Deciphering the Mueller Report

On Wednesday, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller gave a public statement that basically said, “Read my report.”  Decoding Robert Mueller, NY Times, Opinion, May 29, 2019.  He said he could not come to a conclusion, unless he could exonerate the President.  That is not entirely accurate because reading his thorough analysis provides the answers.  However, the report is so long and detailed that virtually all of the news articles and commentary refer to the report in very general terms, rarely discussing the essential underlying facts, instead focusing on conclusions: whether he obstructed justice or whether impeachment should occur.  But conclusions without facts are not very helpful.  This has enabled the President to falsely claim the report exonerated him, and the Attorney General, in his March letter, to falsely claim the elements of obstruction were not met, the exact opposite of what the report says.  It is as if they have decided, “we can say whatever we want because most people won’t read the report.”  However, it is possible to summarize the essence of the report – the facts – as follows.

Obstruction of justice is a crime containing three requirements, according to Mueller, an obstructive act, a connection to a pending or foreseeable proceeding, and a corrupt intent.  An obstructive act “would naturally obstruct the investigation and any grand jury proceedings that might flow from the  inquiry.”  It is no defense to say the obstruction was prevented by aides, as the crime of obstruction is defined as the attempt, irrespective of outcome.  Mueller found ten potentially obstructive acts or series of acts and analyzed each to see if they were obstructive acts, whether there was a connection to a pending or foreseeable proceeding and whether there was an intent to obstruct that proceeding.

With respect to four of these, Mueller found “substantial evidence” that satisfied the elements: (1) efforts to fire the special counsel; (2) efforts to change the special counsel’s charge to focus on interference with future elections; (3) ordering White House counsel McGahn to deny Trump tried to fire the special counsel; and (4) efforts to keep Michael Cohen from cooperating with federal authorities.  The only thing Mueller didn’t say was the conclusion that he had enough evidence to indict the President for obstruction of justice, instead saying he couldn’t clear the President.  But his conclusion IS in the report.  And the facts can be simplified, as above, or amplified, if necessary, for public consumption.