Trump took steps to impede probe: Report

Release of a long-awaited report by Mueller was a watershed moment in Trump’s tumultuous presidency

By Reuters in Washington, D.C.
  • Published 19.04.19, 12:18 AM
  • Updated 19.04.19, 12:18 AM
  • a min read
  •  
President Donald Trump at an event in the White House on Thursday in Washington Picture by AP

Details of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 US election were released on Thursday, showing a series of incidents in which President Donald Trump took actions to impede the probe that raised questions of whether he committed the crime of obstruction of justice.

Release of a long-awaited report by Mueller was a watershed moment in Trump’s tumultuous presidency. Ahead of its release, attorney-general William Barr — whose department of justice oversaw the investigation — delivered a spirited defence of the Republican President and his actions, infuriating Democrats.

Mueller did not make a conclusion on whether Trump had committed obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him either.

Barr subsequently concluded that Trump had not broken the law, but told a news conference that Mueller had detailed “10 episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense”.

In June 2017, Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to tell the then-acting attorney-general that Mueller had conflicts of interest and must be removed, the report said.

It also said there was “substantial evidence” that Trump fired James Comey as FBI director in 2017 due to his “unwillingness to publicly state that the President was not personally under investigation”.

Mueller cited “some evidence” suggesting Trump knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s controversial calls with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office, but evidence was “inconclusive”.

The report said Trump directed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to ask former attorney-general Jeff Sessions to say the Russia investigation was “very unfair”.

Before the report’s release, Barr gave a news conference at the justice department as he sought to shape the narrative on the document’s findings. One of a handful of people to have seen the report before its release, Barr emphasised, as he had said last month.