Inact

Mueller report: What Trump administration says about damning findings – and which bits they're not telling the truth about

  1. Who gets to decide whether Trump broke the law?
  2. Did the report exonerate Trump?
  3. Should the report have been made public?
  4. Should Trump have been able to see the report before release?
Andrew Griffin
Friday 19 April 2019 09:28
Comments
U.S. President Donald Trump greets supporters on the tarmac at Palm Beach International Airport, as he arrives to spend Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club, Florida
U.S. President Donald Trump greets supporters on the tarmac at Palm Beach International Airport, as he arrives to spend Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club, Florida(REUTERS/Al Drago)

Donald Trump and his administration are still dealing with the fallout from the Mueller report, the explosive investigation into the president's conduct.

His team continue to distort the facts about the findings of the report, as well as how it was conducted and made available to the public.

Mr Trump, for instance, has claimed that the report exonerated him. But that is not exactly what the report shows: in fact, in writing, it declines to clear him on possible charges of obstruction of justice.

The distorted facts continued when Mr Trump's attorney general, William Barr, hosted a press conference to reveal the findings. During that discussion, he made a further series of false claims.

Here are those claims – and the truth about what actually happened with the report and its release.

  1. Who gets to decide whether Trump broke the law?

    BARR, asked if Mueller intended for Congress, not the attorney general, to decide whether Trump obstructed justice: "Well, Special Counsel Mueller did not indicate that his purpose was to leave the decision to Congress. I hope that was not his view. ... I didn't talk to him directly about the fact that we were making the decision, but I am told that his reaction to that was that it was my prerogative as attorney general to make that decision."

    THE FACTS: Mueller's report actually does indicate that Congress could make that determination.

    The report states that no person is above the law, including the president, and that the Constitution "does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice."

    In his four-page memo last month, Barr said while Mueller left open the question of whether Trump broke the law and obstructed the investigation, he was ultimately deciding as attorney general that the evidence developed by Mueller was "not sufficient" to establish, for the purposes of prosecution, that Trump obstructed justice.

    But the special counsel's report specifies that Congress can also render a judgment on that question.

    It says: "The conclusion that Congress may apply obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law."

  2. Did the report exonerate Trump?

    TRUMP: "As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION - NO OBSTRUCTION!" — tweet Thursday.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: "Today's release of the Special Counsel's report confirms what the President and I have said since day one: there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and there was no obstruction of justice."

    KELLYANNE CONWAY, White House counselor: "What matters is what the Department of Justice and special counsel concluded here, which is no collusion, no obstruction, and complete exoneration, as the president says."

    THE FACTS: No. The special counsel specifically leaves open the question of whether the president obstructed justice.

    "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 report states.

    The report identifies 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump and said he might have "had a motive" to impede the investigation because of what it could find on a multitude of personal matters, such as his proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

    "The evidence does indicate 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 give rise to personal and political concerns," the report states.

    In explaining its decision, Mueller's team said reaching a conclusion on whether Trump committed crimes would be inappropriate because of Justice Department guidelines indicating that a sitting president should not be prosecuted. It nevertheless left open at least the theoretical possibility that Trump could be charged after he leaves office, noting that its factual investigation was conducted "in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary material were available."

    "Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," the report states.

  3. Should the report have been made public?

    BARR: "These reports are not supposed to be made public."

    THE FACTS: He's not going out on a limb for public disclosure.

    Justice Department regulations give Barr wide authority to release a special counsel's report in situations it "would be in the public interest." Barr had made clear during his Senate confirmation hearing in January that he believed in transparency with the report on Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference during the 2016 campaign, "consistent with regulations and the law."

  4. Should Trump have been able to see the report before release?

    BARR, saying it was "consistent with long-standing practice" for him to share a copy of the redacted report with the White House and president's attorneys before its release: "Earlier this week, the president's personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released. That request was consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an independent counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication."

    THE FACTS: Actually, Barr's decision, citing the Ethics in Government Act, is inconsistent with independent counsel Ken Starr's handling of his report into whether President Bill Clinton obstructed and lied in Starr's probe.

    On Sept. 7, 1998, Clinton's attorney David Kendall requested that Starr provide him an opportunity to review the report before it was sent to Congress. Starr quickly turned him down.

    "As a matter of legal interpretation, I respectfully disagree with your analysis," Starr wrote to Kendall two days later. Starr called Kendall "mistaken" regarding the rights of the president's attorneys to "review a 'report' before it is transmitted to Congress."

    Starr's report was governed by the ethics act cited by Barr as his justification for showing the report to the president's team. It has since expired. Current regulations governing Mueller's work don't specify how confidential information should be shared with the White House.

    Starr's report led to the impeachment trial of Clinton in 1999.

    Additional reporting by Associated Press

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in