverse his recusal

Here's where you can find it in the report:


Vol.2, page 107

Here's the summary:

President Trump wants to explore options to who at the Department of Justice can lead the investigation. In an effort to remove Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein / the President asked then staff secretary Rob Porter about the number three in line - Deputy AG Rachel Brand. President Trump asked Porter if she was "good, tough, and 'on the team."

Here's what the report says:

"After returning Sessions's resignation letter at the end of May 2017, but before the President[s July 19, 2017 New York Times interview in which he publicly criticized Sessions for recusing from the Russia investigation, the President took additional steps to have Sessions reverse his recusal. In particular, Session recalled, the President called him at home and asked if Session could "unrecuse" himself. According to Sessions, the President asked him to reverse his recusal so that Sessions could direct the Department of Justice to inverstigate and prosecute Hillary Clinton, and the "gist" of the conversation was that the President wanted Sessions to unrecuse from "all of it," including the Special Counsel's Russia investigation. Sessions listened but did not respond, and he did not reverse his recusal or order an investigation of Clinton."

Here's the issue:

The President’s Further Efforts to Have the AG Jeff Sessions Take Over the Investigation

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Vol. 2, pages 111-112

Here's the summary:

Mueller appears to conclude that President Trump’s actions with regard to Jeff Sessions could constitute as obstruction

Here's what the report says:

“On multiple occasions in 2017, the President spoke with Sessions about reversing his recusal so that he could take over the Russia investigation and begin an investigation of Hillary Clinton…There is evidence that at least one purpose of the President’s conduct toward Sessions was to have Sessions assume control over the Russia investigation and supervise it in a way that could restrict its scope…A reasonable inference from those statements and the President’s action is that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia investigation.”

Here's the issue:

The campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump

Here's where you can find it in the report:


Vol. 2. pages 15- 23

Here's the summary:

• Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee emails at the same time as he and other campaign advisers privately sought information about any further planned WikiLeaks releases (PAGE 15) • Inside the Trump campaign, aides "reacted with enthusiasm to reports of the hacks". Some witnesses said Trump discussed the possibility of upcoming releases. The following section is heavily redacted, but what's available tells us that Manafort spoke to Trump shortly after the WikiLeaks July 22, 2016 release and that Trump told Rick Gates that more releases of damaging information were coming. (PAGE 17-18) • After the July 22, 2016 release the campaign publicly rejected assertions that Russia was trying to aid candidate Trump. Trump publicly denied any ties to Russia even though he had been pursuing the Trump Tower Moscow project from Sept 2015 to June 2016. (PAGE 18) • After Trump denied business dealings in Russia, Cohen approached him about his assertions being untrue. "Why mention it if it is not a deal?" Trump responded. After that his advisers established the position that Trump had no business connections to Russia. (PAGE 19) • The Trump campaign actively sought to distance itself from Russia: J.D. Gordon declined an invitation to Sergey Kislyaks residence, Manafort was asked to resign after coverage of his lobbying work in Ukraine, and Page was terminated after stories were published connecting him to Russia. (PAGE 20) • After the election, Trump and his staff continued to deny any connection to Russia. Hope Hicks and Reince Priebus make public statements denying Russian ties. The Steele Dossier is released shortly after and President-elect Trump calls it an "absolute disgrace" (PAGE 21-23) • Top aides said that the president viewed stories about the Russia connection as a "threat to the legitimacy of his electoral victory" Hope Hicks said that president viewed the intelligence community assessment as his "Achilles hill" because even if Russia didn't impact the election, it impacted public opinion. (PAGE 23)

Here's what the report says:


• Page 17 "Within the Trump Campaign, aides reacted with enthusiasm to reports of the hacks. REDACTED discussed with Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release the hacked material. Some witnesses said that Trump himself discussed the possibility of upcoming releases. " • Page 19-20: "Trump told Cohen that trump Tower Moscow as not a deal yet and said, "Why mention it if it is not a deal?" According to Cohen, at around this time, in response to trump's disavowal of connections to Russia, campaign advisors had developed a "party line" that Trump had no business with Russia and no connections to Russia." • Page 23: "Hicks, for example, said the President_Elect viewed the intelligence community assessment as his "Achilles heel" because, even if Russia had no impact on the election, people would think Russia helped him win, taking away from what he had accomplished. Sean Spicer, the first White House communications director, recalled that the President thought the Russia story was developed to undermine the legitimacy of his election. Gates said the President viewed the Russia investigation as an attack on the legitimacy of his win. And Priebus recalled that when the intelligence asssment came out, the President-Elect was concerned people would question the legitimacy of his win.:"

Here's the issue:

Obstruction

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Vol.2, pages 90-93

Here's the summary:

2nd time Trump tried to affect Special Counsel investigation -- Trump dictated message to former campaign manager Corey Lewanandowski to give to AG Sessions to limit the scope of the SC investigation to election interference only.

Here's what the report says:

Two days after Trump directed Don McGhan to remove Special Counsel, Trump on June 19, 2017 “met one-one-one w/ Corey Lewandowski in the Oval Office” to dictate a message to Sessions that would have limited the scope of the investigation to ELECTION INTERFERENCE ONLY

Trump “met one-one-one w/ Corey Lewandowski in the Oval Office and dictated a message to be delivered to attorney general Sessions that would have had the effect of limiting the Russia investigation to election interference only.”

President dictated this note for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions: “The president directed that Sessions should give a speech publicly announcing: ‘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 prosecutor/Counsel b/c he hasn’t done anything wrong I was on the campaign w/ him for nine months, there were no Russians 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 an American history.’”

The dictated message went on to state that Sessions would meet with the Special Counsel to limit his jurisdiction to future election interference:

DICTATION OF PRESIDENT TRUMP PER THE REPORT VIA LEWANDOWSKI : "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.”

“Lewandowski wanted to pass the message to Sessions in person rather than over the phone. He did not want to meet at the department of justice because he did not want to public log of his visit and did not want Sessions to have an advantage over him by meeting about Lewandowski described as Sessions turf.”

BUT -- Lewandowski left DC w/o being able to meet Sessions. He later decided Rick Dearborn should deliver message. The message “raised an eyebrow” w/ Dearborn & he didn’t deliver the message, though he told Lewandowski he did.

Lewandowski met again in Oval alone w/ POTUS. POTUS asked if message had been delivered to Trump. Lewandowki said it would be delivered “soon.” THEN: “Lewandowski recalled the president told him that if Sessions did not meet with him, he should tell Sessions he was fired.”

Here's the issue:

The President's Conduct Towards Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Vol. 2, pages 120-121 and 131-132

Here's the summary:

The report raises red flags about President Trump’s actions (principally through his attorneys) toward his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but ultimately said they could not make a full assessment because of attorney client privilege / as part of the then joint defense agreement. Basically, they do not know whether Trump was aware of his counsel’s actions.

Here's what the report says:

Page 131 - “With regard to Flynn, the President sent private and public messages to Flynn encouraging him to stay strong and conveying that the President still cared about him before he began to cooperate with the government. When Flynn's attorneys withdrew him from a joint defense agreement with the President, signaling that Flynn was potentially cooperating with the government, the President's personal counsel initially reminded Flynn's counsel of the President's warm feelings towards Flynn and said "that still remains." But when Flynn's counsel reiterated that Flynn could no longer share information under a joint defense agreement, the President's personal counsel stated that the decision would be interpreted as reflecting Flynn's hostility towards the President. That sequence of events could have had the potential to affect Flynn's decision to cooperate, as well as the extent of that cooperation. Because of [attorney client] privilege issues, however, we could not determine whether the President was personally involved in or knew about the specific message his counsel delivered to Flynn's counsel. … Evidence concerning the President's intent related to Flynn as a potential witness is inconclusive. As previously noted, because of privilege issues we do not have evidence establishing whether the President knew about or was involved in his counsel's communications with Flynn's counsel stating that Flynn's decision to withdraw from the joint defense agreement and cooperate with the government would be viewed as reflecting "hostility" towards the President.”

Voicemail from President's personal counsel to Flynn’s counsel, framing the “situation” as a “national security issue.”

QUOTE: “Flynn's counsel told the President's personal counsel and counsel for the White House that Flynn could no longer have confidential communications with the White House or the President. Later that night, the President's personal counsel 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. . . . [T]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 issue, . . . so, you know, . . . we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can . ... [R]emember what we' ve always said about the ' President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains .. ..

Here's the issue:

The President's Conduct Towards Former Campaign Chairman Manafort

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Vol. 2, pages 120-132

Here's the summary:

Following their felony indictments in October 2017, Manafort told Gates he was given assurances by Trump’s personal counsel. The report highlights public statements by Trump that could be interpreted as dangling a pardon for Manafort.

Here's what the report says:

“In January 2018, Manafort told Gates that he had talked to the President's personal counsel and they were "going to take care of us." Manafort told Gates it was stupid to plead, saying that he had been in touch with the President's personal counsel and repeating that they should "sit tight" and "we'll be taken care of." Gates asked Manafort outright if anyone mentioned pardons and Manafort said no one used that word.”

MUELLER’S ANALYSIS: “With respect to Manafort, there is evidence that the President's actions had the potential to influence Manafort's decision whether to cooperate with the government. The President and his personal counsel made repeated statements suggesting that a pardon was a possibility for Mana fort, while also making it clear that the President did not want Manafort to "flip" and cooperate with the government… Evidence concerning the President's conduct towards Manafort indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As members of President Donald Trump’s legal team have repeatedly pointed out, the word “collusion,” itself, does not appear in the federal code.

The non-legal term, however, defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, “a secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose,” has come to be used in connection with, or as a shorthand for, the type federal crime of conspiracy – which occurs when "two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States," according to legal statute.

Here's what the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report suggests about potential "collusion."

Here's the issue:

Multiple contacts between Russians and Trump officials

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Page 5

Here's the summary:

The Mueller investigation “uncovered numerous links — i.e. contacts — between Trump campaign officials and individuals having or claiming to have ties to the Russian government.”

Among the people: Carter Page, an unpaid adviser to Trump's campaign, George Papadopoulos, one-time campaign foreign policy adviser, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, JD Gordon, a campaign adviser, Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, Erik Prince, Trump ally and Blackwater founder, and Jeff Sessions, a forrmer senator and attorney general. The report notes, as ABC first reported, that Sessions when he was attorney general was investigated for perjury over his testimony to Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Here's what the report says:

“The Russian contacts consisted of business connection, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved US-Russian relations.”

Here's the issue:


Contacts with Russians don’t break U.S. law

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Page 9

Here's the summary:

Mueller’s team determined it would be hard to prove “campaign officials or individuals connected to the campaign willfully violated the law.”

Although the investigation found numerous links between people with ties to the Trump campaign, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove a charge that any campaign official was acting as an unregistered agent of Russia (among other charges.) Attempts by Russians to provide support at the Trump Tower meeting and with respect to the WikiLeaks release did not yield evidence were not sufficient for campaign finance violation charges.

Here's what the report says:

Regarding the Trump Tower meeting, for instance: “On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”

Independent legal analysis

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, former CIA Chief of European Division, now at Harvard, told ABC News that authorities would likely have to prove intent to work with a foreign power, which could be a big hill to climb. Even if there was some kind of exchange, Mueller would have to have proved it was for the purpose of aiding a foreign power. April Doss, the former NSA counsel, told ABC News that “one of the things that makes this whole story complicated and nuanced is for a lot of these contacts, we know they happened but we don’t have perfect information about what was discussed… Merely reaching out isn’t necessarily a crime. But it all matters from a counter-intelligence perspective.”

Here's the issue:

Trump campaign unwittingly promoted Russian social media posts– and unwittingly helped Russian efforts to organize pro-Trump rallies.

Here's where you can find it in the report:


Pages 33,34,35

Here's the summary:

The Russian firm known as “IRA” targeted its social media posts to members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign. In total, Trump Campaign affiliates promoted dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA. The Russian social media posts were cited or retweeted by multiple Trump Campaign officials and surrogates, including Donald J. Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Michael Flynn. These posts included allegations of voter fraud, as well as allegations that Secretary Clinton had mishandled classified information.

Starting in June 2016, the IRA ALSO contacted different U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump Campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States.

Here's what the report says:

“While certain campaign volunteers agreed to provide the requested support (for example, agreeing to set aside a number of signs), the investigation has not identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official understood the requests were coming from foreign nationals.”

Here's the issue:


Advance discussion (June 9, 2016) of the infamous Trump Tower meeting.

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Page 115

Here's the summary:

The deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, who struck a cooperation agreement, told special counsel that Donald Trump Jr. announced in a meeting for senior campaign staff that he had a lead on negative Clinton information, potentially from a foreign source. The meeting was attended by Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, and, joining late, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

Manafort warned the group that the upcoming meeting likely would not yield vital information and they should be careful.

Here's what the report says:

“Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign chairman, stated during interviews with the special counsel that in the days before June 9, 2016 Trump Jr. announced at a regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation. Gates believed that Trump Jr. said the information was coming from a group in Kyrgyzstan and that he was introduced to the group by a friend. Gates recalled that the meeting was attended by Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, and, joining late, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. According to Gates, Manafort warned the group that the meeting likely would not yield vital information and they should be careful. Hicks denied any knowledge of the June 9 meeting before 2017, and Kushner did not recall if the planned June 9 meeting came up at all earlier that week.”

Here's the issue:

Trump asked people affiliated with campaign to find Clinton’s emails “repeatedly,” according to Flynn.

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Pages 62,63,64,65

Here's the summary:

After Trump’s July 2016 press conference inviting the Russians to find them, Flynn contacted multiple people about finding the “missing” Hillary Clinton emails from her personal server. That included contact Flynn made to the late Chicago financier Peter Smith and Barbara Ledeen (a long-time staffer to Sen. Grassley who was already on the hunt).

Erik Prince provided funding to try and authenticate some emails that were obtained by Ledeen but the tech advisor hired said they weren’t real.

The Special Counsel didn’t find evidence Flynn or other campaign-linked figures initiated or directed Smith’s efforts.

Here's the issue:

Manafort and Trump (excitedly) discussed imminent Wikileaks dumps.

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Pages 51,52,53,54

Here's the summary:

The report notes that the Trump campaign showed interest in WikiLeaks's releases of hacked material throughout the summer.

According to former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, “Manafort expressed excitement about the release..." and shortly after WikiLeaks's July 22 release, “Manafort also spoke with candidate Trump..."

Manafort "also [REDACTED] wanted to be kept apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks and separately told Gates to keep in touch with [REDACTED] about future WikiLeaks releases."

The report references a phone call Trump took with an unknown person while Gates was with him. It says: "...while Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia Airport." REDACTED "shortly after the call, candidate Trump told Gates that more released of damaging information would be coming."

Much of this section is redacted, but we see that Rick Gates and Michael Cohen provided investigators with information on the matter followed by redactions labeled "Harm to Ongoing Investigation." It also indicates that Manafort's breach of his plea agreement with the Special Counsel's office was directly regarding his untruthfulness about contacts with the campaign and Wikileaks

Here's what the report says:

"According to Gates, Manafort expressed excitement about the release...[REDACTED] Manafort, for his part, told the Office that, shortly after WikiLeaks's July 22 release, Manafort also spoke with candidate Trump..." [REDACTED] "...Manafort also [REDACTED] wanted to be kept apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks and seperately told Gates to keep in touch with [REDACTED] about future WikiLeaks releases. According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks...."

Here's the issue:

By deleting messages, Trump campaign associates may have hampered probe.

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Page 10

Here's the summary:

The special counsel says it learned that some individuals interviewed or investigated who were associated with the Trump Campaign deleted relevant messages or communicated with encrypted apps, creating “identified gaps” in the investigation that could alter the descriptions of the events in the report.

Here's what the report says:

"Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated-including some associated with the Trump Campaign-deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts."

"Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report."

Here's the issue:

How the Trump Tower Moscow efforts and the campaign intertwined.

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Pages 67-80

Here's the summary:

The report describes in detail the efforts spearheaded by Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen to pursue a major real estate project in Moscow, efforts to gain the support of Russian government officials and the intermingling of the project and the presidential campaign’s prospects. The project effort lasted until June 2016, the report says.

Trump at one point told Cohen that his campaign would be significant “infomercial” for Trump-branded properties.

Among the characters involved was ex-Russian energy official Dmitry Klokov, NOT an Olympic weight lifter as has been previously reported, who said he could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level,” suggesting he had access to senior Kremlin figures. Klokov got in touch with Cohen after his then-wife emailed Ivanka Trump in late 2015.

Klokov said that a meeting between Trump and Putin could have a “phenomenal impact” in a “business dimension.”

Cohen also pursued the project with Trump Organization advisor Felix Sater, whose previously reported emails showed he believed the Moscow project could help Trump land in the White House. Ultimately the building project was scrapped and efforts to arrange a meeting between Putin and Trump proved failed.

Additional note: Ivanka was also the recipient of an invitation for her and Trump to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum from a high-ranking Russian official who sent it through a fashion contact of Ivanka. Trump declined, citing campaign commitments.

Here's what the report says:

"According to Cohen, he did not consider the political import of the Trump Moscow project to the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the time. Cohen also did not recall candidate Trump or anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign discussing the political implications of the Trump Moscow project with him. However, Cohen recalled conversations with Trump in which the candidate suggested that his campaign would be a significant “infomercial” for Trump-branded properties.”

Here's the issue:

Russian banker gave painting to Kushner – yet it remains unclear why they met.

Here's where you can find it in the report:

Pages 161-163

Here's the summary:

At the prompting of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Kushner took a meeting during the transition with Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian-owned (and US-sanctioned) bank VEB.

Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts: a painting and a bag of soil from the town in Belarus where Kushner's family originated.

Kushner says the meeting was diplomatic in nature, while Gorkov has publicly suggested that he met with Kushner in his capacity as CEO of Kushner Companies—and told another bank executive that the meeting was part of a trip sanctioned by Putin. The special counsel did not resolve the conflict between the two accounts, but also did not identify any substantial follow-up after the meeting.

Here's what the report says:

"The accounts from Kushner and Gorkov differ as to whether the meeting was diplomatic or business in nature. Kushner told the Office that the meeting was diplomatic, with Gorkov expressing disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for improved relations with the incoming Administration.1157 According to Kushner, although Gorkov told Kushner a little bit about his bank and made some statements about the Russian economy, the two did not discuss Kushner's companies or private business dealings of any kind.1158 (At the time of the meeting, Kushner Companies had a debt obligation coming due on the building it owned at 666 Fifth A venue, and there had been public reporting both about efforts to secure lending on the property and possible conflicts of interest for Kushner arising out of his company's borrowing from foreign lenders.)"

"In contrast, in a 2017 public statement, VEB suggested Gorkov met with Kushner in Kushner' s capacity as CEO of Kushner Companies for the purpose of discussing business, rather than as part of a diplomatic effort. In particular, VEB characterized Gorkov's meeting with Kushner as part of a series of "roadshow meetings" with "representatives of major US banks and business circles," which included "negotiations" and discussion of the "most promising business lines and sectors."

Foresman, the investment bank executive mentioned in Volume I, Sections IV.A.I and IV.BJ, supra, told the Office that he met with Gorkov and VEB deputy chairman Nikolay Tsekhomsky in Moscow just before Gorkov left for New York to meet Kushner... According to Foresman, Gorkov and Tsekhomsky told him that they were traveling to New York to discuss post-election issues with U.S. financial institutions, that their trip was sanctioned by Putin, and that they would be reporting back to Putin upon their return."

"The investigation did not resolve the apparent conflict in the accounts of Kushner and Gorkov or determine whether the meeting was diplomatic in nature (as Kushner stated), focused on business (as VEB's public statement indicated), or whether it involved some combination of those matters or other matters. Regardless, the investigation did not identify evidence that Kushner and Gorkov engaged in any substantive follow-up after the meeting."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The answers President Donald Trump gave to special counsel Robert Mueller have finally been released as part of the redacted version of the special counsel's report.

Trump's willingness to participate in an interview with the special counsel, the topics of the questions and whether that interview would take place in person or in writing was the subject of a months-long negotiation between Trump's legal team and the special counsel.

In June of 2017, the president told ABC News' Jonathan Karl that he would "one hundred percent" be willing to speak under oath to his version of events if Mueller asked him to. Eventually, the president and his legal team backed off of Trump's initial willingness to sit for an interview, instead advocating that the president respond to select questions in writing. Trump submitted his written responses to the special counsel on November 21, 2018.

Here are some of the highlights of the president's written responses as presented in the Mueller report. The president's responses are in bold:

1. Trump's answer to Mueller about WikiLeaks, DNC and Clinton hacks

QUESTION: Are you aware of any communications during the campaign, directly or indirectly, between Roger Stone, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Rick Gates and (a) WikiLeaks, (b) Julian Assange, (c) other representatives of WikiLeaks, (d) Gucci fer 2.0, (e) representatives of Guccifer 2.0, or (f) representatives of WikiLeaks? If yes, describe who provided you with this information, when you learned of the communications, and what you know about those communications.

TRUMP: "I do not recall being aware during the campaign of any communications between the individuals named in Question ll (c) and anyone I understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks or any of the other individuals or entities referred to in the question."


QUESTION: On July 27, 2016, you stated at a press conference: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity, or individual? In advance of making that statement, what discussions, if any, did you have with anyone else about the substance of the statement? Were you told at any time before or after you made that statement that Russia was attempting to infiltrate or hack computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign? If yes, describe who provided this information, when, and what you were told.

TRUMP: "I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer. The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016 press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference. I do not recall having any discussion about the substance of the statement in advance of the press conference. l do not recall being told during the campaign of any efforts by Russia to infiltrate or hack the computer systems or email accounts of Hillary Clinton or her campaign prior to them becoming the subject of media reporting and I have no recollection of any particular conversation in that regard."

QUESTION: On October 7, 2016, emails hacked from the account of John Podesta were released by WikiLeaks. Where were you on October 7, 20I6? Were you told at any time in advance of, or on the day of, the October 7 release that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta? If yes, describe who told you this, when, and what you were told. Are you aware of anyone associated with you or your campaign, including Roger Stone, reaching out to WikiLeaks, either directly or through an intermediary, on or about October 7, 2016? If yes, identify the person and describe the substance of the conversations or contacts.

TRUMP: "I was in Trump Tower in New York City on October 7, 2016. I have no recollection of being told that WikiLeaks possessed or might possess emails related to John Podesta before the release of Mr. Podesta's emails was reported by the media. Likewise, I have no recollection of being told that Roger Stone, anyone acting as an intermediary for Roger Stone, or anyone associated with my campaign had communicated with WikiLeaks on October 7, 2016."

2. Trump's answers related to Trump Organization's Moscow project

QUESTION: In October 2015, a "Letter of Intent," a copy of which is attached as Exhibit B, was signed for a proposed Trump Organization project in Moscow (the "Trump Moscow project"). When were you first informed of discussions about the Trump Moscow project? By whom? What were you told about the project? Did you sign the letter of intent?


In a statement provided to Congress, attached as Exhibit C, Michael Cohen stated: "To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Trump was never in contact with anyone about this proposal other than me on three occasions, including signing a non-binding letter of intent in 2015." Describe all discussions you had with Mr. Cohen, or anyone else associated with the Trump Organization, about the Trump Moscow project, including who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).

Did you learn of any communications between Michael Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government officials, including officials in the office of Dmitry Peskov, regarding the Trump Moscow project? If so, identify who provided this information to you, when, and the substance of what you learned.

Did you have any discussions between June 2015 and June 2016 regarding a potential trip to Russia by you and/or Michael Cohen for reasons related to the Trump Moscow project? If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).


Did you at any time direct or suggest that discussions about the Trump Moscow project

Did you have any discussions regarding what information would be provided publicly or in response to investigative inquiries about potential or actual investments or business deals the Trump Organization had in Russia, including the Trump Moscow project? If yes, describe who you spoke with, when, and the substance of the discussion(s).


Aside from the Trump Moscow project, did you or the Trump Organization have any other prospective or actual business interests, investments, or arrangements with Russia or any Russian interest or Russian individual during the campaign? If yes, describe the business interests, investments, or arrangements.


TRUMP: "Sometime in 2015, Michael Cohen suggested to me the possibility of a Trump Organization project in Moscow. As I recall, Mr. Cohen described this as a proposed project of a general type we have done in the past in a variety of locations. l signed the non-binding Letter of Intent attached to your questions as Exhibit B which required no equity or expenditure on our end and was consistent with our ongoing efforts to expand into significant markets around the world."

"I had few conversations with Mr. Cohen on this subject. As I recall, they were brief, and they were not memorable. I was not enthused about the proposal, and I do not recall any discussion of travel to Russia in connection with it. I do not remember discussing it with anyone else at the Trump Organization, although it is possible. I do not recall being aware at the time of any communications between Mr. Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government official regarding the Letter of Intent. In the course of preparing to respond to your questions, I have become aware that Mr. Cohen sent an email regarding the Letter of Intent to "Mr. Peskov" at a general, public email account, which should show there was no meaningful relationship with people in power in Russia. I understand those documents already have been provided to you."

"I vaguely remember press inquiries and media reporting during the campaign about whether the Trump Organization had business dealings in Russia. I may have spoken with campaign staff or Trump Organization employees regarding responses to requests for information, but I have no current recollection of any particular conversation, with whom l may have spoken, when, or the substance of any conversation. As I recall, neither I nor the Trump Organization had any projects or proposed projects in Russia during the campaign other than the Letter of Intent."


3. Contacts with Russia and Russia-related issues during the campaign

QUESTION: Prior to mid-August 2016, did you become aware that Paul Manafort had ties to the Ukrainian government? If yes, describe who you learned this information from, when, and the substance of what you were told. Did Mr. Manafort's connections to the Ukrainian or Russian governments play any role in your decision to have him join your campaign? If yes, describe that role.

Were you aware that Paul Manafort offered briefings on the progress of your campaign to Oleg Deripaska? lf yes, describe who you learned this information from, when, the substance of what you were told, what you understood the purpose was of sharing such information with Mr. Deripaska, and how you responded to learning this information.

Were you aware of whether Paul Manafort or anyone else associated with your campaign sent or directed others to send internal Trump campaign information to any person located in Ukraine or Russia or associated with the Ukrainian or Russian governments? If yes, identify who provided you with this information, when, the substance of the discussion(s), what you understood the purpose was of sharing the internal campaign information, and how you responded to learning this information.


Did Paul Manafort communicate to you, directly or indirectly. any positions Ukraine or Russia would want the U.S. to support? If yes, describe when he communicated those positions to you and the substance of those communications.

TRUMP: "Mr. Manafort was hired primarily because of his delegate work for prior presidential candidates, including Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. I knew that Mr. Manafort had done international consulting work and, at some time before Mr. Manafort left the campaign, I learned that he was somehow involved with individuals concerning Ukraine, but I do not remember the specifics of what I knew at the time."

"l had no knowledge of Mr. Manafort offering briefings on the progress of my campaign to an individual named Oleg Deripaska, nor do I remember being aware of Mr. Manafort or anyone else associated with my campaign sending or directing others to send internal Trump Campaign information to anyone l knew to be in Ukraine or Russia at the time or to anyone I understood to be a Ukrainian or Russian government employee or official. I do not remember Mr. Manafort communicating to me any particular positions Ukraine or Russia would want the United States to support."

QUESTION: During the campaign, were you told about efforts by Russian officials to meet with you or senior members of your campaign? If yes, describe who you had conversations with on this topic, when, and what you were told.

TRUMP: "I do not recall being told during the campaign of efforts by Russian officials to meet with me or with senior members of my campaign. In the process of preparing to respond to these questions, I became aware that on March 17, 2016, my assistant at the Trump Organization, Rhona Graff, received an email from a Sergei Prikhodko, who identified himself as Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Foundation Roscongress, inviting me to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to be held in June 2016. The documents show that Ms. Graff prepared for my signature a brief response declining the invitation. I understand these documents already have been produced to you."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Providing a snapshot of how the White House is characterizing special counsel Robert Mueller's just-released report, the president’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Thursday that the focus should be on the ways he said President Donald Trump was cleared — not on the evidence that the special counsel found but did not or could not determine to be illegal.

“The basis upon which this investigation began, which was the concern over Russian collusion with the Trump campaign or people in the Trump campaign, was answered very clearly — couldn't have been any clearer — and that is that there is, in fact, no collusion,” Sekulow said. “And they were emphatic about that,” he said, referring to Mueller's team of prosecutors.

Because of that, Sekulow said, there was no underlying crime that would lead to obstruction of justice. “[Trump] defended himself and defended himself exercising his First Amendment rights,” Sekulow said.

“Jay, I have to stop you there. You're right. That's the conclusion of William Barr," Stephanopoulos said, referring to the attorney general who held a news conference on the report hours earlier. That's not the conclusion of Robert Mueller,” Stephanopoulos cotninued, pushing Sekulow about the findings of the report that said, “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.”

Sekulow, in his response, said the focus should be on the fact that no charges were brought.

“Hold it. If you don't conclude the individual that's the subject of the investigation has committed a crime, you don't bring a charge. Look, if they had an obstruction case they would have made it. They did not,” Sekulow said in the terse back-and-forth with Stephanopoulos.

The full section of Mueller’s report states:

“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 judgment. The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Sekulow also reacted to sections of Mueller's report that found that former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his then-deputy Rick Gates said they expected the president's personal counsel were going to "take care" of them, seemingly referring to pardons.

"The thing is, there were no pardons given," Sekulow said. "But, by the way, just to be clear, this whole discussion about pardons -- it's not as if the president doesn't have a pardon power. That's plenary in the Constitution of the United States. He didn't exercise it. It wasn't on the table, he didn't exercise it. But you can never take that authority away."

A large part of Trump's defense, Sekulow agreed, was that the president was continuously acting within his powers under the Constitution.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic presidential candidates were quick to vent their frustration on Thursday at the conduct of Attorney General William Barr, swiftly called on special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress and demanded that the full unredacted report be released to the public.

The ire directed at Barr comes after he held a press conference defending President Donald Trump's actions and to speak publicly and take questions from journalists before the report from the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election was released.

None of the sitting U.S. senators who have declared a presidential bid voted for Barr's confirmation.

On Twitter, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called Barr's presser a "complete farce," while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said it's "a disgrace to see an Attorney General acting as if he's the personal attorney and publicist for the President of the United States."

Sen. Kamala Harris, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Barr's presser was "full of spin and propaganda," and called on Mueller to testify before Congress, as did fellow committee member and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeg, who has seen his presidential fortunes rise in recent weeks and officially launched his campaign last week, said Mueller's report "shows a president putting his own interests ahead of the country’s," and "demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who recently announced that he will run against Trump in the Republican presidential primary in 2020, also called on Mueller to testify publicly, writing in a statement, "It is essential that Special Counsel Bob Mueller come before Congress and address the validity of his report that has been redacted and released."

"Release Mueller's full report now," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., tweeted.

He also posted a searchable version of the special counsel's 448-page redacted report.

California Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopolous that Mueller's report makes clear that "the Russians attacked us," and that there is "a multiplicity of contacts between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Swalwell also called on Barr to resign.

"I think you can be the attorney general of the United States, or the present's lawyer, but you can't be both," he told Stephanopolous.

Rep. Tim Ryan
, D-Ohio, also called on Mueller to testify publicly, while former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee expressed similar displeasure with Barr's actions.

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel's campaign tweeted that they "won't be doing tweets about the mueller report because it's pointless."

Democrats put spotlight on election security

Whatever the fallout from the Mueller report, the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House has sought to put the spotlight on election security, pushing a number of bills aimed at shoring up the country’s electoral infrastructure.

The party’s first sweeping piece of legislation addressing election security, H.R. 1 or the "For the People Act," was introduced in January with broad support within the Democratic caucus.

The ambitious bill, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., largely focuses on anti-corruption and campaign finance-related issues and would also give $1.5 billion in new voting technology funding.

It also includes provisions to enable automatic voter registration, mandates that states use paper ballots in elections, better protect against cybersecurity threats and make Election Day a national holiday for federal workers.

In February, the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., convened a series of panels on various security-related measures including H.R. 1, urging more support for local governments that bear the brunt of conducting and securing the country’s elections.

 "Local election officials are on the front lines of securing our elections, and their success depends on the support they received from federal and state governments," Thompson said in his opening statement during the hearing.

Republicans on the committee said the provisions in H.R. 1 are too broad and that more funding is not the only solution to the problem.

"I hope that when H.R. 1 stalls in the Senate, which it will, we revisit the issue of election security in a bipartisan manner," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. said during the hearing.

In March, following the bill’s passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "H.R. 1 ensures clean, fair elections and fights voter suppression. It cleans up corruption, returning integrity to Washington D.C. … It honors the vision of our founders, gives hope to the American people that their interests are served."

Despite its passage in the House, the bill stands little chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decried the legislation as the "Democrat Politician Protection Act."

"I hope the two bodies can find common ground and build on the bipartisan successes of last Congress -- but this outlandish Democrat proposal is not a promising start. My colleagues and I will proudly defend your privacy and your elections," McConnell wrote in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this year.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Moments after Attorney General William Barr concluded a news conference Thursday morning laying out his interpretation of special counsel Robert Mueller's report ahead of its expected release to Congress and the public, President Donald Trump took to Twitter with a Game of Thrones reference to declare: "Game Over."

pic.twitter.com/222atp7wuB

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2019

A White House official said the president watched the attorney general's news conference from the White House residence.

Not long after, at a event honoring Wounded Warriors at the White House, Trump said "I'm having a good day, too. It was called no collusion no obstruction.

"There never was by the way and there never will be," he continued.

The president went on to reiterate his call for an investigation into the origins of the probe, which he maintains was started unethically.

"We do have to get to the bottom of these things," he told the audience gathered in the East Room. "This should never happen to another president again, this hoax."

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president and one of his fiercest defenders, claimed that Thursday "really is the best day" since Trump was elected.

"I call this a political proctology exam," Conway said. "And we emerged with a clean bill of health."

"The Department of Justice made very clear that every request that was issued was responded to and fulfilled," Conway said. "That should make people feel good about democracy and it should make them feel really great that a campaign that I managed to a successful end did not collude with any Russians. We’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them."

Conway said that she spent much of the day with the president and said he is "in a great mood." Conway said Trump spoke with his lawyers, watched the press conference, and met with wounded vets at the White House this morning.

Conway did not directly answer whether she thinks special counsel Mueller should testify before Congress but she noted that the attorney general said: "Sure. You want to call Mr. Mueller to testify, call him to testify."

The president is not expected to hold a formal press conference Thursday but is expected to make remarks to reporters as he departs the White House on his way to his Florida estate for the Easter weekend later Thursday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At a news conference Thursday morning ahead of his release of special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report, Attorney General William Barr defended President Donald Trump's actions with regard to possible obstruction of justice as well as his own decision to speak about the report before releasing it.

Barr started by saying he was committed to providing "the greatest degree possible of transparency concerning the special counsel's investigation, consistent with the law."

Barr held the news conference hours before he was set to send Mueller's report to Congress and make it public, drawing sharp criticism from congressional Democrats who suggested he was doing the president's bidding by trying to characterize the report before lawmakers and the American public had a chance to read it.

Though the special counsel's lengthy report was not yet public and will include many details, Barr repeated what he wrote last month in his four-page outline of Mueller's findings that the report found no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

"As the special counsel report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election process, but thanks to the special counsel's thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign, or the knowing assistance of any other American for that matter. That is something all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed," Barr said.

"In other words, there was no evidence of the Trump campaign’s collusion of the Russian government’s hacking," he later emphasized.

In total, Barr repeated at least eight times that the report found no evidence that Trump or the Trump campaign colluded, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.

Barr also said executive privilege, which can be claimed by the president to withhold communications between himself and his advisers, was not invoked by the White House to redact anything from the report -- though Barr defended executive privilege as "well within [the president's] rights."

The president’s personal counsel did review the report ahead of time, Barr said, which he said was consistent with an ethics law allowing people named in a report prepared by an independent counsel to read the report before it goes public. Three of Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin and Marty Raskin, visited the Justice Department to review the report on Tuesday and Wednesday, the two days before the report was released, the president's legal team told ABC News.

Barr addressed the conclusion he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reached that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice, citing ten episodes depicting potential obstruction he said were in the Mueller report. Rosenstein joined Barr for the controversial news conference Thursday morning.

"The report recounts ten episodes involving the president and discusses legal theories for connecting those activities," Barr said. "After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other department lawyers, the deputy attorney general and I concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not subject to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense."

The attorney general also said there were some areas where they disagreed with Mueller, Barr said.

“Although the deputy attorney general and I disagreed with some of the special counsel's legal theories and felt it didn't amount to obstruction in a matter of law, we didn't rely on that. We accepted the special counsel's legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence in reaching our conclusions,” Barr said.

The special counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment on obstruction of justice, as was outlined in Barr's letter last month.

In Barr's March 24 letter, he wrote that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Barr said that Meuller's report acknowledges "there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.

"Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims, Barr said. And at the same time, the president took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.

"Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation," Barr said.

Barr also answered demands from Democrats, who have called on Mueller to testify publicly on the report. Barr said he had "no objections" to Mueller testifying.

Immediately, the Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, said his committee has requested Mueller to appear as soon as possible, along with the official letter sent to Mueller.

“It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler tweeted.

The news conference was a last-minute addition for Washington, a city that has been preparing for the final report for almost two years now.

Mueller, who authored the report, was not on hand to take questions and is not expected to comment on the report, his spokesman Peter Carr told ABC News.

In an unusual turn of events, Trump first announced the news conference in a radio interview Wednesday afternoon, one day ahead of the scheduled release of the special counsel's report.

“Attorney General Barr will be giving a press conference, maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see,” the president said during a radio interview on WMAL's “The Larry O’Connor Show.” The Justice Department soon confirmed that a press conference would be held at 9:30 a.m. the following morning.

The Justice Department denied that the president or the White House requested the press conference. “It was our decision, and it was our idea,” said a Justice Department spokesperson.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr's handing of the report release has created a "crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality." In order to restore trust, they said, Mueller must testify before Congress.

"We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible. The American people deserve to hear the truth,” they said.

In a press conference Wednesday night after hearing about the press conference, Nadler accused Barr of “waging a media campaign” on Trump’s behalf.

“Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House,” said Nadler, a Democrat from New York.

Top House Democratic chairs, including Nadler, also called for Barr to cancel the press conference entirely, calling it "unnecessary and inappropriate" in a joint statement.

Soon after the report was delivered to Barr on March 22, the attorney general released a four-page summary of the report that laid out the “principal conclusions” of the investigation. It was immediately dismissed by Democrats on Capitol Hill as a report that “raises as many questions as it answers.”

Adding to the list of what to watch for, on Wednesday, the president said that he might also hold his own press conference, though the White House did not provide details on what style or when that event might happen ahead of the president's departure to Mar-a-Lago for the holiday weekend.

The White House also said it may release a “counter-report” at about “34 or 35” pages, according to the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A House Democrat is introducing legislation on Thursday aimed at addressing an uptick in veteran suicides at Department of Veteran's Affairs facilities.

In five days this month alone, three veterans took their lives at VA facilities, including one who died by suicide in a crowded Austin, Texas, waiting room last week.

The legislation will be introduced by Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., an Army combat veteran and member of the House Veteran's Affairs Committee. It calls for "substantive data" from the VA regarding the trend in veteran suicides at VA facilities.

"Getting this data more quickly and thoroughly would guide Congress' efforts in understanding this crisis, and preventing these tragedies," Rose said. "We must ensure all veterans have the services they need when they need them, plain and simple."

The legislation would require the VA to notify Congress of any suicide or suicide attempt and the name of the VA facility and location where the event occurred, no later than seven days after it happens. Sixty days after the event, the VA would be required to provide even more information to Congress, including the enrollment status of the veteran, with respect to the patient enrollment system at the VA, and the most recent encounter between the veteran and any employee or facility of the Veterans Health Administration before the suicide or attempted suicide occurred.

VA press secretary Curt Cashour said the VA has not yet taken a position on the bill, but that the department has been transparent about suicide and suicide attempts. He also cited a study that showed veteran suicides occur less frequently on VA campuses than on non-VA campuses.

It's estimated that 20 veterans die of suicide each day, 14 of whom are outside the VA system. According to VA officials, the department has tracked 260 suicide attempts at VA facilities since beginning to track them in 2017, with 240 of those having been interrupted.

Cashour would not discuss the specific cases of suicides at VA facilities this month, but said, "Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones affected by these deaths."

"Any time an unexpected death occurs at a VA facility, the department conducts a comprehensive review of the case to see if changes in policies and procedures are warranted. All VA facilities provide same-day urgent primary and mental health care serves to veterans who need them," Cashour said.

"Veteran suicide is a national public health crisis that we need to address -- that's why the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs has made it a top priority," said Committee Chairman Mark Takano. "Congress can help develop a response to these tragedies, but we have to know what's happening. I'm proud to support this bill to ensure Congress gets the data it needs as quickly as possible so we can work together to prevent these incidents and give veterans in crisis the support they desperately need."

In addition to Rose's legislation, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., put forth a bill last month that would boost funding and mental health staff at the VA, as well as seek alternative therapies and research to address veteran suicide. Also last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which tasked agency officials with developing a strategy to aggressively tackle the issue of veteran suicide.

But one leading veterans group has called for a multi-agency investigation into what they're calling a "suicide epidemic among veterans and service members," concerned that the White House initiative would take "at least a year to establish and launch into action."

American Veterans asked the inspectors general of the VA, Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to immediately launch the joint investigation following the latest deaths at VA facilities.

Between October 2017 and November 2018, there were 19 suicides on VA campuses -- seven in parking lots -- according to AMVETS.

AMVETS Executive Director Joseph Chenelly said that suicides at VA facilities "appear to be protests of last resort where health care systems, treatment programs, and the underlying cultures of the responsible federal agencies have failed them."

The VA's Fiscal Year 2020 budget request calls for $222 million for suicide prevention programs.

Any veteran, family member, or friend concerned about a veteran's mental health can contact the 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats criticized the Justice Department's handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's 400-page report on the eve of its release, slamming plans to deliver it to Capitol Hill Thursday morning following a news conference from Attorney General William Barr.

"This is wrong," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a news conference Wednesday evening.

A Justice Department official told ABC News that the redacted copies of the report will be delivered to Capitol Hill between 11 a.m. and noon on CDs, after Barr's scheduled news conference at 9:30 a.m.

Democrats fumed at the timing of the Mueller report release, and the planned rollout as an effort to spin the special counsel's findings.

Washington has waited for the highly-anticipated report for weeks, with everyone from members of Congress to press assistants on Capitol Hill planning to dissect the report into Russia’s efforts to interference in the 2016 election and whether or not President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

“It’s going to be like ‘Anna Karenana,’ gripping,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law professor and member of the House Judiciary Committee, told ABC News.

Mueller did not find evidence that the Trump’s campaign "conspired or coordinated” with Russia in 2016 but made no conclusions on whether or not he obstructed justice, Attorney General William Barr wrote in a letter to lawmakers in late March, which also contained Barr's own conclusion that the president did not obstruct the probe.

That characterization of the special counsel’s work infuriated Democrats and prompted celebration from the White House. Both Democrats and many Republicans have clamored for the release of the unredacted report to move beyond Barr’s bottom line summary, though one Trump ally -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. -- has said he is fine with whatever DOJ releases to the public.

Nadler fumed Wednesday that Barr's planned news conference was another attempt to present the report "through his own words" instead of Mueller's.

Barr has said he plans to release a redacted version of the report, limiting information pertaining to grand jury material, classified information, details that could impact ongoing law enforcement activities and damage the reputation and privacy of "peripheral third parties."

Democrats, led by the House Judiciary Committee and Nadler, are prepared to subpoena the Justice Department for the full document and underlying materials and fight for them in court, depending on what Barr releases on Thursday. That subpoena could be served as early as Friday, even as Nadler’s staff continues negotiations with the Justice Department about Mueller’s findings and turning the materials over.

Some lawmakers will get an earlier look than others: the Justice Department intends to give some members of Congress a version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report "without certain redactions" that will be in the publicly released version of the report, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Government lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., and an attorney for the special counsel’s office, filed Wednesday’s court document in response to a request by former Trump adviser Roger Stone’s defense team for a complete, unredacted version of Mueller’s report.

“Once the redacted version of the report has been released to the public,” prosecutors wrote, "the Justice Department plans to make available for review by a limited number of Members of Congress and their staff a copy of the Special Counsel’s report without certain redactions, including removing the redaction of information related to the charges set forth in the indictment in this case.”

In the House and Senate, lawmakers and committee staff plan to do speed reading of their own, to understand more about the investigation that has overshadowed Washington and the Trump administration for two years. House Democrats will defer to their subject matter experts on the staff of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on the substance of Mueller's report, while looking to the House speaker's office to help shape messaging and guide the caucus' response to Mueller's findings, according to a senior Democratic aide.

In addition to the congressional efforts, the Democratic and Republican National Committees are deploying scores of researchers to comb through Mueller’s work and flag highlights to reporters and on social media, as well as preparing talking points for lawmakers and surrogates. The RNC has set up a war room to monitor media coverage and statements from Democrats and push back.

The House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department as well as impeachment, is particularly focused on any elaboration on Mueller’s decision not to reach a legal conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, Raskin told ABC News.

That section of Mueller’s investigation could also inform Democrats’ wide-ranging inquiry into allegations of corruption, abuses of power and obstruction of justice.

“The language of the report may give us the answer, but it may not, in which case we may want to hear from special counsel Mueller himself,” Raskin said.

Barr is expected to testify before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in early May, which is expected to be a key moment in the looming battle between lawmakers and the Justice Department over the report and its contents. Democrats also hope to question Mueller at a later date: Nadler said Wednesday that lawmakers would "probably find it useful" for the special counsel and members of his team to testify.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have requested a full briefing from the special counsel, and all materials "regardless of form and classification,” according to their recent letter to the Justice Department.

While Democrats in control of the House plan to use Mueller’s findings to aid their ongoing investigations into the Trump administration across six congressional committees, they have no plans to change course or stop their larger oversight activities -- from investigating the fallout of the family separation policy and disaster recovery efforts, to prescription drug prices and the president’s potential violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

"Congress has a Constitutional obligation to exercise oversight of the Executive Branch and to ensure that the government works for the American people," Ashley Etienne, a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement to ABC News. "Democrats will continue to probe President Trump and his Administration’s misconduct, corruption and incompetence as well as issues that matter most in the lives of the American people from the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs to the Trump’s sabotage of families’ affordable health care, and the Administration’s inhumane family separation policy. The American people deserve answers and we’re not going to back down from getting them."

Democrats have pointed to recent polling to support their continued oversight work.

Sixty-four percent of Americans believe Trump committed crimes before becoming president, according to a March Quinnipiac poll conducted after Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress. Voters split 45 percent to 43 percent on whether Trump has committed any crimes as president.

Republicans, for their part, are focused on learning more about the genesis of the Mueller probe. The attorney general confirmed to a Senate panel recently that he is looking into the matter, that’s in addition to a DOJ Inspector General investigation with the same focus that is nearing its conclusion.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday did a final review of his redactions to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report before he releases it to the public on Thursday, his past words may provide clues about what he'll disclose.

Much attention when the report is released will focus on the issue of whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice and, as Barr wrote in his four-page March 24 letter to Congress, why Mueller “did not draw a conclusion – on way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.”

But will that information be redacted? Barr addressed this during an April 9 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. When chairman José Serrano, D-N.Y., asked if actions that the “special counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction of justice concerns” will be identified in the report, Barr replied, “As things stand right now, I don’t think that they will be redacted, so they will be identifiable.”

Barr's letter indicated that Mueller “leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.”

But that letter never says what Mueller’s reasoning was for not reaching a conclusion on obstruction, only that “the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question.”

Will the public get to see that explanation?

As Barr testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on April 10 that Mueller provides “a fuller explanation of that in the report that I’ll be making available.”

Pressed further by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., about whether “the key factual evidence in the Mueller report related to charges of obstruction of justice will be available in the public report,” Barr replied, “I believe it will. And that's one of the reasons why I want to review it after the -- you know, when the redaction team is done making the redactions to make sure that there's nothing in there that would prevent that.”

If Mueller didn’t reach a conclusion about obstruction, did he take a position on who should?

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Barr if Mueller expressed “any expectation or interest in leaving the obstruction decision to Congress.” Barr replied, “Not that – he—he didn’t say that to me, no.”

“So, he said the obstruction decision should be up to you?” Leahy followed up.

“He didn’t say that either,” Barr responded.

So, what will be redacted? In his letter and again in congressional testimony Barr lays out four categories of information that will be kept from public view.

The first is grand jury or so-called 6(e) material, which refers to Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requiring information from a grand jury proceeding to remain secret.

As Barr’s March 24 letter notes, “This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.”

That view was reinforced in an April 5 federal appeals court decision that outlined that “secrecy safeguards vital interests in (1) preserving the willingness and candor of witnesses called before the grand jury; (2) not alerting the target of an investigation who might otherwise flee or interfere with the grand jury; and (3) preserving the rights of a suspect who might later be exonerated.” Outside of some limited exceptions found in Rule 6, the appeals court found a lower court has no authority to disclose grand jury material.

Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, asked Barr about whether he would ask the court to release grand jury material under one of those exceptions. Barr turned the tables, saying, “The chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable.”

While the shroud of grand jury secrecy has been lifted in some notable cases including Watergate and the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, it appears that the disclosure of grand jury material from the Mueller probe is unlikely to occur anytime soon, if ever, unless Congress persuades a court to do so.

The second category described by Barr is “information that the IC, the intelligence community, believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods.” A large part of the special counsel investigation involves Russian interference in the 2016 election. Such counter-intelligence investigations often rely on intercepts or information from foreign intelligence services. Barr’s letter states that Mueller’s team sought evidence from 13 foreign governments. These are the kinds of potentially sensitive matters Barr may seek to protect.

The third category involves ongoing prosecutions. Former Trump adviser Roger Stone, for example, was investigated by the special counsel and indicted in January, but his trial isn’t sent to begin until Nov. 5. As Barr puts it in his letter, “the Special Counsel did spin off a number of cases that are still being pursued and we want to make sure that none of the information in the report would impinge upon either the ability of the prosecutors to prosecute the cases, or the fairness to the defendants.”

The fourth category, Barr testified, involves “information that implicates the privacy or reputational interests of peripheral players where there’s a decision not to charge them.”

What does that mean for people like President Trump? Barr addressed this during his Senate testimony in a response a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who asked, “Does that mean that you will redact information to protect the reputational interests of the president?

Barr responded, “No. I'm talking about people in private life, not public officeholders.”

That could keep hidden the identities of uncharged people associated with the Trump family or businesses.

As Barr testified in his April 9 appearance before a House subcommittee, “the department's longstanding policy and practice is that if we are not going to charge someone, we don't go out and discuss the bad or derogatory information about them. That's what got everyone outraged at what FBI Director Comey did in the case of Hillary Clinton.”

In the end, will the public version of the Mueller report provide enough information to understand what investigators found? As Sen. Brian Schatz. D-Hawaii, put it, "the basic question I think for the public is are we going to get the gist of this or is it going to be, you know, on January 2015 and then--and then you have to flip 15 pages to find the next text?"

"You will get more than the gist," Barr answered.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller has conducted his nearly two-year investigation shrouded in secrecy, choosing to speak through indictments and court records with few if any leaks despite intense national scrutiny.

But on Thursday, the American people will finally have a chance to read Mueller’s findings for themselves. Here are five things to watch for when the redacted version of the special counsel’s report is made public:

Redactions: Who is a “peripheral third party”?


One of the biggest questions ahead of Thursday’s reveal could have major implications on how it’s read: how heavily will Attorney General William Barr redact information?

After repeatedly pledging to handle the report as transparently as possible, Barr has described four realms in which information must remain secret: grand jury materials, evidence related to ongoing investigations, classified information, and potentially disparaging information about “peripheral third parties.”

The premise of a “peripheral third party” leaves Barr with ample room to interpret who falls into that category. During his testimony before senators last week Barr shed some light on the matter, suggesting that he only intends to redact information about “people in private life…not public officeholders.”

Obstruction of justice and ‘evidence on both sides of the question’

In his first letter to Congress, Barr wrote that the special counsel’s “report sets out evidence on both sides of the question” of whether President Trump’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice.

Mueller declined “to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the matter, according to that letter. But is there any evidence to suggest Trump had, indeed, obstructed justice?

Barr said in the letter to Congress that when a redacted version of the Mueller report is released on Thursday “most” of the evidence supporting obstruction claims within “have been the subject of public reporting,” but that presumably leaves at least some new instances worth examining.

Assuming that evidence clears the aforementioned requirements for redaction, it could make for compelling new information.

What did Don McGahn tell the special counsel?

"There is significant concern on the president's team about what will be in this report," ABC News’ Jonathan Karl reported last Sunday, and "what worries them most is what Don McGahn told the special counsel."

 News of the former White House counsel’s extensive cooperation with the special counsel’s office sent shockwaves through Washington when it was revealed last summer.

Outwardly, at least, White House officials have presented an air of calmness in the West Wing leading up to the report’s release, but what about McGahn’s testimony has them so worried?

According to the New York Times, which first reported on his cooperation in August 2018, McGahn provided “detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice.”

 Another White House attorney, William Burck, who was present for McGahn’s 30 hours with investigators, later penned a memo insisting that McGahn “did not incriminate” the president, but ABC News has reported that McGahn’s testimony remains a point of issue for the president’s current legal team.

Manafort, Kilimnik, and a meeting at “the heart” of Mueller’s probe

Despite its characterization as striking at “the heart of what the Special Counsel's Office is investigating” by one of Mueller’s top prosecutors, relatively little is known about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s tete-a-tete with Konstantin Kilimnik, a man described as a former Russian intelligence officer, in August of 2016.

What might be learned Thursday about this meeting, which took place at the Grand Havana Club in New York – a high-end cigar bar located near Trump Tower – just weeks before Manafort’s dismissal from the campaign?

Aside from knowing where, when, and the apparent significance of this meeting, the content of Manafort and Kilimnik’s discussion remains a secret.

The relationship between Manafort and Kilimnik, who was also indicted in the Manafort case but has been beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, has remained a low-profile but persistent element of the special counsel’s probe.

In fact, the most illuminating revelation came to light as a result of a mistake. In January, defense attorneys for Manafort inadvertently revealed that their client stands accused of sharing polling data with Kilimnik.

What about WikiLeaks’ role in Russia’s meddling?

The special counsel’s office has already revealed much about Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 campaign by way of its indictments of 34 people and three entities. But one notable omission from Mueller’s patchwork narrative is the role of WikiLeaks and its mercurial founder, Julian Assange, who disseminated hacked documents from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Will anything more be learned about WikiLeaks’ hand in tipping the balance of the 2016 presidential election?

The whistleblower organization was referred to in the indictment of Russians accused of hacking those documents as “Organization 1,” but has not itself been the subject of charges. Assange and his lawyers have denied having any involvement with Russian state actors.

Federal prosecutors in the United States unsealed a computer hacking indictment against Assange last week just hours after authorities in the United Kingdom arrested him, but those charges related to an alleged conspiracy dating back to 2010 – completely unrelated to Mueller’s probe.

WikiLeaks advocates and Assange’s legal team leapt to his defense, decrying his arrest and prospective extradition to the U.S.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

razyph/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A newly released report by the nonpartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council found that there is an "unprecedented family unit (FMU) migration from Central America is overwhelming our border agencies and our immigration system."

The report, released overnight, details the challenges facing families crossing the southern border. The Council "comprises leaders from state and local government, first responder communities, the private sector, and academia," according to the DHS website.

"The surge in FMU migration will continue to soar, endangering more and more children making the treacherous 2,000 mile trek to our border and crossing illegally into the U.S. at dangerous and remote areas between ports of entry (POE), until the dynamics causing this trend are changed," the report said.

The report says that the influx of families crossing the border rose by 600% in the last year.

"Over 53,000 FMU were apprehended last month alone by the Border Patrol, and at the current trajectory, that number of FMU apprehensions is likely to exceed 500,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019," the report continued.

They say that "tender age children" are at the heart of the crisis saying that "73%, of the children in FMUs illegally crossing our border are tender aged, being 12 or younger." It should come as no surprise that criminal organizations are preying on "desperate populations," the report said.

"The unprecedented surge in unaccompanied children and family unit migration is overwhelming our ability to provide humanitarian aid within our immigration system. The reasonable changes proposed by this nonpartisan panel, could dramatically reduce migration of family units from Central America, help eliminate dangerous and illegal border crossings, as well as improve the care of children who are brought on this harrowing journey," Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a statement responding to the report. "These recommendations are essential to secure our border and for the safety and welfare of children living in Central America and elsewhere who will continue to make this dangerous trek north."

The report says that families should not be separated but "current laws do not give CBP discretion to keep children together with a grandparent or other close relative acting in a guardian-type role other than their parent."

The Homeland Security Council proposed changes such as a regional processing center along the border.

The advisers suggest that the centers have a staff of 3 to 4 to "shelter all FMUs apprehended at the border and, among other things, provide safe and sanitary shelter, to include medical screening and care, credible fear examinations, vetting for identity and familial relationship, and evaluations for public health and safety, national security and flight risk."

They also recommend that Congress enact legislation to faster the asylum processing and enact a "Flores Fix."

The name stems from the Flores Decision, which set limits on how much time a child can be incarcerated; right now it is at 20 days.

"Roll back the Flores Decision by exempting children accompanied by a parent or relative, who is acting as the guardian of the child. DHS also should be given discretion to detain a close relative with a non-parent family member when this is in the best interest of the child," the council recommended.

They also suggest an amendment to the Immigration Nationality Acts that require border crosser's to make asylum claims at ports of entry. This would be a departure from current law which allows border crossers to make claims when they are arrested.

"Simultaneously, CBP will be resourced to begin processing all asylum claims initially presented at a POE and put an end to metering. This can and should occur promptly after this recommendation and Recommendations 1 and 2, above, are implemented."

John Cohen, a former Acting DHS Undersecretary pointed out the juxtaposition between the attorney general's opinion on asylum seekers and this report.

He said it was the "bipolar nature of the administration's policy at the border."

Cohen says that as of now it is "stunning" that the government has no operation plan to deal with "conditions that have been deteriorating at the border quite sometime."

Other recommendations include working together with Mexican and Central American countries to "establish a secure shelter to process asylum claimants."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As part of the Trump administration's effort to slow migrants from crossing the southern border, Attorney General William Barr has ordered that some of those claiming asylum should be denied bail, meaning they could be stuck behind bars for years, rather than days.

Under previous policy, those who seek asylum were granted a bail hearing if they claimed "credible fear" threats or threats of persecution in their home country while waiting for their cases to be heard.

Immigration advocates expressed shock at Barr's action and promised to challenge it immediately in court. The decision, which doesn't go into effect for 90 days, orders immigration judges to deny some asylum seekers from posting bail.

Barr's instruction to immigration judges, whom the attorney general oversees and are not part of the judicial branch, comes out of a case involving an Indian man who was picked up "50 miles" away from the southern border in Mexico and claimed asylum. Barr says in similar cases bail can be withheld.

"The question here is whether, under [immigration law], aliens transferred after establishing a credible fear are eligible for release on bond," he continued.

"I reverse the order granting bond to the respondent," Barr wrote in his decision, stating that unless the Department of Homeland Security grants parole under a special exception, under the applicable legal provisions "he must be detained until his removal proceedings conclude."

According to Barr's opinion, the person seeking asylum could ask for bond, but it is entirely up to DHS. The order doesn't affect unaccompanied minors along the southern border, ether.

"There is no way to apply those provisions except as they were written—unless paroled, an alien must be detained until his asylum claim is adjudicated," Barr wrote.

In Washington state earlier month, a federal judge agreed with the policy that those with "bona fide" asylum claims to have a bail hearing within seven days to determine if they can be released on bond while they wait for their court proceedings.

The adjudication of asylum claims could take months or years - given the backlog of cases and lack of immigration judges. In its latest budget request, the Justice Department has requested funds to hire more judges.

The ACLU said it will sue.

"This is the Trump administration’s latest assault on people fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States. Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process. We'll see the administration in court," Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

President Donald Trump has pushed to end the policy of "catch and release."

"Catch and Release is an obsolete term. It is now Catch and Detain. Illegal Immigrants trying to come into the U.S.A., often proudly flying the flag of their nation as they ask for U.S. Asylum, will be detained or turned away," the president tweeted in November 2018.

This is just the latest step that the Trump administration has taken to combat what Trump calls a crisis on the southern border.

In May 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted a zero-tolerance policy which lead to the separation of families along the border.

Sessions at the time, said that the policy was a "deterrent" for those who attempt to cross the southern border.

The president ended the policy months later in the face of widespread criticism.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



On Air Now
Greatest Hits of All Time
Greatest Hits of All Time
5:00am - 6:00am
The Greatest Hits Of All Time

Hits FM Facebook
 

Melinda