Here is your Mueller Report - Part IID

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Welcome to the final section of Mueller’s Volume Two. I sincerely hope you have arrived here after reading Part I (Volume One) and Parts IIA, B and C (Volume Two). If you are jumping in here – no harm done, but you’re going to have a heck of a time getting up to speed. Should you be a newcomer to the series, though, you should know that I am a voting, tax-paying citizen who believes it is her civic duty to get as close as possible to the truth about her democracy. That’s why I read the Mueller Report. And, after reading it (I actually had to read Volume Two twice), I fully understood why most Americans would not be reading it. 

I am offering this series of articles for those who simply won’t read the real thing. Why? Because you, too, have a civic duty to be informed when you vote and a civic right to know about the people your tax dollars employ. I  will, once again, post the “cheat sheet” I created to use as a compass as we hack our way through the evidentiary undergrowth of Volume Two. It’s the same list of key concepts I posted in the three previous articles: 

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And so we jump into the two final cases Mueller’s team considered.

The President’s conduct toward Flynn, Manafort and [redacted]

After requesting Flynn’s resignation, “the President made positive public comments about describing him as a ‘wonderful man,’ ‘a fine person,’ and a ‘very good person.’ The President also privately asked advisors to pass messages to Flynn conveying that the President still cared about him and encouraging him to stay strong.” When Flynn began to cooperate with the Special Prosecutor, the President’s personal counsel left this message: ‘I understand your situation let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms. . . . [l]t wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve gone on to make a deal with . . . the government. . . . [I]f. . . there’s information that implicates the President, then we’ve got a national security issue, . . . so, you know, . . . we need some kind of heads up. Um, just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can. . . . [R]emember what we’ve always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and, that still remains…’” 

When Flynn’s counsel called to respond to the voice mail, stating that “they were no longer in a position to share information under any sort of privilege,” the President’s counsel “was indignant” and “said that he interpreted what they said… as Flynn’s hostility toward the President… Flynn would be disturbed to know that such a message would be conveyed to the President… the President made public statements expressing sympathy for Flynn…”

A grand jury indicted Manafort and Gates on felony charges in October 2017. “In January 2018, Manafort told Gates that he had talked to the President’s personal counsel and they were ‘going to take care of us.’ Manafort told Gates it was stupid to plead… repeating that they should ‘sit tight’ and ‘we’ll be taken care of.’” Asked whether pardons had been mentioned, Manafort stated that no one “had used that word.” The President asked aides “whether Manafort knew any information that would be harmful to the President. In public, the President made statements criticizing the prosecution and suggesting that Manafort was being treated unfairly.” 

When Manafort’s bail was revoked, the President tweeted, “’… What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all the others? Very unfair.’ Immediately following the revocation of Manafort’s bail, the President’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, gave a series of interviews in which he raised the possibility of a pardon for Manafort.” After stating that the President wouldn’t pardon anyone during the investigation, Giuliani said, “When it’s over, hey, he’s the president of the United States. He retains his pardon power.” 

When Manafort’s trial began in July 2018, “the President tweeted, ‘this is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now… Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work…’” A few minutes later the President tweeted that Manafort was being treated worse than Al Capone. When the President’s commentary about how shabbily Manafort was being treated continued into August, “Manafort’s attorney said, ‘Mr. Manafort really appreciates the support of President Trump.’”

On the day Manafort was found “guilty on eight felony counts, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight offenses, including a campaign-finance violation that he said had occurred ‘in coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office.’ … The next day, the President tweeted, ‘I feel very badly for Paul Manafort…unlike Michael Cohen he refused to break – make up stories in order to get a deal.’” In a Fox News interview the President said, “This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping.” Giuliani told journalists that “he and the President had discussed the political fallout if the President pardoned Manafort.”

When Manafort pleaded guilty and signed a plea agreement that required cooperation with investigators, Giuliani stated publicly that “Manafort’s attorneys regularly briefed the President’s lawyers on… the information Manafort had provided… the Special Counsel’s office.”  About two months later the Special Counsel’s office disclosed that Manafort had breached his plea agreement. The President, in an interview two days later, said that “it was ‘very brave’ that Manafort did not ‘flip.’”

There follow now several pages of redacted material, and then Mueller begins his analysis:

  1. Was an obstructive act committed? Briefly summarizing the events above related to Flynn, the Report states “That sequence of events could have had the potential to affect Flynn’s decision to cooperate, as well as the extent of that cooperation. Because of privilege issues, however, we could not determine whether the President was personally involved in or knew about the specific message his counsel delivered to Flynn’s counsel… With respect to Manafort, there is evidence that the President’s actions had the potential to influence Manafort’s decision whether to cooperate with the government… Those statements, combined with the President’s commendation of Manafort for being a ‘brave man’ who ‘refused to break,’ suggested that a pardon was a more likely possibility if Manafort continued not to cooperate with the government. And while Manafort eventually pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation agreement, he was found to have violated the agreement by lying to investigators. The President’s public statements during the Manafort trial, including during jury deliberations, also had the potential to influence the trial jury.”

  2. Was there nexus to an official proceeding? “The President’s actions towards Flynn, Manafort, and [redacted] appear to have been connected to pending or anticipated official proceedings involving each individual. The President’s conduct towards Flynn and [redacted] principally occurred when both were under criminal investigation by the Special Counsel’s Office and press reports speculated about whether they would cooperate with the Special Counsel’s investigation. And the President’s conduct towards Manafort was directly connected to the official proceedings involving him. The President made statements about Manafort and the charges against him during Manafort’s criminal trial. And the President’s comments about the prospect of Manafort ‘flipping’ occurred when it was clear the Special Counsel continued to oversee grand jury proceedings.”

  3. Was there an obstructive intent? “Evidence concerning the President’s intent related to Flynn as a potential witness is inconclusive. As previously noted, because of privilege issues… Evidence concerning the President’s conduct towards Manafort indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government… the evidence supports the inference that the President intended Manafort to believe that he could receive a pardon, which would make cooperation with the government as a means of obtaining a lesser sentence unnecessary.” Concerning the President’s public statements as the Manafort trial opened, “Some evidence supports a conclusion that the President intended, at least in part, to influence the jury” because his public statements, widely reported, would “have the natural tendency to engender sympathy for Manafort among jurors... But there are alternative explanations… including that he genuinely felt sorry for Manafort.” Or his statements might “have been intended to continue sending a message to Manafort that a pardon was possible.” [All information about intent regarding the third person is here redacted.]

The President’s conduct regarding Michael Cohen 

This consideration “spans the full period of our investigation.” Mueller begins with the Trump Tower Moscow project: “Cohen briefed candidate Trump on the project numerous times… [then] promoted a ‘party line’ that publicly… asserted he had no business there.” As is well established, Cohen first lied about the timetable for this project and ultimately extended it. “Cohen also discussed the project on multiple occasions with Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.” Cohen made several attempts to schedule a meeting for Trump about this project in Moscow, including telling the President he had had a call with “someone from the Kremlin.” He was told “the Russian government liked the project…

“After January 2016, Cohen continued to have conversations with Sater about Trump Tower Moscow and continued to keep candidate Trump updated…In March or April 2016, Trump asked Cohen if anything was happening in Russian. Cohen also recalled briefing Donald Trump Jr. in the spring… [the project] was “potentially a $1 billion deal.” In May 2016 Cohen again suggested Trump visit Russia to advance the project. He planned a Trump trip to Moscow after he had become the Republican nominee. “Trump said that he would be willing to travel to Russia if Cohen could ‘lock and load’ on the deal.” The project seemed dead in June 2016, but Cohen did not tell Trump.

“During the summer of 2016, Cohen recalled that candidate Trump publicly claimed that he had nothing to do with Russia and then shortly afterwards privately checked with Cohen about the status of the Trump Tower Moscow project, which Cohen found ‘interesting.’” During that summer the project seemed to be “going nowhere” because a piece of land had not been secured. Cohen “did not recall talking with Trump about the project after that… [but Trump did not] tell him not to pursue the project or that the project should be abandoned.

“… during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump denied having any personal, financial, or business connection to Russia, which Cohen described as the ‘party line.’” After the election, certain deals were closed out prior to inauguration; the Moscow tower was on the list. When the press started inquiring about it, Cohen lied and said it “had ended in January 2016… part of a ‘script’ or talking points [Cohen] had developed with President-elect Trump…

“Cohen eventually entered into a joint defense agreement (JDA) with the President and other individuals who were part of the Russia investigation.” [Note: Here we find a lengthy footnote about privileged information between Trump and his counsel and Cohen and his counsel and among other individuals in the JDA. It concludes that “we have included relevant statements Cohen provided in this report.”] “…Cohen’s legal bills were being paid by the Trump Organization… Cohen was protected, which he would not be if he ‘went rogue.’ Cohen recalled that the President’s personal counsel reminded him that ‘the President loves you’ and told him that if he stayed on message, the President had his back.

In August 2017 Cohen drafted a statement for Congress about Trump Tower Moscow which “contained several false statements.” [I am not going to enumerate them here; four are detailed.] The statement was edited “by members of the JDA.” Ultimately the decision was made not to include the 2015 failed attempt to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, although Cohen “recalled that Trump asked him multiple times for updates on the proposed meeting with Putin.” It was considered by the group not relevant.

“Cohen said that his ‘agenda’ in submitting the statement to Congress with false representations about the Trump Tower Moscow project was to minimize links between the project and the President, give the false impression that the project had ended before the first presidential primaries, and shut down further inquiry into Trump Tower Moscow, with the aim of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations. Cohen said he wanted to protect the President and be loyal to him by not contradicting anything the President had said… he was sticking to the party line adhered to by the whole group… and he believed that following the party line would help put an end to the Special Counsel and congressional investigations.

After the report was submitted to Congress, Cohen spoke frequently with the President’s personal counsel, who told him “’his client’ appreciated Cohen, that Cohen should stay on message and not contradict the President.”

In anticipation of his impending testimony in September 2017, “Cohen orchestrated the public release of his opening remarks to Congress, which criticized the allegations in the Steele material and claimed that the Trump Tower Moscow project ‘was terminated in January of 2016… Cohen said the release of his opening remarks was intended to shape the narrative… Cohen said his decision was meant to mirror Jared Kushner’s decision to release a statement in advance of… testimony, which… the President liked.” Shortly after the statement hit the press, the President’s counsel called Cohen to say “the President was pleased. On October 24 and 25, Cohen testified before Congress and “repeated the false statements.” He “spoke with the President’s personal counsel immediately after his testimony both days.”

Mueller did notinvestigate alleged “hush money” payments to women. However, those events “are potentially relevant.” When Cohen claimed he had paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 of his own money and “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction,” Cohen had actually [as he testified one year later] “discussed what to say about the payment with the President and…the President had directed Cohen to say that the President “was not knowledgeable… of Cohen’s actions.” At the time of the initial (false) testimony, however, “Cohen received a text message from the President’s personal counsel that stated, ‘Client says thanks for what you do. 

“On April 19, 2018, FBI agents… executed search warrants on Cohen’s home, hotel room and office.” The President called the court-ordered search warrants “an attack on our country.” A few days later the President called Cohen to “check in,” telling Cohen to “hang in there” and “stay strong.” Cohen recalled several individuals relaying encouraging messages from the President, including “he loves you” and “everyone knows the boss has your back.” The President tweeted that Cohen “would not ‘flip.’” Giuliani sent a message through an attorney Cohen had consulted (Costello) saying “you are ‘loved’… they are in your corner… Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.”

Cohen testified that he believed his legal fees were still being paid by the Trump Organization and that he “believed he needed the power of the President to take care of him, so he needed to defend the President and stay on message.” He also spoke with the President’s personal counsel about pardons right after the raid. Cohen said he believed “as long as he stayed on message, he would be taken care of by the President, either through a pardon or through the investigation being shut down.” The President continued to express sympathy for Cohen, Manafort and Flynn in press interviews.

In early July 2018 the press began to report that Cohen was willing to cooperate with the Special Counsel. Now the President’s tweets took a different turn: “Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?).” When Cohen stated, in a plea hearing, that he had “worked ‘at the direction of’ the candidate in making those payments…the President” compared Cohen to Manafort: “unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break.’”

On September 7, 2018, the Special Counsel attached Cohen’s written statement to Congress to a list of written questions submitted to the President. They included questions about the Trump Moscow project. About two months later the President responded but “did not answer those questions… and did not provide any information about the timing of the candidate’s discussions with Cohen about the project. He answered that he’d had “few conversations with Mr. Cohen on this subject… and were brief, and they were not memorable… I do not recall any discussion of travel to Russia.” 

After Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements about the Trump Tower Moscow project, the President told reporters: “’I decided not to do the project… There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it… There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I wojldn’t gone back into the business. And why should I lose lots of opportunities?’ He also said Cohen was ‘a weak person… what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.’ … Even if [Cohen] was right, it doesn’t matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign.’”

The Special Counsel again tried to determine when Mr. Trump “decided not to do the project,” whom he spoke to and what motivated the decision. The President’s counsel declined to answer. Then the President began to imply “that Cohen’s family members were guilty of crimes.” Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, after which the President tweeted, “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.” He further accused Cohen of “trying to embarrass the president” and added that “his [Cohen’s] family was temporarily let off the hook.” Four days later the presidential tweets attached the FBI because “they BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE!” 

In January 2019, when it was announced that Cohen would testify publicly, the President again publicly alleged that Cohen’s family members had committed crimes, in particular maligning Cohen’s father-in-law. The tweets continued for days, and Cohen “postponed his congressional testimony, citing threats against his family.” In the meantime, Giuliani gave press interviews in which he stated the Trump Tower Moscow project actually “went on throughout 2016.” He quoted the President as saying, “discussion regarding the Trump Moscow project were ‘going on from the day I announced to the day I won.’” He later indicated those remarks were “hypothetical.”

Here is Mueller’s analysis of the evidence:

  1. Was an obstructive act committed? The Special Counsel was looking for two things: Did the President or others aid or participate in Cohen’s false statements? Did the President take actions that would naturally prevent Cohen from testifying truthfully? “The evidence available to us does not establish that the President directed or aided Cohen’s false testimony.” The President’s personal counsel declined to provide us with his account of his conversations with Cohen, and there is no evidence available to us that indicates that the President was aware of the information Cohen provided to the President’s personal counsel. The President’s conversations with his personal counsel were presumptively protected by attorney-client privilege, and we did not seek to obtain the contents of any such communications. The absence of evidence about the President and his counsel’s conversations about the drafting of Cohen’s statement precludes us from assessing what, if any role, the President played.” 

    While Cohen was following the “party line” and had not begun to cooperate with the government, the President “publicly and privately urged Cohen to stay on message and not to ‘flip’ …continued to pay Cohen’s legal fees… indicated in public statements a pardon had not been ruled out… After it was reported that Cohen intended to cooperate with the government, however, the President accused Cohen of ‘mak[ing] up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?),’ called Cohen a ‘rat,’ and on multiple occasions publicly suggested that Cohen’s family members had committed crimes. The evidence concerning this sequence of events could support an inference that the President used inducements in the form of positive messages in an effort to get Cohen not to cooperate, and then turned to attacks and intimidation to deter the provision of information or undermine Cohen’s credibility once Cohen began cooperating.”

  2. Was there nexus to an official proceeding? “The President’s relevant conduct towards Cohen occurred when the President knew the Special Counsel’s Office, Congress, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York were investigating Cohen’s conduct. The President acknowledged through his public statements and tweets that Cohen potentially could cooperate with the government investigations.”

  3. Was there an obstructive intent? “In analyzing the President’s intent in his actions towards Cohen as a potential witness, there is evidence that could support the inference that the President intended to discourage Cohen from cooperating with the government because Cohen’s information would shed adverse light on the President’s campaign-period conduct and statements… In connection with his guilty plea, Cohen admitted that he had multiple conversations with candidate Trump to give him status updates about the Trump Tower Moscow project, that the conversations continued through at least June 2016, and that he discussed with Trump possible travel to Russia to pursue the project… The evidence could support an inference that the President was aware of these facts at the time of Cohen’s false statements to Congress…

    “The President’s public remarks following Cohen’s guilty plea also suggest that the President may have been concerned about what Cohen told investigators about the Trump Tower Moscow project… the President may have been concerned about the information that Cohen could provide as a witness… 

    “The President’s concern about Cohen cooperating may have been directed at the Southern District of New York investigation into other aspects of the President’s dealings with Cohen rather than an investigation of Trump Tower Moscow. There also is some evidence that the President’s concern about Cohen cooperating was based on the President’s stated belief that Cohen would provide false testimony against the President in an attempt to obtain a lesser sentence… there is evidence that the President knew that Cohen had made false statements about the Trump Tower Moscow project and that Cohen did so to protect the President and minimize the President’s connections to Russia during the campaign.

    “Finally, the President’s statements insinuating that members of Cohen’s family committed crimes after Cohen began cooperating with the government could be viewed as an effort to retaliate against Cohen and chill further testimony adverse to the President by Cohen or others… the President’s suggestion that Cohen’s family members committed crimes happened more than once, including just before Cohen was sentenced (at the same time as the President stated that Cohen ‘should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence’) and again just before Cohen was scheduled to testify before Congress. The timing of the statements supports an inference that they were intended at least in part to discourage Cohen from further cooperation.”

And there we have all the evidence in the obstruction of justice investigation, each “consideration” analyzed against those three criteria. Remember that Mueller told us from the start that he was not going to try to establish criminal charges, since accepted policy is that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted. So we have 11 evidentiary considerations, each analyzed for obstruction of justice, with no determination of criminal conduct or exoneration; still, we see how he has marshalled the evidence logically to draw some intermediate conclusions. 

Mueller concludes Volume Two with some important material we will now look into. He calls this next section “Overarching Factual Issues.” He explains, “Although this report does not contain a traditional prosecution decision or declination decision, the evidence supports several general conclusions relevant to… the President’s course of conduct.” Here is a summary:

Three features make this case different from typical obstruction-of-justice cases: 

  1. It’s the President of the US: Were his acts “facially lawful”? (As viewed “on their face,” were his acts legal?) His Article II power gives him “unique and powerful means of influencing official proceedings, subordinate officers, potential witnesses”

  2. It is not necessary to prove there was a crime to be covered up: “Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests… or to avoid personal embarrassment.” The President seems to have been concerned that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of election. There is some uncertainty about whether certain events “could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family.”

  3. Many obstructive acts occurred in public view(e.g. Tweets). Still, “the President’s power to influence actions, persons and events is enhanced by his unique ability to attract attention through use of mass communication.” Public acts are not excluded from obstruction statute. It is simply unusual (but explainable) why so many of the acts considered here were public.

Inferences are drawn from a pattern

  1. The succession of acts was taken “with related purpose with respect to the investigation” and “were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.” The President did not succeed “largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests… the evidence… would not support potential obstruction charges against the President’s aides and associates beyond those already filed.”

  2. Two distinct phases suggest a possible shift in Trump’s motives, and “Judgments about the nature of the President’s motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence”:

    1. When he was confident he wasn’t under investigation, he was determined to make that public.

    2. Once he knew he was being investigated for obstruction, he “launched public attacks” on those with “adverse evidence… while in private… engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation.” Several examples are given.

The President’s legal defense (by his attorneys)

Here Mueller presents the written arguments the President’s attorneys submitted to defend him against obstruction of justice. They argue that the President cannot be obstructing justice while exercising his constitutional authority, such as closing a Department of Justice investigation or firing the FBI director. “Any statute that restricts the President’s exercise of those powers would… intrude on the President’s constitutional role. The President’s counsel has conceded that the President may be subject to criminal laws that do not directly involve exercises of his Article II authority, such as law prohibiting bribing witnesses or suborning perjury.”

And here, in brief, is Mueller’s analysis: 

“In analyzing counsel’s statutory arguments, we concluded that the President’s proposed interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2) is contrary to the litigating position of the Department of Justice and is not supported by principles of statutory construction. As for the constitutional arguments, we recognized that the Department of Justice and the courts have not definitively resolved these constitutional issues. We therefore analyzed the President’s position through the framework of Supreme Court precedent addressing the separation of powers. Under that framework, we concluded, Article 11 of the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize the President from potential liability for the conduct that we investigated. Rather, our analysis led us to conclude that the obstruction-of-justice statutes can validly prohibit a President’s corrupt efforts to use his official powers to curtail, end or interfere with an investigation.

“The obstruction-of-justice statute most readily applicable to our investigation is 18 U.S.C 1512(c)(2). Section 1512(c) provides

Whoever corruptly – 

(1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or 

(2) otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, 

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. “

Department of Justice interprets the law cited above as “a broad, independent, and unqualified prohibition on obstruction of justice.” Some would argue it covers “only acts that would impair the availability or integrity of evidence … strong arguments weigh against that proposed limitation. The text … confirms that its sweep is not tethered to Section 1512(c)(l).” Both the courts and history support that interpretation, and no law opposes it. 

“On its face, therefore, Section 15 12(c)(2) applies to all corrupt means of obstructing a proceeding, pending or contemplated - including by improper exercises of official power. In addition, other statutory provisions … applicable to… [the] conduct we investigated broadly prohibit obstruction of proceedings that are pending before courts, grand juries, and Congress… Congress has also specifically prohibited witness tampering.”

Now come seven pagesof complicated and mind-numbing references to specific statutes and the court cases in which they were tested. I read it all, to the best of my ability, but I am not going to attempt to present it here for two reasons: I don’t trust myself to do it justice, and I don’t think you’ll stay with me if I ask you to read it all. So we will seek out the conclusions Mueller draws from the material. (Again, if you want to read it all for yourself, I invite you to purchase the Report or find it online and go for it. I am no expert.)

“In sum, in light of the breadth of [the law cited above] and the other obstruction statutes, an argument that the conduct at issue in this investigation falls outside the scope of the obstruction law lacks merit.”

And, after more cases are cited: “Although the President has broad authority under Article II, that authority coexists with Congress’s Article I power to enact laws that protect congressional proceedings, federal investigations, the courts, and grand juries against corrupt efforts to undermine their functions. Usually, those constitutional powers function in harmony, with the President enforcing the criminal laws under Article II to protect against corrupt obstructive acts. But when the President’s official actions come into conflict with the prohibitions in the obstruction statutes, any constitutional tension is reconciled through separation-of-powers analysis.

“The President’s counsel has argued that ‘the President’s exercise of his constitutional authority . . . to terminate an FBI Director and to close investigations . . . ‘cannot constitutionally constitute obstruction of justice.’ As noted above, no Department of Justice position or Supreme Court precedent directly resolved this issue. We did not find counsel’s contention, however, to accord with our reading of the Supreme Court authority addressing separation-of-powers issues. Applying the Court’s framework for analysis, we concluded that Congress can validly regulate the President’s exercise of official duties to prohibit actions motivated by a corrupt intent to obstruct justice.The limited effect on presidential power that results from that restriction would not impermissibly undermine the President’s ability to perform his Article II functions…”

“…As discussed above, applying obstruction-of-justice statutes to presidential conduct that does not involve the President’s conduct of office - such as influencing the testimony of witnesses - is constitutionally unproblematic. The President has no more right than other citizens to impede official proceedings by corruptly influencing witness testimony…The President’s action in curtailing criminal investigations or prosecutions, or discharging law enforcement officials, raises different questions… the obstruction-of-justice statutes do not aggrandize power in Congressor usurp executive authority. Instead, they impose a discrete limitation of conduct only when it is taken with the ‘corrupt’ intent to obstruct justice.” 

“In sum, contrary to the position taken by the President’s counsel, we concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues, we had a valid basis for investigating the conduct at issue in this report. In our view, the application of the obstruction statutes would not impermissibly burden the President’s performance of his Article II function to supervise prosecutorial conduct or to remove inferior law-enforcement officers. And the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person ’including the President’ accords with the fundamental principle of our government that ‘[no [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.’” 


“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. 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.

And now, my faithful reader, you have worked your way through Volume II of the Mueller Report. What remains are the appendices – which include written answers by the President to the questions posed by the Special Counsel. You will want to review a summary of those in Here is your Mueller Report Part III, and then you will be finished.