US special counsel 'unable to reach judgement' on obstruction of justice

Updated 20:15 A redacted version of the US special counsel's final report has been publicly relea...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.23 18 Apr 2019

Share this article

US special counsel 'unable to...

US special counsel 'unable to reach judgement' on obstruction of justice

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

15.23 18 Apr 2019

Share this article

Updated 20:15

A redacted version of the US special counsel's final report has been publicly released.

Robert Mueller's report outlines 'ten episodes' relating to Donald Trump and potential obstruction of justice - although it makes no 'prosecutorial judgement' on the issue.


The episodes include the firing of FBI director James Comey, and President Trump's efforts to have former attorney general Jeff Sessions take over the investigation despite having recused himself.

It details a number of other situations where White House aides refused to carry out Trump's requests or orders.

That includes deputy national security advisor KT McFarland declining to draft an internal letter stating that President Trump had not directed former national security advisor Michael Flynn to discuss sanctions with a Russian ambassador "because she did not know whether that was true".

The report highlights the challenges the special counsel's team had in reaching an "ultimate conclusion" on President Trump's conduct.

The 400-page report states: “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.”

As previously revealed, the report "does not conclude that the President committed a crime", but also does not exonerate him.

The report also details President Trump's initial reaction to finding out that a special counsel had been appointed.

It states that the US President slumped back in his chair and said the following: "Oh my God this is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm f****d".

Russian efforts

In the other major section of the report, Mr Mueller outlines efforts by Russia to interfere in the US election through social media misinformation campaigns, as well as hacking efforts.

It found the Russian efforts "favoured" Donald Trump during the campaign - although does not find any members of his team  'colluded' with the Russians.

The report states: "The investigation identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

"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 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."

It found that some of the contacts between the campaign and Russia were "brief, public, and non-substantive".

Meanwhile, Mr Mueller has been invited to testify before the House Intelligence Committee to outline his findings:

William Barr press conference

In a press conference ahead of the report's publication, US attorney general William Barr defended the US president and reiterated many of the points he made in a summary of the report he released last month.

He said that the White House had 'fully cooperated' with the investigation - despite President Trump himself having never been interviewed.

Mr Barr stated: "The bottom line: after nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews... the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts."

US attorney general Attorney General William Barr speaks alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and acting Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward O'Callaghan, left, about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report during a news conference, Thursday, April 18, 2019, at the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mr Barr again explained that Mr Mueller did not make a 'traditional prosecutorial judgement' on the issue of obstruction, instead outlining 'ten episodes' involving the President.

Mr Barr has already confirmed that he and his deputy Rod Rosenstein have concluded there wasn't enough evidence to pursue an obstruction of justice case.

The attorney general told reporters: "Although the deputy attorney general and I disagreed with some of the special counsel's legal theories, and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law... we did not rely solely on that in making our decision.

"Instead we accepted the special counsel's legal framework for purposes of our analysis, and evaluated the evidence as presented by the special counsel in reaching our conclusions."

He claimed that people should bear in mind the context of the investigation, adding: "As the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks."


With the release of the report, it's likely the political battle over the findings will continue - with Democrats already seeking further information on Mr Mueller's findings.

Senior Democrats criticised Mr Barr's summaries of the report, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying: "The differences are stark between what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction."

A number of Democrats seeking the party's 2020 presidential nomination echoed the criticisms of the attorney general, as well as supporting the calls for Mr Mueller to testify before Congress.

President Trump, meanwhile, has continued to celebrate the findings:

Main image: Four pages of special counsel Robert Mueller report on the witness table in the House Intelligence Committee hearing room on Capitol Hill, in Washington. Picture by: Cliff Owen/AP/Press Association Images

Share this article

Read more about

Donald Trump Robert Mueller Special Counsel William Barr

Most Popular