I’m Reading The Mueller Report So You Don’t Have To (but you should), part 4

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The final section of Volume One of the Mueller Report (pages 174-199) is entitled, “PROSECUTION AND DECLINATION DECISIONS,” and is an explanation for why people were or were not charged with crimes in connection with the investigation.

The Appointment Order authorized the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) to “prosecute federal crimes arising from [its] investigation of the matters assigned to it. In particular the SCO was to evaluate whether the conduct of individuals considered for prosecution constituted a federal offense and whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.

It is extremely important to note that the report very specifically deals with whether or not the evidence discovered could realistically lead to a conviction, not whether or not the person(s) in question committed a crime.

Volume 1 of the Report deals primarily with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its interactions with the Trump Campaign.

Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign

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A grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes.

Although member of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) – the Russian agency responsible for the social media campaign against Clinton and benefiting Trump, had contact with individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign, the SCO did not identify evidence that any person interacting with the IRA knew they were speaking with Russian nationals engaged in the criminal conspiracy.

The SCO did charge one U.S. national with identity fraud for his role in supplying false or stolen bank account numbers that allowed the IRA to access U.S. online payment systems

Russian Hacking and Dumping Operations

 A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted Russian military intelligence officers from the GRU, charging them with conspiring to hack into various U.S. computers used by the Clinton Campaign, the DNC, the DCCC, and other U.S. persons.

Much in this section is REDACTED.

Russian Government Outreach and Contacts

 The SCO uncovered evidence of numerous links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals having or claiming to have ties to the Russian government.The SCO evaluated the contacts, under federal laws and, with the exception of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, did not pursue further charges.

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In the Trump Tower meeting between high-ranking T.C. officials and Russian affiliated individuals, the SCO did not charge anyone, because a prosecution would have a hard time proving the Campaign officials willfully violated the law(s), or were even aware that what they were doing was wrong.

Because there is no such federal legal crime as “collusion,” the SCO only pursued whether or not the contacts between the T.C. and Russia-linked individuals could trigger a charge of conspiracy.

The SCO did not establish that these contacts described earlier amounted to “any substantive” violation of federal criminal law, including campaign finance or defraud.

The SCO also did not establish any agreement between Campaign officials and the Russians to interfere with or obstruct a lawful function of a government agency during the Campaign or transition.    

The SCO did not identify evidence that any Campaign official “knowingly and intentionally participated in the conspiracy.”

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) makes it illegal to act as an agent of a foreign principal by engaging in certain activities without registering with the Attorney General.

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The SCO uncovered extensive evidence that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates’ pre-campaign work for the government of Ukraine violated FARA, as well as evidence that Michael Flynn violated FARA as well.

The SCO did not find “evidence sufficient to sustain” any charge that any other individual affiliated with the T.C. acted as an agent of a foreign principal within the meaning of FARA.

The SCO did not determine that evidence against Papadopoulos, despite revealing significant ties between him and Israel, was sufficient to charge under FARA.

The SCO investigated offers by foreign nationals to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton to the Trump Campaign, including the Trump Tower Meeting and REDACTED, to determine if there were prosecutable violations of campaign finance laws, but found the evidence was not sufficient to charge.

There is a large legal discussion about what constitutes the value of an offer of assistance to provide damaging information, and there appears to be great difficulty in determining not only what area of the law would apply, but how to assign a monetary value to that information.

With regards to the Trump Tower meeting, the SCO determined that they probably could not prove the T.C. people “knowingly” and “willfully” violated campaign election laws. The prosecution would have to prove that the defendants were familiar with the foreign contribution ban or the application of the federal law, despite the government having evidence of later efforts to conceal and prevent the disclosure of the nature of the Trump Tower meeting.

 The SCO determined that certain individuals associated with the Trump Campaign lied to investigators about Campaign contacts with Russia and other actions taken to interfere with the investigations.

After this there is a heading that says, “Application to REDACTED” and a very large section of REDACTED material spanning three pages.

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George Papadopoulus was charged with making false statements to the FBI regarding the timing, extent and nature of his communications with Joseph Mifsud, Olga Polonskaya, and Ivan Timofev.

Michael Flynn was charged with making false statements to the FBI, and also admitted his false statements in his FARA filings, regarding his contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak about Russian responses to sanctions, as well as other false statements that “impeded and otherwise had a material impact” on the ongoing investigation.

Michael Cohen was charged with giving false statements to the FBI in four areas:  he stated the Trump Tower Moscow project had ended in January and he had briefed Trump only three times before terminating it; he said he never agreed to travel to Russia for the project and never considered asking Trump to travel for the project; he said he did not recall any Russian government contact about the project; and he asked that his statements be incorporated into his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

All four statements were false.

After the section on Michael Cohen, there is an extensive REDACTED section that appears to be about an individual.

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Jeff Sessions was investigated for his interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the week of the RNC as well as at a meeting in his Senate office.

Although the SCO determined that he did interact with Kislyak, and that the Campaign was mentioned, the evidence was not sufficient to prove that Sessions was willfully untruthful in his answers.

There is a final section on “Others Interviewed During the Investigation,” where the SCO considered whether others that they interviewed had omitted material information or provided false information, but they did not seek criminal charges other than those listed above.

The rest of this section – one page – is REDACTED.

I believe it is very important to look at the specific wording that Mueller uses throughout the report. It is difficult to take his carefully crafted statements at face value, when the wording is so critical and leading.

Statements like, “whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction,” clearly indicate there is evidence, but he is evaluating it to see whether or not there could be an outcome that convicts.

Frequently he uses phrases like, “did not establish,”or “evidence sufficient to sustain,”or, “found the evidence was not sufficient to charge,” very carefully. The indication being, again, that there is evidence present, but the court fight would be difficult.

The next section is Volume II of the Report – the Factual Results Of The Obstruction Investigation.

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