The "Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election" prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III and his team is a meticulously crafted legal document that chose to ground its findings and recommendations in a very conservative reading of the law. The narrative of the Report exposes an administration in disarray that has already been depicted in a number of sensational books. The general public has worried about the relationship between Trump administration’s (and campaign) officials and unsavory Russians, as well as their involvement in suspicious Russian business deals. The response of these officials has had, at best, only a very licentious relation to truth.
The President, who answered Mueller’s questions in writing and refused to be interviewed in person, asserts more than 30 times that he does not remember or recollect a specific event. The Report also shows that the President sought to take unlawful action to oppose Mueller’s inquest, but that he was prevented from doing so because his subordinates chose not to follow his orders for fear of breaking the law or potential self-incrimination. Yet some of the most outrageous assertions of the Steele Report, prepared by a former MI6 agent, have either been disproved or were unsubstantiated.
10% of the published text was drafted by Attorney General William Barr, to whom Mueller submitted his report. Both in his initial four-page letter addressed to the Congressional leaders and, more importantly, in his press conference interpreting the Report’s findings before anyone had had a chance to read the document, Barr presented a partisan perspective that defended the President’s record and argued that the Report absolved him fully from both "collusion" and "obstruction of justice" charges. Barr’s partisanship was somewhat balanced by the writing of the report, which maintained its integrity, although congressional Democrats continue to demande seeing the full text.
The Report must also be evaluated in the political context of the United States. It is as much a political document as it is a legal one. It comes out in a violently contentious political environment, and Mueller, a former Deputy Attorney General and FBI Director, displays his consciousness of this fact throughout. The report self-consciously proclaims a commitment to the letter of the law, interpreted in a way that protects the Executive despite the authors’ misgivings, based on manifest evidence of malfeasance.
The roots of the Report lay in the discovery that the Russian Government was interfering in the 2016 Presidential elections. It led to an FBI investigation, which, through a complicated concatenation of events, led to the commissioning of the Mueller investigation, which has now produced two volumes and 448-pages.
The first Volume deals with the scope and mechanisms of the Russian intervention that favored a Donald Trump win. It investigates whether or not there was "collusion" between the Russian agencies and the Trump Campaign. The Report establishes that a private Russian company, Internet Research Agency (IRA), and the Russian Federation’s Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) actively interfered with and exploited the vulnerabilities of the electoral process. These two organizations also benefited from the greed of social media companies such as Facebook, which turned a blind eye to the stark evidence of manipulation accumulating before their eyes.
The Russian goal was to block the victory of Hillary Clinton at all costs during the primaries and the General election, and to secure a victory for Donald Trump. IRA manipulated social media through fake accounts and reached millions of American citizens. Senate investigations concluded that IRA posts on Instagram received 187 million engagements and its posts on Facebook 77 million. GRU’s task was to hack the accounts of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) as well as "individuals and entities involved in the administration of these elections" according to the Report. By mid-June GRU started posting the stolen documents. It also made use of the declared antipathy of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for Hillary Clinton by passing on stolen material to the organization. Wikileaks published what it received from GRU: Clinton’s mails in March and stolen DNC material in July. This was the period when candidate Trump was declaring on every occasion his love for Wikileaks and asking them to bring in more material.