Mueller report sheds light on probe over obstruction

US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation had looked at 10 actions by President Donald Trump for potential obstruction of justice regarding the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election – including the firing of James Comey as the FBI director – but it was unable to determine if the US president did or did not commit a chargeable offence.

“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,” said a redacted copy of Mueller’s much awaited report that was released first to the US Congress and then to the public on Thursday.

The report added, “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 did not conclude that the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.”

The 448-page report was divided into two volumes. The first volume dealt with the question of Russian interference and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign.

The report confirmed Russian interference, but found no evidence of collusion, not by the Trump campaign or any other American national.

The second volume pertained to the question of obstruction of justice, which had become of key interest since a summary of the report released earlier by US attorney general William Barr had gone ahead and cleared Trump of it.

The president had claimed “total exoneration” from the charges of collusion and obstruction. He repeated that claim on Thursday. “No collusion, no obstruction,” Trump said in a picture posted on Twitter. “For the haters and the radical left Democrats – GAME OVER.”

The 10 actions by the US president that Mueller’s investigators looked at for possible obstruction included the firing of Comey in 2017; conduct regarding Comey and Michael Flynn; response to the probe; response to the appointment of the special counsel and efforts to remove him; efforts to curtail the probe; efforts to make former attorney general Jeff Sessions reverse his recusal from the probe; his conduct involving former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.