Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mueller Report Highlights

The intro:
            “As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.”

They Shared Campaign Information with the Russians
“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.

They Trump Campaign Members Lied to Investigators
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.
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.

They Tampered with Evidence
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.

The Russians used Social Media to Influence at least 126 Million Americans
By the end of the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts. Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of U.S. participants. IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who retweeted IRA-created content. In November 2017, a Facebook representative testified that Facebook had identified 470 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017. Facebook estimated the IRA reached as many as 126 million persons through its Facebook accounts.6 In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1.4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.
To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.
These Social Media Activities had Real World Consequences “The Office identified dozens of U.S. rallies organized by the IRA. The earliest evidence of a rally was a “confederate rally” in November 2015.”

The Russians also Hacked the Democrats
“On July 6, 2016, WikiLeaks again contacted Guccifer 2.0 through Twitter’s private messaging function, writing, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Guccifer 2.0 persona responded, “ok…i see.” WikiLeaks also explained, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary…so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing. The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks’s claims about the source of material that it posted.

Trump’s Request that Russians Hack Hillary was Taken Seriously by Russia
Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office. After candidate Trump’s remarks, Unit 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 email accounts at the domain ████████████████████████████████████████████████ including an email account belonging to Clinton aide ████████████████████████████████████████████████ The investigation did not find evidence of earlier GRU attempts to compromise accounts hosted on this domain. It is unclear how the GRU was able to identify these email accounts, which were not public.

The Trump Campaign Coordinated with Wikileaks, who Coordinated with the Russians
According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.

Trump’s Son was Given the Passwords to an Anti-Trump PAC’s Website!
Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period. On September 20, 2016, an individual named Jason Fishbein sent WikiLeaks the password for an unlaunched website focused on Trump’s “unprecedented and dangerous” ties to Russia, WikiLeaks publicly tweeted; “‘Let’s bomb Iraq’ Progress for America PAC to launch “’ at 9:30am. Oops pw is ‘putintrump’” Several hours later, WikiLeaks sent a Twitter direct message to Donald Trump Jr., “A PAC run anti-Trump site is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”253. Several hours later, Trump Jr. emailed a variety of senior campaign staff: Guys I got a weird Twitter DM from wiki leaks. See below. I tried the password and it works and the about section they reference contains the next pic in terms of who is behind it. Not sure if this is anything but it seems like it’s really wikileaks asking me as I follow them and it is a DM. Do you know the people mentioned and what the conspiracy they are looking for could be? These are just screen shots but it’s a fully built out page claiming to be a PAC let me know your thoughts and if we want to look into it…The next day (after the website had launched publicly), Trump Jr. sent a direct message to WikiLeaks: “Off the record, I don’t know who that is but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”

Wikileaks Used Donald Trump Jr. as a Puppet
On October 12, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again that it was “great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us”257 WikiLeaks wrote that the link would help Trump in “digging through” leaked emails and stated, “we just released Podesta emails Part 4.”258 Two days later, Trump Jr. publicly tweeted the link.

A Summary of the Hacking
In sum, the investigation established that the GRU hacked into email accounts of persons affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, as well as the computers of the DNC and DCCC. The GRU then exfiltrated data related to the 2016 election from these accounts and computers, and disseminated that data through fictitious online personas (DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0) and later through WikiLeaks.”

Trump’s Campaign for President Seen as an “Infomercial” for Trump’s Real Estate Empire
“According to Cohen, he did not consider the political import of the Trump Moscow project to the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the time. Cohen also did not recall candidate Trump or anyone affiliated with the Trump Campaign discussing the political implications of the Trump Moscow project with him. However, Cohen recalled conversations with Trump in which the candidate suggested that his campaign would be a significant “infomercial” for Trump-branded properties.

Everyone Pretended to be More Important than they were… and they became Important
According to Papadopoulos, Mifsud at first seemed uninterested in Papadopoulos when they met in Rome.416 After Papadopoulos informed Mifsud about his role in the Trump Campaign, however, Mifsud appeared to take greater interest in Papadopoulos.

Not Actually Putin’s Niece
I just finished a very productive lunch with a good friend of mine, Joseph Mifsud, the director of the London Academy of Diplomacy--who introduced me to both Putin’s niece and the Russian Ambassador in London--who also acts as the Deputy Foreign Minister.428 The topic of the lunch was to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump. They are keen to host us in a “neutral” city, or directly in Moscow. They said the leadership, including Putin, is ready to meet with us and Mr. Trump should there be interest, Waiting for everyone’s thoughts on moving forward with this very important issue.

The Trump Campaign Freely Shared Campaign Information with the Russians
did not see a downside to sharing campaign information, and told Gates that his role in the Campaign would be “good for business” and potentially a way to be made whole for work he previously completed in the Ukraine. As to Deripaska, Manafort claimed that by sharing campaign information with him, Deripaska might see value in their relationship and resolve a “disagreement”—a reference to one or more outstanding lawsuits.

Manafort saw the Campaign as a Business Opportunity
Manafort agreed to work on the Campaign without pay. Manafort had no meaningful income at this point in time, but resuscitating his domestic political campaign career could be financially beneficial in the future. Gates reported that Manafort intended, if Trump won the Presidency, to remain outside the Administration and monetize his relationship with the Administration.
Gates reported that Manafort said that being hired on the Campaign would be “good for business” and increase the likelihood that Manafort would be paid the approximately $2 million he was owed for previous political consulting work in Ukraine.

First Reasserting Russian Control of Ukraine, then the Rust Belt 
“First, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed a plan to resolve the ongoing political problems in Ukraine by creating an autonomous republic in its more industrialized eastern region of Donbas,922 and having Yanukovych, the Ukrainian President ousted in 2014, elected to head that republic.923 That plan, Manafort later acknowledged, constituted a “backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine.
Second, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s plan to win the election.930 That briefing encompassed the Campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of “battleground” states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.
Third, according to Gates and what Kilimnik told Patten, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed two sets of financial disputes related to Manafort’s previous work in the region. Those consisted of the unresolved Deripaska lawsuit and the funds that the Opposition Bloc owed to Manafort for his political consulting work and how Manafort might be able to obtain payment.

Trump People Keep Bluffing and Exaggerating their Importance
After his dinner with Prince, Nader sent Prince a link to a Wikipedia entry about Dmitriev, and sent Dmitriev a message stating that he had just met “with some key people within the family and inner circle”—a reference to Prince—and that he had spoken at length and positively about Dmitriev.

But Her Emails!
Bannon told the Office that, during both the months before and after the Seychelles meeting, he regularly used his personal Blackberry and personal email for work-related communications (including those with Prince), and he took no steps to preserve these work communications.

So Incurious
Kushner stated in an interview that he did not engage in any preparation for the meeting and that no one on the Transition Team even did a Google search for Gorkov’s name.

They Knew the Meeting was about Dirt on Clinton
“Documentary evidence in the form of email chains supports the inference that Kushner and Manafort were aware of that purpose and attended the June 9 meeting anticipating the receipt of helpful information to the Campaign from Russian sources.

Is Information a Contribution?
in light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving “documents and information” of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law.
Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense. And, while Manafort is experienced with political campaigns, the Office has not developed evidence showing that he had relevant knowledge of these legal issues.

This Account was False
“During the interview, Papadopoulos lied about the timing, extent, and nature of his communications with Joseph Mifsud, Olga Polonskaya, and Ivan Timofeev. With respect to timing, Papadopoulos acknowledged that he had met Mifsud and that Mifsud told him the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” But Papadopoulos stated multiple times that those communications occurred before he joined the Trump Campaign and that it was a “very strange coincidence” to be told of the “dirt” before he started working for the Campaign. This account was false.

Flynn Lied
Michael Flynn agreed to be interviewed by the FBI on January 24, 2017, four days after he had officially assumed his duties as National Security Advisor to the President. During the interview, Flynn made several false statements pertaining to his communications with the Russian ambassador.

Cohen Lied:
“The letter contained three representations relevant here. First, Cohen stated that the Trump Moscow project had ended in January 2016 and that he had briefed candidate Trump on the project only three times before making the unilateral decision to terminate it. Second, Cohen represented that he never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the project and never considered asking Trump to travel for the project. Third, Cohen stated that he did not recall any Russian government contact about the project, including any response to an email that he had sent to a Russian government email account.Each of the foregoing representations in Cohen’s two-page statement was false and misleading.

Sessions Lied
“The investigation also established that Sessions and Kislyak both attended a reception held before candidate Trump’s foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., in April 2016, and that it is possible that they met briefly at that reception.”

The OLC Claims a Sitting President is Above the Law
“The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has issued an opinion finding that “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions” in violation of “the constitutional separation of powers.”

The President is NOT not Guilty of Obstruction of Justice
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, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

Trump Lies
“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 ██████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████ 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.

Folk in Trump’s orbit choose whether or not to follow his orders
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.

Trump’s team lies about the President editing his son’s press statement
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.

Congress needs to hold Trump accountable, because no one is above the law
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.

The President Refused to be Interviewed
After more than a year of discussion, the President declined to be interviewed.

The President would not answer questions related to Obstruction of Justice
“During the course of our discussions, the President did agree to answer written questions on certain Russia-related topics, and he provided us with answers. He did not similarly agree to provide written answers to questions on obstruction topics or questions on events during the transition.

The President Acts in a Two Faced Manner
Priebus recalled that the President hugged Flynn, shook his hand, and said, “We’ll give you a good recommendation. You’re a good guy. We’ll take care of you.”212 Talking points on the resignation prepared by the White House Counsel’s Office and distributed to the White House communications team stated that McGahn had advised the President that Flynn was unlikely to be prosecuted, and the President had determined that the issue with Flynn was one of trust.213 Spicer told the press the next day that Flynn was forced to resign “not based on a legal issue, but based on a trust issue, [where] a level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where [the President] felt he had to make a change.”

Christie doesn’t follow orders
Towards the end of the lunch, the President brought up Comey and asked if Christie was still friendly with him.224 Christie said he was.225 The President told Christie to call Comey and tell him that the President “really like[s] him. Tell him he’s part of the team.”226 At the end of the lunch, the President repeated his request that Christie reach out to Comey.227 Christie had no intention of complying with the President’s request that he contact Comey.228 He thought the President’s request was “nonsensical” and Christie did not want to put Comey in the position of having to receive such a phone call.229 Christie thought it would have been uncomfortable to pass on that message.

Sanders Lied
Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from “countless members of the FBI” was a “slip of the tongue.”482 She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made “in the heat of the moment” that was not founded on anything.

Rosenstein gets used
Also on May 10, 2017, Sessions and Rosenstein each spoke to McGahn and expressed concern that the White House was creating a narrative that Rosenstein had initiated the decision to fire Comey.484 The White House Counsel’s Office agreed that it was factually wrong to say that the Department of Justice had initiated Comey’s termination.

Another Person Doesn’t Follow Orders
The message “definitely raised an eyebrow” for Dearborn, and he recalled not wanting to ask where it came from or think further about doing anything with it.627 Dearborn also said that being asked to serve as a messenger to Sessions made him uncomfortable.628 He recalled later telling Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, but he did not actually follow through with delivering the message to Sessions, and he did not keep a copy of the typewritten notes Lewandowski had given him.

Hope Hicks tries to stop the president from shooting himself in the foot
Sessions’s recusal, the President said, was “very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”632 Hicks, who was present for the interview, recalled trying to “throw [herself] between the reporters and [the President]” to stop parts of the interview, but the President “loved the interview.”

Yet Another Person Doesn’t Follow the President’s Orders
Porter did not contact Brand because he was sensitive to the implications of that action and did not want to be involved in a chain of events associated with an effort to end the investigation or fire the Special Counsel.

Trump’s People Continue to Try to Stop Him from Obstructing Justice
The President then directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel.797 Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file “for our records” and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate.798 The President referred to McGahn as a “lying bastard” and said that he wanted a record from him.799 Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, “If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him.”the President’s efforts to have McGahn write a letter “for our records” approximately ten days after the stories had come out—well past the typical time to issue a correction for a news story—indicates the President was not focused solely on a press strategy, but instead likely contemplated the ongoing investigation and any proceedings arising from it.

Trump’s feelings are false or fickle, based on if you are useful to him
I understand your situation, but let me see if I can’t state it in starker terms….[I]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….
As the proceedings against Manafort progressed in court, the President told Porter that he never liked Manafort and that Manafort did not know what he was doing on the campaign.851 The President discussed with aides whether and in what way Manafort might be cooperating with the Special Counsel’s investigation, and whether Manafort knew any information that would be harmful to the President.

Lot’s of Winks and Nods
Giuliani also said in an interview that, although the President should not pardon anyone while the Special Counsel’s investigation was ongoing, “when the investigation is concluded, he’s kind of on his own, right?”
Obstructive act. The President’s actions towards witnesses in the Special Counsel’s investigation would qualify as obstructive if they had the natural tendency to prevent particular witnesses from testifying truthfully, or otherwise would have the probable effect of influencing, delaying, or preventing their testimony to law enforcement.
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.

Trump Assumes everyone is corrupt and everyone hates each other
At the same time, although the President had privately told aides he did not like Manafort, he publicly called Manafort “a good man” and said he had a “wonderful family.” And when the President was asked whether he was considering a pardon for Manafort, the President did not respond directly and instead said he had “great respect for what [Manafort]’s done, in terms of what he’s gone through.” The President added that “some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.” In light of the President’s counsel’s previous statements that the investigations “might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons” and that a pardon would be possible if the President “come[s] to the conclusion that you have been treated unfairly,” 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.

Some evidence supports a conclusion that the President intended, at least in part, to influence the jury.

Cohen was lying for Trump
On October 24 and 25, 2017, Cohen testified before Congress and repeated the false statements he had included in his written statement about Trump Tower Moscow.1005 Phone records show that Cohen spoke with the President’s personal counsel immediately after his testimony on both days.
On February 19, 2018, the day after the New York Times wrote a detailed story attributing the payment to Cohen and describing Cohen as the President’s “fixer,” Cohen received a text message from the President’s personal counsel that stated, “Client says thanks for what you do.”

Obstruction is Obstruction no matter the intention 
In this investigation, the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. But the evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President’s conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events—such as advance notice of WikiLeaks’s release of hacked information or the June 9, 2016 meeting between senior campaign officials and Russians—could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family.

Tweeting can threaten justice
enhanced by his unique ability to attract attention through use of mass communications. And no principle of law excludes public acts from the scope of obstruction statutes. If the likely effect of the acts is to intimidate witnesses or alter their testimony, the justice system’s integrity is equally threatened.

Although the events we investigated involved discrete acts—e.g., the President’s statement to Comey about the Flynn investigation, his termination of Comey, and his efforts to remove the Special Counsel—it is important to view the President’s pattern of conduct as a whole. That pattern sheds light on the nature of the President’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent.The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony. Viewing the acts collectively can help to illuminate their significance.

People not taking the President’s orders seriously is what kept him safe
The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.

The scope of the president’s actions
the President attempted to remove the Special Counsel; he sought to have Attorney General Sessions unrecuse himself and limit the investigation; he sought to prevent public disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and campaign officials; and he used public forums to attack potential witnesses who might offer adverse information and to praise witnesses who declined to cooperate with the government. Judgments about the nature of the President’s motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.

The President isn’t above the law
Under that view, any statute that restricts the President’s exercise of those powers would impermissibly 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 laws prohibiting bribing witnesses or suborning perjury.

The President isn’t a King
Under that framework, we concluded, Article II 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.

Under OLC’s analysis, Congress can permissibly criminalize certain obstructive conduct by the President, such as suborning perjury, intimidating witnesses, or fabricating evidence, because those prohibitions raise no separation-of-powers questions.
n this context, a balancing test applies to assess separation-of-powers issues. Applying that test here, we concluded that Congress can validly make obstruction-of-justice statutes applicable to corruptly motivated official acts of the President without impermissibly undermining his Article II functions.

Under the Supreme Court’s balancing test for analyzing separation-of-powers issues, the first task is to assess the degree to which applying obstruction-of-justice statutes to presidential actions affects the President’s ability to carry out his Article II responsibilities.

In the case of the obstruction-of-justice statutes, our assessment of the weighing of interests leads us to conclude that Congress has the authority to impose the limited restrictions contained in those statutes on the President’s official conduct to protect the integrity of important functions of other branches of government.

Direct or indirect action by the President to end a criminal investigation into his own or his family members’ conduct to protect against personal embarrassment or legal liability would constitute a core example of corruptly motivated conduct. So too would action to halt an enforcement proceeding that directly and adversely affected the President’s financial interests for the purpose of protecting those interests. In those examples, officiai power is being used for the purpose of protecting the President’s personal interests. In contrast, the President’s actions to serve political or policy interests would not qualify as corrupt. 

No One Is Above The Law
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 “[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.”

while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

The President Should Have Been Interviewed
We also advised counsel that “[a]n interview with the President is vital to our investigation” and that this Office had “carefully considered the constitutional and other arguments raised by…counsel, and they d[id] not provide us with reason to forgo seeking an interview.”

Either the President has a memory problem or is weaseling out of the truth
We received the President’s written responses in late November 2018.4 In December 2018, we informed counsel of the insufficiency of those responses in several respects.5 We noted, among other things, that the President stated on more than 30 occasions that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’” of information called for by the questions.6 Other answers were “incomplete or imprecise.”7 The written responses, we informed counsel, “demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format, as we have had no opportunity to ask follow-up questions that would ensure complete answers and potentially refresh your client’s recollection or clarify the extent or nature of his lack of recollection.”

We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that “[t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all of the evidence we have gathered.”9 The President declined.

It was just a joke
I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer.

My Summary of the Mueller Report

My Summary:
The Russians did it, the Trump team bungles everything, there were many instances of obstruction that Congress needs to follow up on, and the President recalls NOTHING.

The Russians Did It
            The Russians used social media to influence 126 million Americans with propaganda that highlighted divisions in the country, and later assisted the most divisive candidate, Donald Trump. This had real world implications, including people attending rallies in real life.
            The Russians also hacked a bunch of Democratic Party officials and offices. They then leaked this information to Wikileaks. Wikileaks coordinated with members of the Trump political team. This included giving stolen passwords to an anti-Trump PAC website to Donald Trump Jr. and leaking the Clinton Campaigns playbook. Imagine competing against an opponent who knew your every plan and schedule; that would be incredibly unfair.

The Trump Team Bungles Everything
            One thing that comes across loud and clear in the report is that the Trump team is decidedly not the Best and the Brightest. They bluff to no end, claiming authority they don’t have; they claim that they attend meetings with people when all they did was google the person’s name; they make assumptions about what is going on that just aren’t true, but keep going because why not… 
            A crazy example that points to all of these tendencies: Papadopoulos meets a Russian academic, who won’t pay attention to him at a party, until he starts bragging that he is high up in Trump’s organization (which he is not). Then the Russian sets up a meeting with Papadopoulos and two other Russians, one of them a woman. Papadopoulos brags to the Trump team that the Russian academic, who didn’t really want to talk to him, is his good friend. Then he tells the team that the woman at the meeting he is at is in fact Putin’s niece. She is not. Later Trump Junior looks up the name of one of the Russians on Wikipedia and tells the team that he just got off the phone with the person… but in actuality all he did was google the guy’s name… this kind of thing happens A LOT in the report! In general, it seems that the entire Trump team is incapable of making true statements.

There Were Many Instances of Obstruction that Congress Needs to Follow Up On
            Discerning whether a President can obstruct justice is a complex constitutional question, above Mueller’s pay grade, so to speak.
            Defining what Obstruction of Justice is, however, was not nearly as hard. Mueller defines Obstruction of Justice as having three parts, an obstructive act, a nexus between the acts and an official proceeding, and corrupt intent. In other words, did the person do something, that would harm an official proceeding, and was it intentional? 
            Mueller then lays out 14 instances where the President’s actions could be an Obstruction of Justice and analyzes them with the above three criterion. Then he goes on and says these 14 instances, looked at together, could establish a pattern of the President attempting to Obstruct Justice. Mueller then asserts that no one is above the law and congress ought to look into these 14 instances of Obstruction of Justice.

The President Recalls NOTHING
            Finally, we can read the President’s written responses to Mueller’s questions. In a very short couple of paragraphs the president claims that he doesn’t recall specific events 30 times!

Sermon: Psalm 23

Sermon: Psalm 23
              “It seems like we only get together like this at funerals.”
              I don’t know how many times, as a Pastor, I’ve heard that phrase.
              At the same time—I’d imagine funeral goers could flip that around in a way, “It seems like I only hear Psalm 23 preached at funerals.”
              And there is a good reason for it—it is THE Psalm of Comfort.
              It reminds us that God was present with the person who has died, that their whole life was shot through with God’s presence… and for good measure those who mourn are reminded that the same is true for them.
              Additionally, there is that promise of being shepherded through the Shadow of Death and finding a dwelling place with the Lord Forever…
              These are all deeply important promises—they are also promises we Christians ought to be reminded of on the other side of the funeral pall as well… Psalm 23 is for the living too… Psalm 23 is for us here and now—for the living as well as for the dead.
Let us pray

              The Lord is our Shepherd—the one who calls us by name, the one whose voice brings us comfort and awe—Jesus Christ… is God meeting us! God continually meets us in Jesus.
              The Book of Revelation makes this point in a twofold way, it does this strange thing with the Throne of God…
…you see it and there is God, then there is the Lamb, then there is God
It also tells us a paradoxical truth, the Lamb is the Shepherd.
              The Gospel of John makes a similar point by saying it plain, “I and the Father are one.”
              That one, Jesus whom we love and trust, Jesus who is our sibling and our friend—through him we see and know God—we can begin to grasp that the Lord is our Shepherd.

              Grasp as well that when we talk about salvation—what God has done for us through Jesus—that we are saved for this life too…
called to a full life,
an abundant life,
a life of meaning and joy
a life worth savoring!
              You know why “Keep the Sabbath” makes the 10 commandments? Because otherwise we would miss the green pastures and still waters the Shepherd kindly leads us to on account of our many labors and distractions.
              Now, E.B. White, once wrote, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
              That first impulse, saving the world—that’s part of God’s guiding too, part of following along right pathways.
              We are called to follow our Lord. This is the ongoing story in the book of Acts—the Early Church continually acts faithfully… to a point and then call it good—but the Holy Spirit refuses to let them be, instead it prompts them forward in faith, to act like Jesus—Peter raises a woman from the dead in Acts just as Jesus did in Luke—he’s being the Body of Christ in the World, which is what we are!
              The salvation we are given by Christ is not something to be horded or guarded, but instead given away, salvation is multiplied by being divided! We are to open our hands and our hearts to everyone—just as Christ our Lord has done for us and for the whole world!
              And then we get to the crux of it all, here in verse 4—there are 26 words before it and 26 words after it—it is the smack dab center of Psalm 23, and the center of the faith.
              “You are with me.”
              “You are with me.”
              “You are with me.”
              This is why we call Jesus “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.”
              This is why St. Patrick prayed that powerful prayer:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me. 
              What if we were aware of God’s presence
—aware of the way Jesus is always with us
—aware that at this very moment the Holy Spirit is here with you—right now!
              Right now in your neighbor next to you, right now in the scripture you read, right now in the words of my mouth, right now in the holy meal we will eat and drink, right now!

              God present with us in adversity as well, after all when we look for God dwelling among us, where do we find God? On the Cross.
              Even when we are surrounded by enemies—in our lowest moments, comfort and balm are on offer by God.
              Lost in all the weird imagery of the book of Revelation is it’s central message, a message of hope to a bunch of Christians facing persecution—be washed, receive the overflowing love of God! Even in your hour of need!

              Surely this is all good news! God who is merciful and just knows and loves us in Jesus Christ.
 We are called to a meaningful life and to bring meaning and hope to others.
God is with us!
God is with us even in the worst!
Even to the end and beyond the end.
Nothing can snatch us away from the hands of the good shepherd.
              Thanks be to God.