The Slatest

Mueller Report Live Blog: A Quid and a Quo and Obstruction, but No Pro?

Barr, wearing a suit, walks on a sidewalk with a half-smile on his face.
Attorney General William Barr outside the Department of Justice in Washington on Tuesday.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Update, 3:10 p.m.: We’re going to wrap up this blog by pointing you to this piece by Mark Joseph Stern about the report’s case that Trump committed some pretty heavy-duty obstruction that Congress should look into. (Writes Stern: “As he wrote in his report, Mueller only declined to indict the president because the Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice to the executive branch, claimed that he could not. Instead, Mueller made the case for obstruction in his meticulous report, providing a road map to Congress, which he expects to consider impeachment proceedings. There appears to be more than enough proof of criminality for the House of Representatives to draw up articles of impeachment.”) For all our big talk about hyperbolically speed-covering the report, it turns out that, you know, it’s a long and complicated document that requires a lot of chewing over. And there will be much more to come about it on Slate, just in longer-post form, so keep your eye on our home page and social media feeds, and also on the subconscious messages we beam into your brain using secret military space lasers!

Update, 1:35 p.m.: Slate’s Henry Grabar notes here that Mueller documents two incidents in which Trump tried to obstruct the investigation but failed because his subordinates ignored him. Says the report: “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.”

Update, 12:45 p.m.: Here’s a fun one.

Update, 12:25 p.m.: Mueller’s reasoning for not prosecuting the June 9 meeting (at which Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner sought to accept “dirt” on Hillary and discussed sanctions with Russian figures) as a violation of campaign-finance laws against accepting foreign assistance is that 1) it’s not legally clear whether “dirt” is a “thing of value” that campaigns are forbidden accepting, and 2) Trump’s advisers didn’t know that accepting foreign assistance was a bad thing. The relevant quote: “On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful. The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context.”

Update, 12:05 p.m.: Pee tape reference! Unfortunately, it’s to say that someone told them that the pee tape was not real. “Comey’s briefing included the Steele reporting’s unverified allegation that the Russians had compromising tapes of the President involving conduct when he was a private citizen during a 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant. During the 2016 presidential campaign, a similar claim may have reached candidate Trump. On October 30, 2016, Michael Cohen received a text from Russian businessman Giorgi Rtskhiladze that said, ‘Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know …. ’ 10/30/16 Text Message , Rtskhiladze to Cohen. Rtskhiladze said ‘tapes’ referred to compromising tapes of Trump rumored to be held by persons associated with the Russian real estate conglomerate Crocus Group, which had helped host the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia . Rtskhiladze 4/4/ l 8 302 , at 12. Cohen said he spoke to Trump about the issue after receiving the texts from Rtskhiladze. Cohen 9/ 12/ 18 302, at 13. Rtskhiladz e said he was told the tapes were fake, but he did not communicate that to Cohen . Rtskhiladze 5/ l 0/ 18 302, at 7.”

Update, 12:00 p.m.: This seems to be the nut of it, from page 5 of the first volume of the report (the second volume is about obstruction): “Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” So, basically, a quid and a quo but not a pro. As to why Mueller decided that the the presidential transition team’s friendly outreach to Russia about sanctions—an issue that campaign figures had previously learned was an issue of concern to the Russian government—didn’t constitute participation in Russia’s election-interference scheme … I haven’t really figured that out!

Update, 11:55 a.m.: A lot to process here! First observation: The report indeed documents previously known instances in which Trump figures expressed interest in Russian assistance (e.g., the June 9 Trump Tower meeting), and it documents instances in which the campaign (via Paul Manafort) and presidential transition team (via Michael Flynn) discussed Russia-friendly policies with Russian-government-linked individuals. But it concludes that such activities were not illegal “coordination” or “conspiracy.” Here’s the wording of one summary: “In sum, the investigation established multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government. Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances , the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied away. Ultimately , the investigation did not establish that the Campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities.”

Update, 11:05 a.m.: It’s alive! Click here to see THE MUELLER REPORT at last.

Update, 10:40 a.m.: New York magazine’s Eric Levitz makes another good point regarding Barr’s argument that Trump’s hostility to the Mueller investigation was justified. As Levitz points out, Trump wasn’t just angry about Mueller’s investigation because of “collusion” allegations, but because Trump didn’t believe Russia was even responsible for hacking the Democratic Party in the first place. Which, of course, is something that Mueller ended up confirming. So Barr is arguing that Trump was justified in attacking the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation even though one of Trump’s central objections to it turned out to be wrong.

Update, 10:15 a.m.: It appears that Even Fox News (TM) found Barr’s defense of the president to be a bit much.

Update, 10:05 a.m.: LOL.

Nice coordinated meme rollout between the president and the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, there.

Update, 10:00 a.m.: Barr just made a fairly lengthy argument that anything Trump might have done to obstruct Mueller’s investigation was OK because he knew that he hadn’t committed any “collusion.”

Update, 9:40 a.m.: Barr is just repeating everything he said in his March letter, except at a lectern. Nothing new yet.