Who were the winners and losers of the Mueller report?
Here are some of the big winners and losers from the release Thursday of the long-awaited report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on his Trump-Russia investigation:
President Trump and his family
The president, who was at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Friday, was not charged with a crime. Neither were his daughter Ivanka, his son Donald Jr., nor his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
That’s even though the report said that there were “numerous links” between the Russian government and the Trump campaign and “the campaign expected it would benefit” from information stolen by the Russians — and also said there were “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations” into those Russian links and into obstruction of justice.
The report found that “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.”
Those people included:
Former White House counsel Don McGahn. Some have called him an unsung hero because he refused Trump’s order to fire Mueller, recoiling and threatening to resign instead. He told then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus that the president had asked him to do “crazy [expletive].”
Former chief of staff Reince Priebus.Priebus joined McGahn in resisting Trump’s efforts to force out Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski also resisted an effort by Trump to convince Sessions to un-recuse himself from the investigation and to limit the scope of Mueller’s probe.
Former senior White House official Rick Dearborn. Trump dictated to Lewandowski a message ordering Sessions to declare the Mueller investigation was “very unfair,” exonerating Trump, and saying Sessions would limit Mueller’s probe only to future election meddling. Lewandowski was uncomfortable delivering the message, so he asked Dearborn to do it. Dearborn did not follow through, the report said.
Former deputy national security adviser K.T. MacFarland. MacFarland refused to draft an internal letter requested by Trump saying, falsely, that Trump didn’t ask national security adviser Michael Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador about US sanctions against Russia. MacFarland declined because she didn’t know whether it was true and because she had been advised it would look like a quid pro quo for an ambassadorship she had been offered, the report said.
Former staff secretary Rob Porter. Porter resisted a request by Trump to sound out an associate attorney general to see if she was “on the team” and interested in being attorney general. Porter believed Trump wanted to find someone to step in and end the Russia investigation or fire Mueller. He did not contact the associate attorney general because he didn’t want to be associated with an effort to end the investigation.
The IT folks at the Justice Department
The Justice Department posted the long-awaited report to its website and despite the intense interest in downloading it, there were no reported glitches.
12 mysterious persons whose names have not been released
The report said the special counsel found evidence of plenty of other crimes and made 14 referrals, 12 of which remain secret. The two cases that are public are Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, and Gregory B. Craig, a White House counsel in the Obama administration.
People who wanted a slam dunk on Trump
Anyone who wanted a slam dunk, open-and-shut case, from Mueller that would point an accusatory finger at Trump and transform the public debate has been disappointed, at least for the moment. The reality was much more complicated. The report was full of stunning details that raised troubling questions, but it ultimately said the probe “did not establish” that members of the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russians” in election meddling. The report said investigators couldn’t clear Trump of obstruction of justice, but it also said Mueller had “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on bringing obstruction of justice charges, citing a Justice Department policy that says presidents can’t be indicted.
Democrats are pondering their next steps, but so far have been unwilling to consider impeachment without bipartisan support from Republicans.
Trump’s former personal attorney cooperated with federal prosecutors and testified to Congress that Trump was a racist, a con man, and a cheat. He’s going to serve time in prison, despite his cooperation. But so far, Cohen has not brought Trump down.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders
Sanders claimed in 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the investigation into Trump campaign contacts with Russia at the time, that the White House had heard from “countless” people who worked at the FBI who had lost confidence in Comey.
The report said, “The evidence does not support those claims . . . and Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything” and were “a slip of the tongue.” Sanders fired back at Mueller on Thursday night on Fox News, saying, “I used the word ‘countless,’ but it’s not untrue.”
Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr
Richard Burr may have passed information regarding the status of the FBI’s Russia probe to the White House in early 2017, the report said. The White House counsel’s office ‘‘appears to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation’’ from Burr just about a week after FBI chief Comey briefed the ‘‘Gang of Eight’’ — the congressional leaders privy to the most sensitive intelligence — about the investigation. Through a spokeswoman, the North Carolina Republican told The Washington Post on Thursday that he did not recall any such conversation taking place. The allegation stands in contrast to the independent image Burr has cultivated while running his committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Online news outlet BuzzFeed reported in January that President Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress. That could be the crime of subornation of perjury. But the Mueller report found, that “while there is evidence . . . that the president knew Cohen provided false testimony to Congress . . . the evidence to us does not establish the president directed or aided Cohen’s false testimony.” BuzzFeed has explained its reporting and said its sources differed legally with Mueller’s team on whether Trump “directed” Cohen to lie. The Mueller report also contains several mentions of the so-called Steele Dossier, which BuzzFeed was the first to publish. The Mueller team calls the dossier, which included stunning and salacious allegations about Trump, “unverified.”
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.