Takeaways from Robert Mueller's Russia probe report

Redacted pages (above) from the report by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller (left). One revelation is that President Donald Trump appears to have asked aides to do things that made them uncomfortable. However, they often simply did not follow through
Redacted pages from the report by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller (above). One revelation is that President Donald Trump appears to have asked aides to do things that made them uncomfortable. However, they often simply did not follow through. PHOTO: NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Redacted pages (above) from the report by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller (left). One revelation is that President Donald Trump appears to have asked aides to do things that made them uncomfortable. However, they often simply did not follow through
Redacted pages (above) from the report by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller. One revelation is that President Donald Trump appears to have asked aides to do things that made them uncomfortable. However, they often simply did not follow through. PHOTO: NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Special Counsel Robert Mueller produced a report of more than 400 pages that painted a deeply unflattering picture of President Donald Trump, but stopped short of accusing him of criminal wrongdoing. Here are seven takeaways.

1. Trump aides didn't follow through on some orders

One of the most intriguing parts of this report is the window it provides into how Mr Trump's aides view him. There have been many leaks suggesting internal discord in the White House, but here the aides were compelled to tell the truth.

A common thread seems to be forming: Mr Trump appears to have asked aides to falsely deny things or do things that made them uncomfortable. However, they often simply didn't follow through.

2. Many false statements. And many changed stories

One of the unanswered questions of the past two years - which helped fuel the FBI investigation, congressional inquiries and journalistic scrutiny - is why so many people lied, changed their stories and issued misleading statements to both the public and the authorities.

The report recaps one false statement after another.

3. Fake news? Not so much  

One of the unhelpful realities of the Russia probe thus far has been that so many revelations were based upon anonymous sources.

That has allowed Mr Trump to argue to his supporters that the stories were wrong, totally made-up "fake news". However, many of them have now been confirmed by the report. In one such example, Mr Mueller seems to believe Mr Trump falsely denied asking former FBI director James Comey for loyalty.

4. Report does not exonerateTrump 

Mr Trump was quick to declare the report a total vindication. But Mr Mueller went out of his way not to exonerate Mr Trump.

His report said that his conduct in office "presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred".

5. Evading an FBI interview on his lawyers' advice was a good strategy

Mr Trump repeatedly said he was eager to sit for an interview with Mr Mueller's team, despite his lawyers' insistence that it was a terrible idea.

The report makes clear why his lawyers were so worried about it. Mr Mueller had a huge cache of unanswered questions, misleading and conflicting statements, and unexplained actions with which to confront the President.

Mr Mueller said he chose not to subpoena the President because a court fight would delay the investigation.

6. No evidence of conspiracy, but lots of reasons to investigate

Mr Mueller makes explicit what Mr Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on: Russia secretly manipulated the 2016 presidential election.

The investigation ultimately found no evidence that anyone from Mr Trump's campaign participated in that effort, but the report reveals in stark detail the many suspicious interactions that had the FBI so worried.

Many of those have been reported, but the report amounts to a compendium that helps explain the origins of the FBI investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

7. Consequences remain to be seen

Prosecutors describe a president who was preoccupied with ending a federal investigation, a White House that told misleading and changing stories, and a presidential campaign that was in repeated contact with Russian officials.

Even though prosecutors concluded that did not amount to provably criminal conduct, the report is astounding in its sweep.

The consequences of the report remain to be seen, but if people are not surprised or shocked by the revelations, then Mr Trump may have benefited from the steady drip of news stories he has so loudly criticised.

WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2019, with the headline 'Takeaways from probe report'. Print Edition | Subscribe