Key takeaways from the Robert Mueller report
The FT's US managing editor Peter Spiegel breaks down what we learned from the 450-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election
Filmed and produced by Ben Marino
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Like most of America, we've been spending most of the day poring over the 450-page report from Robert Mueller, for the first time we've seen it in two years. His investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. There's a lot in there that surprised us. A lot of takeaways to go over.
The biggest one perhaps is the most colourful, which is although Donald Trump has repeatedly said publicly that there was no collusion, that he was never under any doubt, when he found out that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel, he thought it was the end of his presidency. In an expletive tirade, he said that he thought that this was the end of his presidency, and that he'd be tied up for years with this investigation.
Trump has claimed that there is no collusion, there was no obstruction. But Mueller himself has a lot of very detailed evidence that Trump tried very hard, and actually, that it may have been some of his aides who refused his orders that may have saved him on this one. There's a very detailed account of Don McGahn, who was the White House counsel, who told Mueller that he had twice been told directly by Donald Trump via phone call, to fire Robert Mueller.
Both times he ignored Trump, called his lawyer and asked what he should do, and threatened to resign if he was forced to do this. Trump later, almost seven months after those phone calls, denied it ever happened. Demanded McGahn deny it happened. McGahn refused. But there's a lot of detail in Trump's efforts to do these kinds of things, order aides to obstruct, and the aides themselves didn't follow through on this.
On the other part of the report which was the Russia collusion bit of it. Again, as William Barr, the attorney-general had disclosed last month, there were no charges, new charges brought, and they found no evidence that there was collusion between the two sides. But what is very clear, is the Russians were working to get Trump elected, and the Trump campaign knew that they were benefiting from it. The two sides never actually got together and colluded, but they definitely knew that each other was working to their same end.
WikiLeaks. Obviously, another big revelation in there. Again, repeatedly disclosing damaging information, damaging emails about Hillary Clinton. Again, evidence that Trump was intensely interested in about what they were doing, at some points micromanaging the campaign's disclosure about the releases. Tried to get updates on when these releases were going to be made. Intimately involved the inner circle of the Trump campaign with what was going on at WikiLeaks.
And lastly, the big Trump Tower meeting. What is interesting there, is we don't learn a huge amount of new details. There was no evidence that the prosecutors found that Trump himself was involved in any of these meetings or knew about it. But that they had definitely considered bringing charges against the participants...
Which included Jared Kushner, president's son-in-law, Don Jr., his oldest son, and Paul Manafort, his campaign manager. They decided the burden of proof was too high to prove that these had committed any campaign, legal campaign, broken any campaign laws. But they did actively consider whether to bring charges against those three men who participated that meeting.