In May 2017, when Trump learned of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment, “the President slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m [expletive].”
“The President became angry and lambasted the [then-]Attorney General [Jeff Sessions] for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, ‘How could you let this happen, Jeff?’ The President said the position of Attorney General was his most important appointment and that Sessions had ‘let [him] down,’ contrasting him to Eric Holder and Robert Kennedy.”
“Sessions recalled that the President said to him, ‘you were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect. The President returned to the consequences of the appointment and said, ‘Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.’”
Mueller wrote about how his team struggled with the issue of whether to charge Trump with obstruction of justice: “Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment.”
Still, Mueller said, the report by no means cleared Trump.
“At the same time, 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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The report said that President Trump “launched public attacks on the investigation and individuals involved in it who could possess evidence adverse to the President, while in private, the President engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation.”
“Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations. The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels.”
“These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.”
Some of Trump’s actions included “discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons.”
“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.”
Mueller described Trump’s refusal to be interviewed for the investigation.
Trump provided “written answers,” which the special counsel said it viewed “to be inadequate.”
“We considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony ... But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed the costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits for our investigation and report.”
“We determined that the substantial quantity of information we had obtained from other sources allowed us to draw relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility, which are often inferred from circumstantial evidence and assessed without direct testimony from the subject of the investigation.”
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report. Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Rocheleau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele