Skip to main content

Highlights From The Mueller Report, Annotated

Elizabeth Gillis

by
NPR Staff

Updated at 2:17 p.m. ET

The Justice Department has released a redacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

» A copy of the document is available here.

Read notable excerpts from the redacted report, annotated by NPR reporters and editors, below. We'll be updating this analysis throughout the day as we read the report.


Insufficient evidence

In the report: Page 9

... while the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges."

[ This section outlines how flimsy investigators eventually concluded the case was—that those involved with now-familiar Russian contacts actually might have broken the law. Even the meeting involving top Trump campaign aides with a Russian delegation in New York City in June 2016 doesn't have enough evidence associated with it to charge those involved with an alleged campaign finance violation, they write. — Philip Ewing ]


Evidence destruction

In the report: Page 10

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.

[ The special counsel's investigation was exhaustive, it says, but it could only include evidence it could access. Situations in which evidence was destroyed or encrypted services were used meant that investigators couldn't check what they were learning against the electronic record. The investigators say they can't eliminate the possibility that the information they couldn't access would reveal more about the events that took place in 2016 and since. — Philip Ewing ]


Meaning of collusion

In the report: Page Volume I, page 2

In connection with that analysis, we addressed the factual question whether members of the Trump Campaign "coordinat[ed]"—a term that appears in the appointment order—with Russian election interference activities. Like collusion, "coordination" does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other's actions or interests.

[ The burning question all along in the Russia investigation was what might constitute a violation of the law for the purposes of the inquiry. Meetings and contacts between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russians or their agents were reported in the press and became publicly known. Here's where Mueller's office explains the definition it used to analyze conduct and determine what would constitute lawbreaking. — Philip Ewing ]


What the campaign knew about offers of "dirt"

In the report: Page Volume I page 93

f. Trump Campaign Knowledge of "Dirt"

Papadopoulos admitted telling at least one individual outside of the Campaign — specifically, the then-Greek foreign minister — about Russia's obtaining Clinton-related emails.

In addition, a different foreign government informed the FBI that, 10 days after meeting with Mifsud in late April 2016, Papadopoulos suggested that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton. (This conversation occurred after the GRU spearphished Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta and stole his emails, and the GRU hacked into the DCCC and DNC, see Volume l, Sections III.A & III.B, supra.) Such disclosures raised questions about whether Papadopoulos informed any Trump Campaign official about the emails.

When interviewed, Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials who interacted with him told the Office that they could not recall Papadopoulos's sharing the information that Russia had obtained "dirt" on candidate Clinton in the form of emails or that Russia could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information about Clinton.

[ Papadopoulos is the origin of the Russia investigation. When the FBI got wind of the overtures he was receiving from Russian agents, it kicked off the events that brought us to today. What this section establishes is that although the Russians whom Papadopoulos met were offering him dirt on Hillary Clinton, no one involved recalls discussing that. Papadopoulos and others, including Trump advisers Sam Clovis and Stephen Miller, now say they don't recall discussing the Russian offers at the time Papadopoulos was receiving them.  — Philip Ewing ]


Not enough evidence for obstruction

In the report: Page Volume II page 2

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.

[ The special counsel's office acknowledges that President Trump may have obstructed justice but that it can't make that determination with the evidence it has. It left the matter unresolved, and ultimately Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein decided that Trump had not broken the law and will not face prosecution. — Philip Ewing ]


The obstruction dilemma

In the report: Page Volume II, page 7

Several features of the conduct we investigated distinguish it from typical obstruction-of-justice cases. First, the investigation concerned the President, and some of his actions, such as firing the FBI director, involved facially lawful acts within his Article II authority, which raises constitutional issues discussed below. At the same time, the President's position as the head of the Executive Branch provided him with unique and powerful means of influencing officialproceedings, subordinate officers, and potential witnesses-all of which is relevant to a potential obstruction-of-justice analysis. Second, unlike cases in which a subject engages in obstruction of justice to cover up a crime, the evidence we obtained did not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. Although the obstruction statutes do not require proof of such a crime, the absence of that evidence affects the analysis of the President's intent and requires consideration of other possible motives for his conduct. Third, many of the President's acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view. That circumstance is unusual, but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws. If the likely effect of public acts is to influence witnesses or alter their testimony, the harm to the justice system's integrity is the same.

[ Obstruction of justice is a difficult crime to prove under any circumstances, prosecutors say, but these were no ordinary circumstances. Here, investigators explain their thinking and the significance they applied to their determination that President Trump hadn't conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Because he hadn't, they write, that bears on the state of mind he had when he acted. He couldn't have been trying to cover up an underlying crime, so other possible motives had to be considered. — Philip Ewing ]

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.