Destruction Of The US. (Part Four – Environment)

Not only has the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the looming threat of the climate crisis. (Trump and his minions have fired or silenced government scientists from even mentioning climate change. And they have removed any reference to climate change from government websites.) The administration has attacked the nation’s environment resulting in destruction we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, began his dirty work by paring down some of our national parks leaving Native American heritage sites and archeological treasures vulnerable to vandalism. He then opened federal lands for mining and fracking. Zinke was stopped only by his excesses. When the department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into his excessive use of flights and ethical lapses, he announced his resignation.

The second Trump appointee to fill the office is David Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who is already under investigation by the Inspector General for…wait for it…conflicts of interest. Like Zinke, he also believes that all of the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management should be sold so that corporations and private interests can exploit their resources, ignoring the fact that the only reason they are public lands is that they are ecologically sensitive. Indeed, Bernhardt and the administration are in a rush to circumvent Congress and public opinion to auction off leases for oil exploration on public lands before the 2020 election

Under Bernhardt, the department is currently considering permits for fracking in northern Arizona which will pollute millions of gallons of water – a commodity that is already scarce in the region. The department has made it clear that it is also open to permitting foreign-owned companies to, once again, mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon even though previous such mining attempts left much of the region’s water radioactive and unusable. And since the previous mines have not been sealed, they are still leaking radioactive waste.

Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had previously represented oil and gas companies in numerous suits against the agency. He almost immediately removed restrictions on the coal industry. And he removed regulations designed to protect streams from the coal mining practice of mountain-top removal. Indeed, he operated as if his role was to protect corporations rather than the environment. Only when he became the subject of more than a dozen ethics investigations did he resign.

The new EPA administrator has picked up where Pruitt left off. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismissed the conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Astonishingly, he also dismisses the impact of air pollution on public health.

Under Wheeler, the EPA has permitted the use of a pesticide known to cause brain damage in children. It has also allowed the use bee-killing pesticides to resume. He removed regulations that were part of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He proposed repealing an Obama-era rule restricting the emissions of mercury and other heavy metals. And he refused to adopt recommendations for contaminants in drinking water.

This anti-environment mentality spans the entire Trump administration. For example, the Department of Energy has repealed Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs aimed at phasing out energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. And, despite the massive fires in other rainforests around the globe, the Department of Agriculture has proposed opening the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other exploitation by corporations.

And it’s not just clean air, land and water that are under attack.

Species around the world are threatened by human activities as never before. Yet the administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act to reduce wildlife habitat and remove protections for vulnerable species. It has proposed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining preserves for arctic wildlife. It has proposed water policies for California farmers that will push California salmon to extinction and starve the Steelhead Trout and Killer Whales that feed on them. It has relaxed rules on the hunting of threatened species. It issued a kill order for endangered Mexican wolves along the southwestern border, ostensibly to protect cattle. It is in the process of building a wall through the National Butterfly Center, through the Tohono O’odham reservation, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge deemed critical to the migration of numerous species. And the Trump administration is set to roll back regulations on the release of methane – the most damaging of all carbon gases – by oil and gas operations.

Scientists understand the threat to the ecosystem. Maintaining a healthy planet should not be partisan or even a national issue. Yet Trump and his followers seem to have the attitude that the worst will only happen after they are dead and buried. In the meantime, they plan to make as much money as possible at the expense of the future.

How Washington Became Gridlocked.

Many Americans decry our failed Congress, angry that the institution seems incapable of addressing their needs. Yet they have continued to vote for the same representatives election after election. It seems they believe other representatives are to blame. Not their own. And they hold both parties equally responsible.

But, as it turns out, Americans should rightfully blame only one party for the inaction of Congress – the GOP.

An episode of MSNBC’s American Swamp explained the problem in great detail. It seems the gridlock began in the early nineties when the newly-elected Rep. Newt Gingrich discovered that CSPAN would telecast speeches from the House floor regardless of the circumstances. Realizing that the network focused solely on the lectern and never showed the empty desks, he took the floor in late evenings to rail against Democrats; to challenge them to respond to his demands and to act. But, unbeknownst to the viewers, the Democrats couldn’t, because they were not there. For months, Newt continued his one-man show, calling Democrats a variety of names and asking his followers to hold them accountable for their inaction and lack of response. He published a list of one-word insults which he handed out to the GOP caucus, so they could all speak like Newt.

Not surprisingly, the farce worked. The audiences began calling their congressmen. They began harassing Democrats. And rightwing media took up the attacks. It only stopped when then-Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill asked CSPAN to have their cameras pan the chamber to expose the empty desks. But, by then, the damage had been done.

When the GOP won the House and Gingrich became Speaker, he took matters a step farther. An admirer and teacher of parliamentary-style politics in which party members vote as a unified block (something very contrary to the US system), Newt brought that mentality to the GOP. Under threat of being “primaried” with their opponents receiving millions in “dark” money, the members of the GOP caucus fell in line to vote as the Speaker wished, regardless of their own individual feelings or judgment.

Political tribalism was born. And succeeding GOP actions made it worse.

To ostensibly save money, the GOP majority in Congress cut the staffs of representatives. Without sufficient staff to research the effects of bills, congressional members were forced to rely on lobbyists, think tanks and Political Action Groups for information. And, if they failed to vote as these interest groups wished, the groups would spend millions to defeat them in the next election. As a result, the representatives learned that, if they valued their jobs, it was better to do nothing than to take a stand.

And, since the conservative-led Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech and corporations have the rights of individuals, congressional representatives have been forced to spend as much as 40 percent of their time dialing for dollars in order to raise enough money to fend off competitors in their next election campaign.

In addition, former GOP Speaker John Boehner banned earmarks – the tradition of adding provisions to a discretionary spending bill without floor debate. Though sometimes abused, earmarks were a form of congressional horse-trading to provide funding for projects in an individual representative’s home district. In most cases, it was how new bridges were funded; how new roads and road expansionss were funded; how a city got funding for programs and grants. But since the end of earmarks, the process has become more politicized than ever with the decisions on spending often being directed by the executive branch to reward supporters.

Any bills that do make it out of the House must go to the Senate for votes and be signed by the president before they can become law. The current House has sent more than 100 bills to the Senate. But even the most popular bills supported by a vast majority of citizens have been blocked by the self-proclaimed “grim reaper” of legislation – Moscow Mitch. He refuses to bring them to a vote unless they meet his very narrow agenda.

It’s all a recipe for gridlock.

To make matters worse, over many decades, Congress has yielded much of its constitutional authority to the executive branch rendering itself somewhat powerless. So much so, that congressional delegations have been turned away from immigration detention centers despite their role of oversight. Executive branch agencies have refused to turn over documents or respond to subpoenas issued by congressional judicial and oversight committees. And Trump has redirected money from agencies to build his wall despite congressional authority over the budget.

Despite Trump’s very public calls to drain the swamp, he ignores the fact that it was largely created by the GOP. Indeed, he has only made it worse by ignoring the emoluments clause; by using his office to promote his properties and to make money each time he visits one; by placing industry lobbyists in charge of the agencies responsible for regulating the industries they represent.

The interests of the American people be damned.

Destruction Of The US. (Part One – The Climate Crisis)

There are those who say that the US can withstand the damage done by Trump; that the Constitution will prevail; that people will come to their senses. I wish I could be that certain. In the coming weeks, I will be examining the damage done to our nation and our planet by this rogue presidency beginning with what is arguably our greatest threat: The Climate Crisis.

You may remember some of the progress made during the Obama administration: It embraced the UN’s Agenda 21 – a non-binding plan that emerged from the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 that set goals for combating poverty, promoting human health, promoting sustainable development, protecting the atmosphere, combating deforestation, managing fragile ecosystems, conserving biological diversity and more. It created incentives for the manufacture and use of sustainable energy alternatives. It created more stringent standards for coal-fired generating plants. It protected sensitive lands and endangered species from oil exploration and mining interests. It pushed to end factory fishing and created a national monument to protect a sensitive coral reef.

Under the Obama administration, the Navy began to plan for the sea level rise predicted by most of the world’s climate scientists. And the military began to power some of its installations with sustainable energy.

Most importantly, the Obama administration not only signed the Paris Climate Accords. It helped to create the agreement. Indeed, President Obama called it “the best chance to save the planet.”

Then along came Trump.

The racist, anti-Obama chief executive quickly withdrew our nation from the Paris agreement making the US now the only nation on the planet that is not a signatory. (Even Syria signed the pact.) He ordered his administration to relax standards for carbon emissions, in addition to deregulating some of the worst polluters. He ordered government agencies such as the EPA, NASA, NOAA, and others to remove any mention of climate change and its effects. He appointed political hacks and climate change deniers to cabinet positions and numerous other positions of power. He eliminated many regulations on coal mining and oil drilling to encourage further development of climate-changing fossil fuels. And his Interior Department began selling mineral rights on federal lands to the highest bidders. His administration even cut the Bears Ears National Monument – a place of great spiritual significance to Native Americans and of archeological importance – in half in order to make its mineral rights available.

In addition, the Trump administration plans to open the Arctic – a region already suffering from the severe impact of the climate crisis – to more oil exploration.

Worst of all, Trump has cut incentives for the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines thereby ceding their manufacture to foreign companies. He has proposed rolling back emission standards for American-made vehicles. He has cut incentives for the purchase of solar panels and electric-powered cars. And he has abandoned virtually all government research into ways to mitigate the climate crisis.

Do Trump and his supporters not live on the same planet we do? Have they not read the mounting evidence of a true global catastrophe? Have they not heard the warnings of extreme temperatures and rising sea levels? Have they not read reports of dying coral reefs and the extinction of species? Have they not experienced the anguish of watching another community torn apart by an extraordinary storm fueled by extreme temperatures? Do they not understand that one reason for the immigration crisis at our border is climate change? And that mass migration from climate change will only grow?

The world’s climate scientists say that we only have a decade or less to act in order to head off the worst effects of the climate crisis. And every few months, they announce that the climate is spiraling out of control even more quickly than their worst-case scenarios. The climate crisis is not a hoax! In fact, it is all too real. Indeed, the only questions left are: Will we act in time? Will our actions be enough? Will Trump be re-elected.

If the latter happens, it will almost certainly be game over.

Is Ending Abortion More Important Than Preserving Democracy?

This is a serious question that I pose to my conservative friends. You have told me that you dislike Trump as an individual. Yet you have supported his presidency. Some of you have even embraced him as a messenger of God claiming he was sent to Earth to restore “godliness” in the United States.

Does such godliness now include marital infidelity? Extramarital affairs with porn stars? Illegal payoffs to buy their silence? An admission of sexual assaults as evidenced by the Access Hollywood tape? His pride in saying that he has walked into the dressing rooms of teenage women? Would a messenger from God tell thousands of lies and demand loyalty to himself over country? Would he appoint family and friends to his administration who would use their positions to corruptly line their bank accounts with taxpayer money?

Does godliness now include overt racism? The promotion of violence against people of color? Is it godly to tell women of color to go back to the “shithole” countries where they came from just because their ideas don’t agree with your own? Is it now godly to tear apart families? To pry babies and children from their mothers’ arms? Is it godly to place refugees in cages with no room to lie down? No soap and other toiletries? Limited food and water? Is it godly to embrace murderous dictators while turning your back on those they have tortured or killed?

Did you fall to your knees and pray that your Orange Jesus would deport military veterans who served in war zones despite having been given assurances that their service would result in the opportunity to become US citizens? Is it godly to ridicule a true military hero for allowing himself to be captured and tortured? To cruelly attack the parents of a US soldier who died in combat? Is it godly to deny constitutional rights to people because of their religion, race or choice of lovers? To mock a reporter with a physical disability?

Did your God command his messenger – your messiah – to spend millions of taxpayers’ money on golf at his own resorts while American citizens – many of them veterans – sleep on the streets because they are homeless? Did He order his messenger to deny food stamps to school children? Did He demand that the nation’s deficits be increased so that your messiah’s party might later justify taking retirement benefits and healthcare away from the elderly?

Jesus commanded his followers to turn the other cheek. Yet the “religious” followers of your new messiah now threaten violence against those who have political ideas different than your own. And in far too many instances – in Charlottesville, in Pittsburgh, in Miami and now El Paso – they have already acted.

You say that you are repulsed by the character of your new messiah. But you justify your support for him because he has packed the courts with judges and justices who promise to overturn Roe v. Wade. In the meantime, he has taken actions that will destroy our environment. Indeed the entire planet. He has broken treaties and norms and weakened our most critical institutions. He has committed crimes. He has dramatically increased spending for our war machine without any controls on that spending. At the same time, he has challenged the authority of our Constitution and caused harm to hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And by accepting help from a hostile foreign power in order to obtain his office, he has threatened democracy itself.

Is that really what you want? Is it worth all of this to protect zygotes and fetuses, many of which will ultimately be unable to survive a moment outside the womb?

What about the already living? What about our nation? What about democracy?

Free Stuff.

The GOP, its propaganda network, and the corporate-owned media are fond of accusing progressive Democrats of trying to buy votes by offering “free stuff” to voters. Disregarding the fact that nothing the government does is, in fact, free, this has been a popular accusation for longer than I can remember. The GOP used the same talking point when Social Security and Medicare were first proposed, claiming that the programs were unaffordable and that they would bankrupt the nation. Then, like now, the GOP also accused the Democrats who backed those programs of being socialists.

But it’s important to note that GOP candidates also regularly offer free stuff as a way of buying votes. And they also engage in a form of socialism. The difference is in the beneficiaries.

Social Security and Medicare are, in reality, retirement and medical insurance that directly benefit those who pay the premiums through payroll deductions – ordinary working Americans. And the current Democratic proposals, like universal health care and debt-free college education, would also directly benefit ordinary American workers.

The GOP proposals, on the other hand, pander to a different audience: Large multinational corporations, the military-industrial complex and the very, very wealthy.

Take the GOP-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Most working Americans saw little to no cuts in their income taxes while corporations and the wealthy realized dramatic cuts to their tax burden. The law also allowed multinationals to “repatriate” corporate profits held offshore to avoid paying US income taxes. The GOP promised that the bill would boost the economy and create jobs. It didn’t. Instead, most of the money was used to pay executive bonuses and to buy back stock. That had the effect of starving the companies of capital resulting in layoffs. The same thing happened in 2004 when the US last “repatriated” corporate dollars at reduced tax rates. That year, 58 giant corporations realized 70 percent of the benefit, saving an estimated $64 billion in taxes while, at the same time, slashing an estimated 600,000 jobs.

The real cost of the 2017 tax cut has yet to be tallied. But it has already resulted in record deficits and a record national debt. It was nothing less than a giant gift to corporations paid for by average working Americans!

And that’s but one example. There are many, many others.

The GOP has pushed cuts to inheritance taxes and cuts to capital gains taxes that benefit the wealthy. And, under the guise of its repeatedly debunked trickle-down economic theory, the GOP offers much more free stuff to corporations. Those gifts take the form of corporate incentives to expand or to relocate, long-term tax relief to corporations for expanding in their current locations and promising, but seldom delivering, new jobs, and Tax Increment Financing which exempts corporate facilities from property taxes whenever their owners build or purchase a building and promise to create jobs – a practice so pervasive that many cities have never collected property taxes on their most iconic buildings. Sadly, some “moderate” Democrats have voted for these things, too.

In addition, there are many less obvious free gifts to corporations. Governments pay the cost of building utilities and other infrastructure to reach corporate building sites. And governments are often forced to pick up the cost of food stamps and housing assistance for the employees of Walmart and other companies that fail to pay a living wage. (The cost of subsidizing Walmart’s underpaid workers was estimated at $6.2 billion in 2014.) Governments also pick up the cost of cleaning up mines and other sites despoiled by extraction industries after the corporations have walked away with the resources and profits.

Even more subtle are the allocations to defense contractors who have little oversight and few, if any, real penalties for cost over-runs and delays. In fact, a 2016 study found that the Pentagon can’t account for trillions of dollars in spending. Similarly, private prison corporations have been given sweetheart deals by their GOP sponsors. During the current border crisis, it has been reported that private prison corporations are being paid more than $700 per day to house the refugees and economic immigrants in horrific conditions. For that price, the detainees should be living in luxury hotels. Not suffering in conditions where they are denied access to sufficient food and water, denied basic hygiene, and forced to sleep on concrete with only a foil blanket.

The estimated cost of universal healthcare and free education is dwarfed by the gifts currently being passed along to corporations and the uber-wealthy. Moreover, the progressive Democratic candidates have done something the GOP hasn’t. They’ve explained how they will pay for their “gifts.”

So, the next time you hear someone deride progressive Democratic candidates by calling them socialists and attacking them for their offers of “free stuff,” keep in mind that what’s being “given away” is simply a matter of priorities. The question is: What’s more important to you? American workers? Or greedy corporations and the very wealthy?

Why 2020 Could Be Deja Vu All Over Again.

Despite Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress that the Trump campaign sought, embraced and used information supplied by Wikileaks and Russia, and despite his report that outlines numerous instances involving obstruction of justice, GOP congressional representatives refuse to admit the possibility that Trump has committed any wrongdoing. Indeed, many acknowledge that they have not read the Mueller report.

Further, despite Mueller’s warning that Russia has stepped up its plans to interfere in the 2020 elections, Mitch McConnell and the GOP-controlled Senate refuse to vote on any legislation intended to tamper-proof our election system. Why? Well, for one thing, McConnell has shamelessly accepted campaign donations from the makers of some of the most vulnerable computerized voting machines. For another, he sees no benefit in doing so. Russian interference benefited his party in 2016 and he likely expects to receive further tens of millions in campaign assistance from Russian oligarchs in 2020 as his PACs did in 2016.

And it must not be forgotten that, in a clear signal to Putin, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he is willing to accept dirt on his political opponents from foreign governments for his re-election campaign.

These are all obvious signs that Republicans plan to steal yet another election.

During a recent interview on NPR, a former Facebook executive predicted that the 2020 election will be different. Instead of creating false accounts on social media to promote fake news as they did in 2016, he believes they will plant false narratives with US citizens and rely on them to distribute their propaganda. As an example, he referred to the Seth Rich conspiracy theory saying that the conspiracy originated with Russians, but that it was soon picked up and widely distributed by American right-wing media. (It was not only a regular story on Fox News. It was promoted by such “authorities” as Alex Jones Infowars and the mysterious – dare I say fictitious – QAnon.) More troubling, he says that Russia’s goal for 2020 is to seed chaos in the US. So he believes that Russia will execute a cyber attack on voting data (or at least give the appearance of one) to create doubt with the outcome of the 2020 election. That will lead the losing side to reject the outcome and perhaps resort to violence.

If that is the case, you can be certain that, if/when Trump loses, his supporters will be armed, locked and loaded. After all, in 2016, Trump convinced his followers that the election was rigged. In the event of a Hillary win, they threatened to “use their 2nd Amendment rights” to remedy the situation. Imagine what they will do if they think Trump is removed from office unfairly.

If the Russians are successful in 2020, it will pose a lose/lose problem for Democrats. If the Democratic nominee wins, he or she will very likely have to face the prospect of an armed insurrection which will further divide the nation. And, if the president-elect backs down under threat, it will cement the power of the lunatic right.

In either event, the beneficiaries will be Russia and the GOP.

Russia will benefit by a divided and weakened US. The division will also continue to benefit the GOP, which is desperately trying to maintain control of the oligarchy they helped create. Even if the GOP loses control of both the Senate and the White House, Moscow Mitch or his replacement will continue to block any and all initiatives intended to ensure fairness in our elections. They will continue to fight making voting machines tamper-proof and creating a paper trail. They will continue to fight all attempts to end gerrymandering. They will continue to fight the expansion of voting hours and the number of polling places. They will continue to fight automatic voter registration. They will continue to fight any efforts to limit the dirty money used to buy elections. And they will continue to fight any attempt to eliminate or modify the Electoral College.

They will fight these things because they have seen the studies that show a clear majority of Americans favor Democratic policies. They see the increases in voters of color. And they know free and fair elections will make them a minority for generations.

No Obstruction? Mueller And More Than 1,000 Federal Prosecutors Beg To Differ.

The president continues to claim the Mueller Report exonerated him of collusion and obstruction. It most certainly did not. With Mueller set to testify before Congress this week, I thought it would be helpful to publish the executive summaries of his report. Following is Executive Summary, Volume II which covers the obstruction investigation. As you can see, the president clearly intended to obstruct justice. And, if not for DOJ policy, he likely would have been charged. Indeed, more than a thousand former federal attorneys and prosecutors have signed a document stating that the evidence shows numerous instances of criminal obstruction. Pay particular attention to the boldface sections (boldface added) and judge for yourself.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TO VOLUME II
Our obstruction-of-justice inquiry focused on a series of actions by the President that related to the Russian-interference investigations, including the President’s conduct towards the law enforcement officials overseeing the investigations and the witnesses to relevant events.

FACTUAL RESULTS OF THE OBSTRUCTION INVESTIGATION
The key issues and events we examined include the following:
The Campaign’s response to reports about Russian support for Trump. During the 2016 presidential campaign, questions arose about the Russian government’s apparent support for candidate Trump. After WikiLeaks released politically damaging Democratic Party emails that were reported to have been hacked by Russia, Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia was responsible for the hacks at the same time that he and other Campaign officials privately sought information [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter] about any further planned WikiLeaks releases. Trump also denied having any business in or connections to Russia, even though as late as June 2016 the Trump Organization had been pursuing a licensing deal for a skyscraper to be built in Russia called Trump Tower Moscow. After the election, the President expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election.

Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn. In mid-January 2017, incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn falsely denied to the Vice President, other administration officials, and FBI agents that he had talked to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about Russia’s response to U.S. sanctions on Russia for its election interference. On January 27, the day after the President was told that Flynn had lied to the Vice President and had made similar statements to the FBI, the President invited FBI Director Comey to a private dinner at the White House and told Comey that he needed loyalty. On February 14, the day after the President requested Flynn’s resignation, the President told an outside advisor, “Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over.” The advisor disagreed and said the investigations would continue.

Later that afternoon, the President cleared the Oval Office to have a one-on-one meeting with Comey. Referring to the FBI’s investigation of Flynn, the President said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Shortly after requesting Flynn’s resignation and speaking privately to Comey, the President sought to have Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland draft an internal letter stating that the President had not directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak. McFarland declined because she did not know whether that was true, and a White House Counsel’s Office attorney thought that the request would look like a quid pro quo for an ambassadorship she had been offered.

The President’s reaction to the continuing Russia investigation. In February 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions began to assess whether he had to recuse himself from campaign-related investigations because of his role in the Trump Campaign. In early March, the President told White House Counsel Donald McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing. And after Sessions announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at the decision and told advisors that he should have an Attorney General who would protect him. That weekend, the President took Sessions aside at an event and urged him to “unrecuse.” Later in March, Comey publicly disclosed at a congressional hearing that the FBI was investigating “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including any links or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. In the following days, the President reached out to the Director of National Intelligence and the leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) to ask them what they could do to publicly dispel the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort. The President also twice called Comey directly, notwithstanding guidance from McGahn to avoid direct contacts with the Department of Justice. Comey had previously assured the President that the FBI was not investigating him personally, and the President asked Comey to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation by saying that publicly.

The President’s termination of Comey. On May 3, 2017, Comey testified in a congressional hearing, but declined to answer questions about whether the President was personally under investigation. Within days, the President decided to terminate Comey. The President insisted that the termination letter, which was written for public release, state that Comey had informed the President that he was not under investigation. The day of the firing, the White House maintained that Comey’s termination resulted from independent recommendations from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General that Comey should be discharged for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But the President had decided to fire Comey before hearing from the Department of Justice. The day after firing Comey, the President told Russian officials that he had “faced great pressure because of Russia,” which had been “taken off’ by Comey’s firing. The next day, the President acknowledged in a television interview that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice’s recommendation and that when he “decided to just do it,” he was thinking that “this thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” In response to a question about whether he was angry with Comey about the Russia investigation, the President said, “As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly,” adding that firing Comey “might even lengthen out the investigation.”

The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him. On May 17, 2017, the Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation appointed a Special Counsel to conduct the investigation and related matters. The President reacted to news that a Special Counsel had been appointed by telling advisors that it was “the end of his presidency” and demanding that Sessions resign. Sessions submitted his resignation, but the President ultimately did not accept it. The President told aides that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and suggested that the Special Counsel therefore could not serve. The President’s advisors told him the asserted conflicts were meritless and had already been considered by the Department of Justice.

On June 14, 2017, the media reported that the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating whether the President had obstructed justice. Press reports called this “a major turning point” in the investigation: while Comey had told the President he was not under investigation, following Comey’s firing, the President now was under investigation. The President reacted to this news with a series of tweets criticizing the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel’s investigation. On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.

Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation. Two days after directing McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation. On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions. The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was “very unfair” to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and “let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.” Lewandowski said he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do.

One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions’s job was in jeopardy. Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President’s message personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through.

Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence. In the summer of 2017, the President learned that media outlets were asking questions about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who was said to be offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” On several occasions, the President directed aides not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the June 9 meeting, suggesting that the emails would not leak and that the number of lawyers with access to them should be limited. Before the emails became public, the President edited a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with “an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign” and instead said only that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children. When the press asked questions about the President’s involvement in Trump Jr.’s statement, the President’s personal lawyer repeatedly denied the President had played any role.

Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation. In early summer 2017, the President called Sessions at home and again asked him to reverse his recusal from the Russia investigation. Sessions did not reverse his recusal. In October 20 17, the President met privately with Sessions in the Oval Office and asked him to “take [a] look” at investigating Clinton. In December 2017, shortly after Flynn pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation agreement, the President met with Sessions in the Oval Office and suggested, according to notes taken by a senior advisor, that if Sessions unrecused and took back supervision of the Russia investigation, he would be a “hero.” The President told Sessions, “I’m not going to do anything or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly.” In response, Sessions volunteered that he had never seen anything “improper” on the campaign and told the President there was a “whole new leadership team” in place. He did not unrecuse.

Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed. In early 2018, the press reported that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed in June 2017 and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The President reacted to the news stories by directing White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn told those officials that the media reports were accurate in stating that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed. The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports. Tn the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.

Conduct towards Flynn, Manafort, [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter]. After Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement with the President and began cooperating with the government, the President’s personal counsel left a message for Flynn’s attorneys reminding them of the President’s warm feelings towards Flynn, which he said “still remains,” and asking for a “heads up” if Flynn knew “information that implicates the President.” When Flynn’s counsel reiterated that Flynn could no longer share information pursuant to a joint defense agreement, the President’s personal counsel said he would make sure that the President knew that Flynn’s actions reflected ” hostility” towards the President. During Manafort’s prosecution and when the jury in his criminal trial was deliberating, the President praised Manafort in public, said that Manafort was being treated unfairly, and declined to rule out a pardon. After Manafort was convicted, the President called Manafort “a brave man” for refusing to “break” and said that “flipping” “almost ought to be outlawed.” [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter]

Conduct involving Michael Cohen. The President’s conduct towards Michael Cohen, a former Trump Organization executive, changed from praise for Cohen when he falsely minimized the President’s involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project, to castigation of Cohen when he became a cooperating witness. From September 2015 to June 2016, Cohen had pursued the Trump Tower Moscow project on behalf of the Trump Organization and had briefed candidate Trump on the project numerous times, including discussing whether Trump should travel to Russia to advance the deal. In 2017, Cohen provided false testimony to Congress about the project, including stating that he had only briefed Trump on the project three times and never discussed travel to Russia with him, in an effort to adhere to a “party line” that Cohen said was developed to minimize the President’s connections to Russia. While preparing for his congressional testimony, Cohen had extensive discussions with the President’s personal counsel, who, according to Cohen, said that Cohen should “stay on message” and not contradict the President. After the FBI searched Cohen’s home and office in April 2018, the President publicly asserted that Cohen would not “flip,” contacted him directly to tell him to “stay strong,” and privately passed messages of support to him. Cohen also discussed pardons with the President’s personal counsel and believed that if he stayed on message he would be taken care of. But after Cohen began cooperating with the government in the summer of 2018, the President publicly criticized him, called him a “rat,” and suggested that his family members had committed crimes.

Overarching factual issues. We did not make a traditional prosecution decision about these facts, but the evidence we obtained supports several general statements about the President’s conduct.

Several features of the conduct we investigated distinguish it from typical obstruction-of-justice cases. First, the investigation concerned the President, and some of his actions, such as firing the FBI director, involved facially lawful acts within his Article II authority, which raises constitutional issues discussed below. At the same time, the President’s position as the head of the Executive Branch provided him with unique and powerful means of influencing official proceedings, subordinate officers, and potential witnesses—all of which is relevant to a potential obstruction-of-justice analysis. Second, unlike cases in which a subject engages in obstruction of justice to cover up a crime, the evidence we obtained did not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. Although the obstruction statutes do not require proof of such a crime, the absence of that evidence affects the analysis of the President’s intent and requires consideration of other possible motives for his conduct. Third, many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view. That circumstance is unusual, but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws. If the likely effect of public acts is to influence witnesses or alter their testimony, the harm to the justice system’s integrity is the same.

Although the series of events we investigated involved discrete acts, the overall pattern of the President’s conduct towards the investigations can shed light on the nature of the President’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent. In particular, the actions we investigated can be divided into two phases, reflecting a possible shift in the President’s motives. The first phase covered the period from the President’s first interactions with Comey through the President’s firing of Comey. During that time, the President had been repeatedly told he was not personally under investigation. Soon after the firing of Comey and the appointment of the Special Counsel, however, the President became aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction-of-justice inquiry. At that point, the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation. Judgments about the nature of the President’s motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.

STATUTORY AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEFENSES
The President’s counsel raised statutory and constitutional defenses to a possible obstruction-of-justice analysis of the conduct we investigated. We concluded that none of those legal defenses provided a basis for declining to investigate the facts.

Statutory defenses. Consistent with precedent and the Department of Justice’s general approach to interpreting obstruction statutes, we concluded that several statutes could apply here. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1505, 1512(b)(3), 1512(c)(2). Section 1512(c)(2) is an omnibus obstruction-of-justice provision that covers a range of obstructive acts directed at pending or contemplated official proceedings. No principle of statutory construction justifies narrowing the provision to cover only conduct that impairs the integrity or availability of evidence. Sections 1503 and 1505 also offer broad protection against obstructive acts directed at pending grand jury, judicial, administrative, and congressional proceedings, and they are supplemented by a provision
in Section 1512(b) aimed specifically at conduct intended to prevent or hinder the communication to law enforcement of information related to a federal crime.

Constitutional defenses. As for constitutional defenses arising from the President’s status as the head of the Executive Branch, we recognized that the Department of Justice and the courts have not definitively resolved these issues. We therefore examined those issues through the framework established by Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues. The Department of Justice and the President’s personal counsel have recognized that the President is subject to statutes that prohibit obstruction of justice by bribing a witness or suborning perjury because that conduct does not implicate his constitutional authority. With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.

Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II powers. The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source. We also concluded that any inroad on presidential authority that would occur from prohibiting corrupt acts does not undermine the President’s ability to fulfill his constitutional mission. The term “corruptly” sets a demanding standard. It requires a concrete showing that a person acted with an intent to obtain an improper advantage for himself or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. A preclusion of “corrupt” official action does not diminish the President’s ability to exercise Article Il powers. For example, the proper supervision of criminal law does not demand freedom for the President to act with a corrupt intention of shielding himself from criminal punishment, avoiding financial liability, or preventing personal embarrassment. To the contrary, a statute that prohibits official action undertaken for such corrupt purposes furthers, rather than hinders, the impartial and evenhanded administration of the law. It also aligns with the President’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. Finally, we concluded that in the rare case in which a criminal investigation of the President’s conduct is justified, inquiries to determine whether the President acted for a corrupt motive should not impermissibly chill his performance of his constitutionally assigned duties. The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

CONCLUSION
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.

Plenty Of Collusion. But Not Enough Evidence Of Criminal Conspiracy.

The president says that the Mueller Report exonerated him of collusion. It most certainly did not. But you can judge for yourself. With Mueller set to testify before Congress this week, I thought it would be helpful to post the executive summaries of the report. This is the report’s Executive Summary of the findings regarding conspiracy and election interference. Pay particular attention to the boldface sections (boldface added), especially those toward the end of this summary.

RUSSIAN SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN
The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation — a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prigozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter]

In mid-2014, the IRA sent employees to the United States on an intelligence-gathering mission with instructions [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter]

The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed “information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton. The IRA’s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials in the United States. The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. Section II of this report details the Office’s investigation of the Russian social media campaign.

RUSSIAN HACKING OPERATIONS
At the same time that the IRA operation began to focus on supporting candidate Trump in early 2016, the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.

In March 2016, the GRU began hacking the email accounts of Clinton Campaign volunteers and employees, including campaign chairman John Podesta. In April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. Around the time that the DNC announced in mid-June 2016 the Russian government’s role in hacking its network, the GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.” The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks.

The presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign” or “Campaign”) showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton. Beginning in June 2016, [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter] forecast to senior Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to candidate Clinton. WikiLeaks’s first release came in July 2016. Around the same time, candidate Trump announced that he hoped Russia would recover emails described as missing from a private server used by Clinton when she was Secretary of State (he later said that he was speaking sarcastically). [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter] WikiLeaks began releasing Podesta’s stolen emails on October 7, 2016, less than one hour after a U.S. media outlet released video considered damaging to candidate Trump. Section III of this Report details the Office’s investigation into the Russian hacking operations, as well as other efforts by Trump Campaign supporters to obtain Clinton-related emails.

RUSSIAN CONTACTS WITH THE CAMPAIGN
The social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government. The Office investigated whether those contacts reflected or resulted in the Campaign conspiring or coordinating with Russia in its election-interference activities. 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.

The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations. Section IV of this Report details the contacts between Russia and the Trump Campaign during the campaign and transition periods, the most salient of which are summarized below in chronological order.

2015. Some of the earliest contacts were made in connection with a Trump Organization real-estate project in Russia known as Trump Tower Moscow. Candidate Trump signed a Letter of Intent for Trump Tower Moscow by November 2015, and in January 2016 Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen emailed and spoke about the project with the office of Russian government press secretary Dmitry Peskov. The Trump Organization pursued the project through at least June 2016, including by considering travel to Russia by Cohen and candidate Trump.

Spring 2016. Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos made early contact with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who had connections to Russia and traveled to Moscow in April 2016. Immediately upon his return to London from that trip, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, in the first week of May 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton. Throughout that period of time and for several months thereafter, Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and two Russian nationals to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. No meeting took place.

Summer 2016. Russian outreach to the Trump Campaign continued into the summer of 2016, as candidate Trump was becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for President. On June 9, 2016, for example, a Russian lawyer met with senior Trump Campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to deliver what the email proposing the meeting had described as “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” The materials were offered to Trump Jr. as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The written communications setting up the meeting showed that the Campaign anticipated receiving information from Russia that could assist candidate Trump’s electoral prospects, but the Russian lawyer’s presentation did not provide such information.

Days after the June 9 meeting, on June 14, 2016, a cybersecurity firm and the DNC announced that Russian government hackers had infiltrated the DNC and obtained access to opposition research on candidate Trump, among other documents.

In July 2016, Campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page traveled in his personal capacity to Moscow and gave the keynote address at the New Economic School. Page had lived and worked in Russia between 2003 and 2007. After returning to the United States, Page became acquainted with at least two Russian intelligence officers, one of whom was later charged in 2015 with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of Russia. Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russian foreign policy drew media attention. The Campaign then distanced itself from Page and, by late September 2016, removed him from the Campaign.

July 2016 was also the month WikiLeaks first released emails stolen by the GRU from the DNC. On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks posted thousands of internal DNC documents revealing information about the Clinton Campaign. Within days, there was public reporting that U.S. intelligence agencies had “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the DNC. And within a week of the release, a foreign government informed the FBI about its May 2016 interaction with Papadopoulos and his statement that the Russian government could assist the Trump Campaign. On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government reporting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.

Separately, on August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President). They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states. Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting.

Fall 2016. On October 7, 2016, the media released video of candidate Trump speaking in graphic terms about women years earlier, which was considered damaging to his candidacy. Less than an hour later, WikiLeaks made its second release: thousands of John Podesta’s emails that had been stolen by the GRU in late March 2016. The FBI and other U.S. government institutions were at the time continuing their investigation of suspected Russian government efforts to interfere in the presidential election. That same day, October 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint public statement “that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” Those “thefts” and the “disclosures” of the hacked materials through online platforms such as WikiLeaks, the statement continued, “are intended to interfere with the US election process.”

Post-2016 Election. Immediately after the November 8 election, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new administration. The most senior levels of the Russian government encouraged these efforts. The Russian Embassy made contact hours after the election to congratulate the President-Elect and to arrange a call with President Putin. Several Russian businessmen picked up the effort from there.

Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, was among the Russians who tried to make contact with the incoming administration. In early December, a business associate steered Dmitriev to Erik Prince, a supporter of the Trump Campaign and an associate of senior Trump advisor Steve Bannon. Dmitriev and Prince later met face-to-face in January 2017 in the Seychelles and discussed U.S.-Russia relations. During the same period, another business associate introduced Dmitriev to a friend of Jared Kushner who had not served on the Campaign or the Transition Team. Dmitriev and Kushner’s friend collaborated on a short written reconciliation plan for the United States and Russia, which Dmitriev implied had been cleared through Putin. The friend gave that proposal to Kushner before the inauguration, and Kushner later gave copies to Bannon and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

On December 29, 2016, then-President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for having interfered in the election. Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and asked Russia not to escalate the situation in response to the sanctions. The following day, Putin announced that Russia would not take retaliatory measures in response to the sanctions at that time. Hours later, President-Elect Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin).” The next day, on December 31, 2016, Kislyak called Flynn and told him the request had been received at the highest levels and Russia had chosen not to retaliate as a result of Flynn’s request.
***
On January 6, 2017, members of the intelligence community briefed President-Elect Trump on a joint assessment—drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, and National Security Agency—that concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s. A declassified version of the assessment was publicly released that same day.

Between mid-January 2017 and early February 2017, three congressional committees—the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), and the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC)—announced that they would conduct inquiries, or had already been conducting inquiries, into Russian interference in the election. Then-FBI Director James Comey later confirmed to Congress the existence of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference that had begun before the election. On March 20, 2017, in open-session testimony before HPSCI, Comey stated: I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. . . . As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

The investigation continued under then-Director Comey for the next seven weeks until May 9, 2017, when President Trump fired Comey as FBI Director—an action which is analyzed in Volume II of the report.

On May 17, 2017, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed the Special Counsel and authorized him to conduct the investigation that Comey had confirmed in his congressional testimony, as well as matters arising directly from the investigation, and any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a), which generally covers efforts to interfere with or obstruct the investigation.

President Trump reacted negatively to the Special Counsel’s appointment. He told advisors that it was the end of his presidency, sought to have Attorney General Jefferson (Jeff) Sessions unrecuse from the Russia investigation and to have the Special Counsel removed, and engaged in efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation and prevent the disclosure of evidence to it, including through public and private contacts with potential witnesses. Those and related actions are described and analyzed in Volume II of the report.
***
THE SPECIAL COUNSEL’S CHARGING DECISIONS
In reaching the charging decisions described in Volume I of the report, the Office determined whether the conduct it found amounted to a violation of federal criminal law chargeable under the Principles of Federal Prosecution. See Justice Manual § 9-27.000 et seq. (2018). The standard set forth in the Justice Manual is whether the conduct constitutes a crime; if so, whether admissible evidence would probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction; and whether prosecution would serve a substantial federal interest that could not be adequately served by prosecution elsewhere or through non-criminal alternatives. See Justice Manual § 9-27.220.

Section V of the report provides detailed explanations of the Office’s charging decisions, which contain three main components.

First, the Office determined that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations—violated U.S. criminal law. Many of the individuals and entities involved in the social media campaign have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections, as well as related counts of identity theft. See United States v. Internet Research Agency, et al., No. 18-cr-32 (D.D.C.). Separately, Russian intelligence officers who carried out the hacking into Democratic Party computers and the personal email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign conspired to violate, among other federal laws, the federal computer-intrusion statute, and they have been so charged. See United States v. Netyksho, et al., No. 18-cr-215 (D.D.C.). [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter, Personal Privacy]

Second, while the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

Third, the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference. The Office charged some of those lies as violations of the federal false statements statute. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about his interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak during the transition period. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor during the campaign period, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about, inter alia, the nature and timing of his interactions with Joseph Mifsud, the professor who told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Former Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about the Trump Moscow project. [Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter] And in February 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Manafort lied to the Office and the grand jury concerning his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik about Trump Campaign polling data and a peace plan for Ukraine.
***
The Office investigated several other events that have been publicly reported to involve potential Russia-related contacts. For example, the investigation established that interaction between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate’s April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive. And the investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia. The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.

The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office’s judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information — such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media — in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g., Justice Manual §§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter (or “taint”) team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well-numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.

Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

Filling The “Swamp” With Predators And Know-Nothings.

In 2016, Trump promised voters that he would “drain the swamp” of lifelong politicians and lobbyists – the so-called “Deep State.” To a degree, he has done that. But, instead of banning lobbyists from the corridors of Washington, he has encouraged them to stay in his Washington hotel and at Mar-a-Lago where he and his family can better profit from their activities. Instead of bringing in the “best people,” he has replaced longtime public servants and scientists with know-nothings and predators – those seeking to use their positions, like Trump, to enrich themselves and their friends.

For Treasury Secretary, he replaced the controversy-free Jack Lew with Steve Mnuchin, a product of Wall Street and Hollywood who aggressively pursued foreclosures during the Great Recession and who, once in office, promptly decided he could use taxpayer-funded military aircraft for personal use.

For Interior Secretary, he replaced the pro-environment Sally Jewell with Ryan Zinke who rode a horse (cared for at taxpayer expense) to his office, demanded that the secretary’s flag be flown over the building when he was in residence, gave away federal lands to states and the mineral rights to the highest bidders, claimed climate change is “unproven” science, chartered taxpayer-funded jets for private use, reduced national monuments and sacred tribal lands in order that they could be opened for drilling and mining, and rescinded numerous environmental regulations.

For Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, he replaced Gina McCarthy, a long-time environmental scientist, with former Senator Scott Pruitt, a man with no science background who was not only cozy with the oil industry. He had spent years fighting the agency in court on behalf of polluters. Pruitt promptly began using the office for personal gain, in addition to spending thousands on an unnecessary sound-proof booth for phone calls. He then went about dismantling a host of environmental regulations for the benefit of himself and his fossil fuel buddies.

For Energy Secretary, he replaced Grace Bochenek, an industrial engineer and former director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory, with former Texas governor Rick Perry, who has spent his career in politics. His only qualification for the office is that he has a degree in animal science and in yelling from a snotty military school (yes, that’s an accurate description of ATM). And his only knowledge of the department he leads was that, while campaigning for president, he wanted to dismantle it. Only after he was installed in office did he discover that the department controlled our stockpile of nuclear weapons and other assets.

For Commerce Secretary, Trump replaced Penny Pritzker, an entrepreneur and successful businesswoman with Wilbur Ross, a fellow grifter and friend of Trump’s. In contrast to his predecessor who sold her interests in 221 companies to avoid conflicts of interests, Ross is a walking, talking mass of conflicts of interests. He not only failed to divest of his financial holdings, he has been accused of using his position to further enrich himself through insider trading.

For Labor Secretary, he replaced Tom Perez, a civil rights champion and former Maryland Secretary of Labor with Alexander Acosta. Instead of fighting for labor, Acosta has overseen the dismantling of labor unions. But he is best known for his plea-bargain with billionaire sex predator and pedophile, Jeffery Epstein, a deal that has come back to haunt him.

I could go on. But you get the idea – at least you should.

The rest of the Trump administration, a group brought in to “drain the swamp,” consists largely of sycophants and political operatives: Sonny Perdue, Elaine Chao (Sen. McConnell’s wife), Ben Carson, William Barr, and Betsy DeVos. Most of the other cabinet members, including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, serve as acting directors or secretaries – likely because they would have difficulty being confirmed. In addition, those who serve in acting roles are less independent. They are more malleable and willing to accept Trump’s corruption. And who could forget “Javanka” – Ivanka and Jared Kushner – the grifters in training who serve as Trump’s closest advisors? They couldn’t even obtain security clearance without the intervention of Trump himself. The rest of the administration is comprised of people who operate behind the scenes to push an extreme agenda of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

Of course, there have been a few – very few – who have served this administration with integrity and honor. But they soon resigned or were fired.

So, contrary to a reclaimed swamp, Washington has become populated by a new set of swamp monsters far more dangerous and greedy than any who preceded them. It is now even more fertile ground for predators, grifters and con artists. Would you expect anything less from the predator-in-chief?

God save us if he gets another four years and a compliant GOP-controlled Congress!