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9 key takeaways from the Mueller report

The 448-page report from special counsel Robert Mueller was the culmination of a 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the actions of the Trump campaign, and possible obstruction of justice. 
With Mueller testifying on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, here are the most important takeaways from Mueller's report — in his own words.  

1. Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election

It is the second line of the report: "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion." 
The detailed report describes "disinformation" campaigns on social media, the goal of which "included supporting the Trump Campaign and disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton," in addition to the release of documents damaging to the Clinton campaign. 
This part of the investigation, laid out in Volume I of the report, resulted in federal charges against 25 Russian individuals and three Russian companies. 

2. Trump campaign officials had interactions with Russians, but Mueller could not prove they "willfully violated the law"

While investigating "any links and/or coordination" between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the special counsel's office found that "in some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away."
Trump campaign officials, including Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, all had contacts with Russians. 

Mueller did not, however, establish that Trump campaign officials "conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
"The Office ultimately concluded that, even if the principal legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law," the report said. 

3. There were no charges for the Trump Tower meeting for campaign finance violations

On June 9, 2016, Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, at Trump Tower in New York City. The high-ranking Trump campaign officials expected to discuss potentially damaging information about Clinton. 
At issue: Did the officials violate campaign finance laws by accepting a contribution from a foreign entity? Mueller determined he could not bring criminal charges. 
Mueller analyzed whether such information could constitute something of value, and thus a contribution: "A threshold legal question is whether providing to a campaign 'documents and information' of the type involved here would constitute a prohibited campaign contribution. The foreign contribution ban is not limited to contributions of money. It expressly prohibits 'a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value.' The phrases 'thing of value' and 'anything of value' are broad and inclusive enough to encompass at least some forms of valuable information."
But he said he could not prove the participants knew their conduct was illegal at the time the event took place.

"The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context."
And the shifting explanations of the meeting, which took place a year later, was not perceived to be driven by knowledge of criminal wrongdoing, but instead to "avoid political consequences."

4. Trump was not charged with a crime, but was not exonerated on obstruction

In the introduction to Volume II of the report, Mueller lays out his conclusion on whether President Trump 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." The report goes on to say, "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
Mueller also indicated he could not charge Mr. Trump because of Department of Justice policy. As a lawyer for the department, Mueller thought he was bound by an opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel from a 2000 memo. That memo concluded a president could not be indicted or criminally prosecuted because doing so "would unduly interfere with the ability of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned duties, and would thus violate the constitutional separation of powers."  
But the opinion does permit the investigation of the president during his term, which Mueller's office carried out "in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available."
During the course of the investigation Mueller examined 10 instances in which Mr. Trump may have obstructed justice. Since Mueller did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were left to make the decision for him. 

5. Trump may have tried to obstruct justice, but aides did not carry out his orders 

During the investigation, Mr. Trump turned to his aides, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. But those aides did not follow through on his orders.  
"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," the report said.
The report laid out examples of directives that weren't executed on page 158 of Volume II. Examples include: "[FBI Director James] Comey did not end the investigation of Flynn," and "McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel be removed."
Mueller noted in the report that Mr. Trump often expressed his displeasure publicly. For example, in a July 2017 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Trump lambasted his then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and later tweeted messages indicating that Sessions might lose his job.
"[M]any 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," the report explained. Describing the public nature of the President's frequent comments as "unusual." 
"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."  

6. Don McGahn was concerned about a "Saturday Night Massacre"

Don McGahn served as White House counsel until the fall of 2018.
According to the report, Mr. Trump asked McGahn to tell Rosenstein, who oversaw the Mueller probe, to fire the special counsel, and then later lie about his recollection of the president's request.  
"McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre," the report states. 
The "Saturday Night Massacre" refers to the night President Richard Nixon's top two men at the Department of Justice resigned rather than carry out Nixon's order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. (Read more on what McGahn told Mueller.) 

7. Trump answered questions with a version of "I don't recall" more than 30 times

After efforts to negotiate an in-person interview with Mr. Trump, Mueller's office settled on a written questionnaire in which Mr. Trump responded that he had "no recollection" almost three dozen times. 
Mueller's team wrote to the president's counsel objecting to the "insufficiency" of the answers, saying they "demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format, as we have had no opportunity to ask follow-up questions that would ensure complete answers and potentially refresh your client's recollection or clarify the extent or nature of his lack of recollection."
For example, the president could not remember discussing WikiLeaks with Roger Stone, or whether he knew that the Trump Tower meeting had taken place during the campaign. 

8. A number of people lied during the Russia probe

Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, George Papadopolous, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates were all charged with making false statements, either to law enforcement, Congress or the Department of Justice. 
Cohen, Mr. Trump's former personal attorney, said in a statement during his sentencing hearing in federal court in Manhattan that he acted out of "blind loyalty" to his former boss. He pleaded guilty after the special counsel charged him with making false statements to Congress. 
During his testimony before the House Oversight Committee in February, Cohen explained why he misled congressional investigators about a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow: "Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it."
Roger Stone's criminal case is the only ongoing litigation pending. He has pleaded not guilty. Flynn and Gates have yet to be sentenced. Papadopoulos spent 12 days in prison. 

9. Loyalty is important to Trump  

Throughout the investigation, there were multiple instances of Mr. Trump reaching out to top law enforcement officers asking for loyalty and protection. None of the attempts succeeded. 
On January 27, 2017, Mr. Trump invited Comey, who was still the director of the FBI, over for dinner, and reportedly asked him for his loyalty. Comey took contemporaneous notes and said Mr. Trump told him, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." 
Later on, Mr. Trump tried again to get Comey to publicly announce that he was not under investigation and at one point tried to coax the FBI director by saying, "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know."
According to testimony from some of the president's closest aides, he was incredibly frustrated with Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. 
Hope Hicks, the president's longtime aide, told the special counsel that "the President viewed Sessions's recusal from the Russia investigation as an act of disloyalty." His dismay only deepened after Sessions informed President Trump that a Special Counsel had been appointed. According to the Mueller report, Mr. Trump became "angry" and said, "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f****ed." 
Mr. Trump tried repeatedly to convince Sessions to "unrecuse" himself from the investigation. Sessions later told investigators that "he had the impression that the President feared that the investigation could spin out of control and disrupt his ability to govern, which Sessions could have helped avert if he were still overseeing it." Sessions never unrecused himself from the investigation, and was later forced to resign.

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