Mueller Report Finds No Trump-Russia Collusion
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is Special Coverage of the Mueller report from NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin. Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his report to the Justice Department on Friday. And after a day-and-a-half of review, the attorney general, William Barr, has drafted a four-page letter to Congress describing what he says are Mueller's conclusions. We are going to spend the next hour digging into that letter.
We'll be joined for this hour in studio by Phil Ewing, our national security correspondent. Carrie Johnson, our national justice correspondent, has been at the Justice Department all weekend awaiting these findings. They're both here with us now. Welcome to you both. Thank you both so much for being here.
PHIL EWING, BYLINE: Thank you.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Happy to be here.
MARTIN: It's been a long two years and a long couple of days for both of you. So I'm going to start with Phil Ewing. I'm going to ask him to remind us what essential questions was the special counsel asked to answer?
EWING: There were basically three big ones. First, did the Russian government interfere in the presidential election in 2016? Did President Trump or his campaign have anything to do with that interference? Did it take part? Were there any links or coordination between Trump's people and the Russians as the special counsel's mandate phrased it? And or did the president commit the crime of obstruction of justice by trying to frustrate investigators looking into the first or second of those questions?
We've had a lot of speculation about this. There's been a lot of anticipation about what Mueller would find. And now today, we have a summary from the Justice Department of what he did find.
MARTIN: And we are going to take those questions one-by-one throughout the hour. And we're going to start by asking Carrie Johnson to start with the question of collusion.
JOHNSON: First of all, I want to clarify, Michel, that this is a letter from the Justice Department from the attorney general, Bill Barr, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, not from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller was not at Justice over the weekend. He was not consulted or briefed on this letter. So I read this letter carefully to look for explicit quotes from Bob Mueller's report. One of them is this investigation did not establish members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
So yes, the Russian government interfered. The Russian government did attack the 2016 election. But there was not enough or insufficient evidence to suggest that President Trump, anybody affiliated with his campaign here in the United States, was knowingly coordinating with those Russians. We know that Mueller did charge a lot of Russians in the course of this investigation. No Americans have been charged explicitly with that conspiracy.
MARTIN: Is there any supporting evidence that we can see? As we know that this is - this is the only document that we have had access to so far. Is there any suggestion that we're going to get to see any more about this point?
JOHNSON: We are...
MARTIN: ...Because we heard so much about the meeting at Trump Tower. And it's been sort of an ongoing story. Are we going to hear any more? Are we going to see anymore?
JOHNSON: We know that the Mueller report he sent to Justice is comprehensive. We don't know how long it is. We know also that the attorney general is going to be scrubbing that report for grand jury information, classified information and for information that can implicate ongoing investigations. We're not going to see any more of that Mueller report until it's been scrubbed for those three kinds of things. And that said, Michel, we do know from court filings and public reporting that there was a meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 among Donald Trump Jr. Jared Kushner, the president's adviser, Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time, and various Russians.
We also know that various people linked to Russia reached out to Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman. And Roger Stone also appears to have had contacts with Russians. But the issue is whether they could prove he knowingly communicated or conspired with Russians. Stone has not been charged with any kind of crime like that.
MARTIN: I'm going to go to our White House correspondent in just a minute. And as we, I think all - everybody knows who's been following this story, President Trump has had a very great deal to say about this for the last two years. But, Phil Ewing, is there anything else you would like to add about what gives rise to the concern that there was this collusion which the special counsel, at least according to the attorney general's rendering of it, has concluded didn't occur, at least that there was no coordination between those campaigns? Could you just amplify why it is that there was this concern that needed to be investigated?
EWING: What we learned from official investigators in the Justice Department and Congress since the inauguration was that there were a number of contacts - you talked about some of them, Carrie talked about some of them - between people in President Trump's orbit and Russians in 2016. There was the meeting. But there were more than that. There were overtures by Russian or other agents to people in Trump's campaign, foreign policy advisers. There was travel made by people in the campaign. There was contact between Trump's son-in-law and a Russian banker. And there were big negotiations taking place in real time in 2016 between Trump's business and powerful real estate and other interests in Moscow about a big hotel that might be built there.
And this gave rise to a lot of the questioning and speculation before this letter from Barr to the Congress about whether there might have been more there and whether these apparent links or this apparent type of distant connection might have had something more substantive that was taking place behind the scenes.
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