Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 25 April 2019

What we know about the Mueller investigation so far

The report's filing could be the start of a long legal battle to determine whether it should be made available to the public

Over 22 months, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged six people connected to Mr Trump and another 28 people, including 26 Russians. AP Photo
Over 22 months, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged six people connected to Mr Trump and another 28 people, including 26 Russians. AP Photo

The US Attorney General on Sunday released to congressional leaders a summary of the 22-month investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Mueller's report from the investigation, which began in May 2017, has been largely confidential. Not so the dozens of resulting indictments and several guilty pleas from the president’s inner circle.

Among those who have pleaded guilty are Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, lawyer Michael Cohen and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, on charges ranging from lying to the FBI to bank fraud.

Six people connected to Mr Trump have been charged, along with another 28 people, including 26 Russians.

Here’s what we learnt from Mr Barr’s summary:

How was the report put together?

The special counsel employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of about 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants and other professional staff.

Mr Mueller issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorising use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed about 500 witnesses.

What were the main conclusions of the report?

  • There wasn’t sufficient evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
  • There was no conclusion as to whether the president’s conduct constituted obstruction. Mr Mueller states that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him".
  • There were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election:
    1. A Russian organisation called the Internet Research Agency conducted disinformation and social media operations in the US designed to sow social discord to interfere with the election.
    2. The Russian government hacked computers to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. Moscow agents successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organisations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.
  • Based on Russia's role of interfering with the election, the special counsel brought criminal charges against Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the US for purposes of influencing the election.
  • The report does not recommend any further indictments and Mr Mueller did not obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.

What will happen next?

Mr Trump has already welcomed the news and it will represent a significant political victory for his inner circle, but the saga is far from over.

Democrats will cling on to the fact that the summary does not exonerate the president and many senior party members have asked for more information to be revealed.

On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement saying that Mr Barr’s letter “raises as many questions as it answers”.

They said the fact that it does not exonerate the president shows “how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay".

Mr Barr is under no obligation to release the report publicly, but he said it was his goal to release as much of it as he could.

The report's filing could be the start of a long legal battle to determine whether its contents will be made available to the public.

There are also questions around Mr Barr and many opponents of Mr Trump do not take the attorney general’s conclusions at face value.

Some Democrats doubt the motives of the attorney general, who was selected by the president.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York tweeted that he planned to call Mr Barr to testify on what he said were “very concerning discrepancies and final decision-making at the Justice Department”.

Although Mr Barr’s findings have been good news for the president, his legal troubles are far from over. Several federal investigations into Mr Trump and his affiliates are continuing.

The findings of the Mueller investigation may prompt a decision for the Democrats as to whether they try to impeach the president.

But with presidential campaigns beginning for 2020 and it being less than 600 days before the election, they may choose to turn their focus on removing Mr Trump then.

Until more details of the report are released, many questions will remain unanswered, especially in relation to what evidence was gathered on the president.

In the meantime, Mr Trump is likely to continue to use the early conclusions of the investigation as political capital to strengthen his popularity before the 2020 elections.

Updated: March 26, 2019 03:36 AM

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