[Editor’s Note: Part I of this series was published July 8, and is archived here. This is a solid reference tool and study guide, which I suggest highly that you bookmark and come back to refer to. Remember, Mueller testifies July 17.
Mr. Wallace makes the comment here that you almost have to be a lawyer to get through the Mueller report. Thankfully, he is, and he’s done the work for us.]
MUELLER REPORT LEAVES MUCH TO BE DONE
TAKEAWAYS TO CONSIDER
By William Wallace
Purpose of this Mueller Report Volume I Summary
Polls show that only 4% of Americans have read the Mueller Report; understandably, because the text of both volumes total over 400 pages. Moreover, it’s such a long, detailed read that you almost have to be a lawyer to get through it. As of May 29, 2019, it is even more important for Americans to know what is in the Mueller Report. Robert Mueller is going appear before Congressional Committees. He stated in a public announcement, however, that everything Americans need to know is in the Report.
Parts I and II of my summaries are quick-read highlights of the important issues in Part I.
In Part I, I have stated matters directly in the Mueller Report, Volume I, with one exception which is noted in Part I. It does not (and cannot in a few pages) recite all the facts and circumstances discussed in Volume I. I have chosen to focus on matters I believe are most important to Americans.
I have written about Volume I of the Mueller Report, related to Russian interference and Trump team connections to Russia, because it is a major issue, concerning our country’s greatest enemy and seems to get less attention in the press than the obstruction issue in Volume II.
To me, that Trump has obstructed justice and continues to do so is transparently clear. At least 1,000 former Federal prosecutors have signed a letter, concluding that anyone other than a sitting President would be indicted for obstruction of justice.
I will address each Section of Part I with my understanding of why each section is important.
Sections A and B
There are so many blacked out portions of Volume I of the Mueller Report alone, that neither Congress nor the American people have a complete picture of what the Mueller team relied upon in grand jury findings and what related prosecutors’ investigations are still underway. Further disclosures and evidentiary developments could alter our conclusions as to what happened in 2016. According to the New York Times, there at least 10 Federal criminal investigations and 8 state and local investigations underway on matters involving the Trump Administration that grew out of the Mueller Investigation.
For this reason alone, Congress needs to investigate and inform the American people.
The Mueller Report concludes that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential election in a massive way and the Investigation resulted in indictments of 13 Russian individuals and 3 Russian agencies. The Report‘s conclusion and indictments confirm the unanimous conclusions of the American intelligence community.
In his 9 minute public statement on May 29, 2019, Mueller emphasized Russia’s interference with our Presidential election at the outset and reiterated it at the end of his brief statement to America. See below.
The Mueller team does not find Trump or the Trump Campaign to be squeaky clean. Instead, it says that the evidence was not enough to support a criminal conviction. That requires compelling evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
This section lists the Mueller team’s frustrations with witnesses who were either uncooperative or straight out liars.Significantly, these frustrations are enumerated at some length upfront inMueller‘s Charging Decisions. They are clearly qualifications to the Investigation’s findings.
Mueller directly stated that people affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied and those lies “materially impaired” the Russian interference investigation.
When a seasoned prosecutor like Mueller uses the phrase “materially impaired,” it is clear that the lies had a serious and detrimental effect on the ability of the Mueller team to determine the truth.Mueller underscored this in his very brief public statement on May 29, 2019. See below.
Paragraph D. 10 of Part I, my editorial comment, raises a serious grievance of mine, and, I believe, a serious grievance of many trial lawyers. Mafia people, corrupt businessmen and other scoundrels frequently “take the Fifth” or use “I do not recall” rather than honestly answering the question. The fact that a number of these witnesses, including the President, and perhaps most of them, have had convenient memories, itself suggests an obstruction of justice but renders it difficult to prove.
How can a prosecutor overcome convenient memories of people who are lying? It requires contradictory evidence, such as other witnesses, communications (emails, texts, tweets audios or videos, etc.) or other evidence to confront witnesses with “failed memories.”
The Mueller Investigation attempted numerous times over a considerable period of time to interview Trump. He refused but agreed to respond to written questions. The fact that the President, himself, so frequently used the “I don’t recall” response (or words to that effect)-more than 30 times-is very telling, or should be, to all Americans. It represents an effort to obstruct the Investigation.
You may forget a trivial matter, but no one forgets an important and critical matter like a discussion with Ambassador/ Russian spy Kislyak about U.S. sanctions against Russia for interfering with an American Presidential election. This is a little like your best friend told you he killed his wife and, when asked, you said you don’t recall the conversation.
This is compelling to me. Here, in the Special Counsel’s Charging Decisions, he and his team admit that unavailable information could change the conclusion reached due to the rigid requirements for criminal convictions. In other words, and to my personal disappointment, theReport only concludes they don’t know enough. There is no exoneration for Trump here-no conclusion that he and his Campaign are not guilty.
Americans need to know–yes or no–did the Trump Campaign conspire with Putin’s oligarchs and minions to win the election for Donald Trump? Trump and Putin shamefully joked about it in front of the whole world. The murderous Russian dictator and the wanna be American dictator act like they got away with it.
VERY IMPORTANTLY, the numerous ongoing investigations by other Federal and state prosecutors and needed Congressional inquiries may yield more relevant information that could “cast in a new light,” as Mueller states, the extensive interaction of Trump Campaign officials with Russians that the Mueller Investigation has found. There is more to come.
The circumstantial evidence of so many people in the Trump Campaign having close ties with Russian oligarchs (these oligarchs report to Putin) is, itself, overwhelming. It is clearly no accident. I doubt many of us regard this as a coincidence. I do not, but rather think it obvious that people with deep Russian involvement were chosen deliberately for that reason.
Those who resigned from the Campaign were very high level and left to reduce the focus on Trump’s Russian ties during the Campaign.
This Section shows that Russian interference in our social media, was consistent with the Trump Campaign “messaging” (as politicians like to say), so much so, that Trump Campaign personnel, Trump and his family frequently republished Russia’s messaging, which was very much like their own. Russia’s social media and Twitter blitzkrieg was divisive, pitting Americans against one another–African Americans against whites and vice versa, whites against Hispanics and Jews, Christians against non-Christians, many groups against Muslims. This is suspiciously like the Trump divisiveness. I DO NOT find this coincidental, but well coordinated. We don’t have enough evidence on this–at least not yet.
This is the second of back-to-back Sections starting with the word conspicuous. I could have started with highly suspicious. Here, there appears to be very precise coordination and even a public announcement by Trump that he wanted the Russians to hack into Hilary’s emails. The email hacks into Clinton Campaign staffers occurred the same day Trump asked Russia for it.
Even more remarkable is the WikiLeaks’ release of Clinton Campaign Chairman Podesta’s emails which occurred inless than a hour after the video of Trump bragging about grabbing women’s genitalia went public. That boast seemed to doom Trump’s chances of gaining the White House, but the quick-response dissemination of Democratic emails promptly turned attention back to Hillary.
This section is as close to a smoking gun as I found in Volume I of the Mueller Report. We have the very top people in the Trump Campaign periodically sharing highly secret Campaign information with a known Russian spy and longtime employee of Manafort.
The fact that these actors were not indicted shocks me. Manafort and Gates made millions of dollars working for the Russians over a decade. Manafort was in debt to one of Putin’s oligarchs, Deripaska, who had sued Manafort. The prospect that Deripaska would withdraw his lawsuit squeezing Manafort and that he and Gates would continue to make millions for their help is the quid pro quo these traitorous men could reasonably expect for their critical help to the Russian effort to get Trump elected. They give a strong impression of being Russian assets.
Some of us wondered how the Russians knew what states to concentrate on? Referring to Section G of Part I of my summary, how did the Russians know what messaging would be most effective for Trump? Section I of Part I tells us how that happened.
Trump’s top Campaign officials gave it to them! They gave them the Trump strategy, messaging and may well have learned from the Trump Campaign how to stir animosity among Americans to Trump’s advantage. They identified for the Russians the “battleground” states. They gave the Russians Trump’s internal polling data and “other updates” periodically which likely allowed the Russians to regularly gauge how effective their interference campaign was, possibly making adjustments along the way, thanks to receipt of frequent polls. God knows what “other updates” were given to Kilimnik. The Mueller team was unable to find out.
Although Manafort and Gates were indicted by Mueller on other matters, they have not been indicted on this extraordinarily important matter. Gates, however, is still cooperating. I recognize that Mr. Mueller and his team are pre-eminent prosecutors and state that they couldn’t button down what Kilimnik did with the sensitive Trump Campaign information, who actually received it and for what purpose.
Consider what Manafort and Gates have been doing for a decade (2005-2015) for Russia’s benefit and making millions of dollars doing it. As Mueller found, Manafort provided what Rick Gates called “political risk insurance.” Deripaska used Manafort to “install friendly political officials in countries where Deripaska had business interests,” as Gates explained.
Thereafter, Manafort and Gates worked in the Ukraine to play a major role in electing a President loyal to Putin.
These men have a wealth of experience interfering with other countries’ political processes for Russian interests over at least a decade.
This history is strong evidence of their loyalties to Russia (although their loyalty is likely predicated solely on monetary gain) and their ongoing strong connections to Russian allies of Putin. Why would anyone doubt that it is, at the very minimum, highly likely Manafort and Gates became the two top officers of the Trump Campaign to continue to aid the Russian effort to interfere with the Presidential election? They called themselves consultants but their conduct has consistently been that of Russian assets.
When all of the facts and circumstances are considered, coupled with their supplying critical Campaign data to Russia throughout the Presidential Campaign (Manafort was with the Trump Campaign from March to late August, but continued to advise Campaign officials up to the election), a strong case can be made that there is no reasonable doubt that they conspired with Putin’s oligarchs as established Russian assets.
With great respect to the Special Counsel, and recognizing the heavy burden of proof in a criminal case, at least this case should have gone to a jury. Manafort and Gates used Kilimnik as a messenger, a conduit to the Ukrainian oligarchs and to Putin through Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. We apparently do not have, in the Mueller Report, the equivalent of corroborating tapes to John Dean’s testimony that were present in the Watergate matter, but we do have traitorous activity by Manafort and Gates systematically providing Campaign information to a man who the FBI assessed to be connected to Russian intelligence. I believe the FBI. I believe a jury would, too.
Manafort and Gates feebly claimed that Manafort was trying to impress Deripaska with how much value Manafort could be to him. Gates (the one who sent all this Campaign information to a guy he had worked with on behalf of Russia and suspected was a spy) said he didn’t know why Manafort wanted him to send polling data to Kilimnik, but thought it was a way for Manafort to “showcase” his work. Who would believe that?
If these communications were innocent and innocuous, why would Manafort tell Gates to delete them and why would Gates have done so on a daily basis? Why would there to encrypted communications to keep their content secret?
There is no plausible explanation other than these men were working for Russia.I believe Manafort’s and Gates’s lame story would be incredible to a jury, and they would be tried and convicted of Federal felonies and remembered as traitors to America.
Robert Mueller‘s 9 minute Press Conference on May 29th
In that limited amount of time (9 minutes, 30 seconds), Mueller could only publicly state the most important points. Three of them are below.
1) He clearly concluded that Russia mounted a sophisticated cyber attack on our political system.
He underscored the seriousness of this matter in his brief statement and repeated it as his final remark. He said the Russian interference with our election “deserves the attention of every American.”
2) He addressed lies and obstruction by witnesses
Accurate information is critical and “when a subject of an investigation obstructs and lies… it strikes at the core of government’s efforts to find the truth…” (Emphasis added)
3) Mueller did not make a finding that the President is not guilty of a crime because a present president cannot be charged with a crime, according to Justice Department policy.
“Charging the President with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.” (Emphasis added)
“If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” (Emphasis added)
Amazing clear synopsis of the report. Thank you, William Wallace!
Thank you for your comment. I hope that people find Parts I and II to be a shortcut to understanding Volume I of Mueller’s Report.
You know, I agree entirely with you that Volume I is not being referenced or analyzed nearly as much or as often as Volume II has been. The obstruction may be “sexier,” that is, it is being viewed maybe as the gotcha route to toppling Trump using either impeachment or the 2020 election, but the safety of our elections, or rather, the lack of safety, should be the thing that is keeping all of us up at night. Further, it appears that Mitch McConnell is ready to help Russia or any other national player/entity engage America in a very dangerous dance again. This goes to the heart of our need to get far more serious about this. Now. Right now. Politics be damned. We are going to find ourselves done out of our democracy with nary a shot fired.
Thank you for all your hard work making sense of this. For those of us who are not lawyers, it is a very tough read.
I share your deep concern for our democracy and believe the majority of Americans either do share this serious concern or would if they were fully informed. I hope my short-cut understanding of Volume I of Mueller’s Report is some help.
I have started to read the Mueller Report (and I’m not even an American!) but found it hard to digest. Thanks for this clear analysis. It helps a lot.
I have a question though. Since the Grand Jury information is not available (yet), isn’t it possible that the Manafort/Gates issue was looked at by the Grand Jury and that they decided there was not enough proof?
It’s certainly possible that a grand jury didn’t find sufficient evidence to support criminal charges, but we don’t know, at this point, what was presented and on what issues to various grand juries with respect to Manafort and Gates. The indictments for which Manafort was found guilty were financial in nature, with great detail to the off-shore banks through which funds flowed. There are, nevertheless, a lot of facts and circumstances in Mueller’s Report that could justify indictments. The conduct is so heinous that I believe at least some seasoned prosecutors would indict.
I appreciate your comments.