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What the Mueller report says about possible coordination with Russia

It says there were many interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia, but it did not establish any criminal coordination or conspiracy.

President Donald Trump at the White House on

President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday declared he's "having a good day" after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, calling the Russia probe a "hoax" that found "no collusion, no obstruction." Photo Credit: Bloomberg/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report released Thursday details many interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia through the election and afterward, but it said it could not establish any criminal coordination or conspiracy.

The report definitively states that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by sowing discord through social media and by weighing in to favor Republican Donald Trump by hacking Democrats’ and Clinton campaign emails and posting them.

And it states that it found many interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges,” the report said.

Yet the report adds that both sides saw advantages in the interference efforts.

“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” it said.

The report said it does not offer any conclusions on “collusion” — which has no legal definition. Instead it describes decisions Mueller and his team made on whether to charge anyone with criminal coordination or conspiracy, requiring a tacit or express agreement with Russia.

The findings of the 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired in that efforts in contained the 182-page Volume I of the two-volume report.

Much of this first volume is heavily redacted, most often for protected grand jury materials, investigative techniques or “Harm to Ongoing Matter” — either something still under investigation or in a pending case.

Here are its findings on some key questions raised about the interactions between the Trump campaign and Russia over the past two years.

Trump Tower Russia meeting

One of the most-often cited examples of possible Trump-Russia coordination is a June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting held by Donald Trump Jr. and top campaign officials with a Russian attorney to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Trump Jr. replied to an email from a Russian publicist offering “official documents and information” incriminating Clinton as part of the Russian government’s “support” for Trump with the reply, “If it’s what you say I love it.”

He invited Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to the meeting, but the report said that investigators “found no documentary evidence” that President Trump “was made aware" of it ahead of time, as Trump has claimed.

At the meeting, the report said, Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya claimed Clinton and other Democrats received “funds from illegal activities in Russia.” But she failed to provide evidence, and instead spoke about the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian officials.

Despite the willingness of the Trump campaign officials to accept information potentially helpful to their candidate from a foreign source, Mueller charged no one with a crime, in part because the participants did not know they were breaking the law.

The report said Mueller’s investigators examined their actions in the meeting for violations of criminal conspiracy laws and bans on foreign involvement and prohibited contributions under campaign finance statutes.

“The Office ultimately concluded that, even if the principal legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law,” the report said.

Dealings on Trump Tower Moscow

Even though Trump often denied he had any deals or business with Russia as he ran for president, the report said that from the fall of 2015, when Trump signed a letter of intent on a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow, until the middle of 2016, it found he did pursue a deal.

Michael Cohen “spearheaded” the pursuit of “a Trump Tower Moscow project” and reported on its status to Trump as he ran for president, the report said. On January 20, 2016, Cohen outlined the proposal to the personal assistant to President Putin’s press secretary.

Cohen told investigators he discussed the subject of traveling to Russia with Trump twice, in late 2015 and in spring 2016. Trump was willing to go if it would assist the project significantly, the report said, but he never went because he was too busy with his campaign.

The investigation “did not establish” that these business contacts, like several other contacts between campaign associates and Russia, involved any “coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia,” the report said.

Knowledge of Russian email hacking

At a July 27, 2016, news conference, as Trump criticized Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state and her subsequent deletion of thousands of “personal” emails, he said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, was listening, the report said: “Within approximately five hours of Trump's statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton's personal office.”

Trump Jr. exchanged messages with WikiLeaks and Russians, and longtime Trump friend Roger Stone on Oct. 2 tweeted: “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks” — days before WikiLeaks began postings thousands of Clinton's campaign manager’s emails.

Mueller charged the GRU and a dozen officers for criminally hacking into Democrats’ emails and Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta's emails. But he has not charged anyone in the Trump campaign for contacts with the GRU or WikiLeaks, which posted many of them.

The report’s section on the GRU hacking of emails and the posting of them on two Russian sites, DCLeaks and Guccifer2.0, and later by WikiLeaks is heavily redacted for “Harm to Ongoing Matter,” likely because of the pending case against Stone.

Barr said Thursday the report did not find that any campaign associate “illegally participated” in the email dumps. He said by law “publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.”

Paul Manafort’s sharing of campaign polling data

While serving on Trump’s campaign from March to August 2016, Manafort instructed his deputy to share the campaign’s internal polling data with his associate Konstantin Kilimnik, considered to have ties to Russian intelligence by the FBI, the report said.

Manafort expected Kilimnik to pass along the campaign data to others in Ukraine and to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who has close ties to Putin.

This sharing of data raised concerns that it could have been shared with the Russian disinformation campaign to pinpoint areas to sow discord on social media

“The Office did not identify evidence of a connection between Manafort’s sharing polling data and Russia’s interference in the election,” the report said. “The investigation did not establish that Manafort otherwise coordinated with the Russian government on its election-interference efforts.”

Facts not established

The report said the investigation did not establish:

  • That the Trump campaign’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine was undertaken at the behest of Trump or Russia.
  • That a September 2016 meeting between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who Trump would appoint as attorney general, at Sessions’ office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.
  • That Carter Page, who worked for the Trump campaign from January to September 2016 and who had had relationships with Russian intelligence officials in 2008 and 2013, “coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
  • That Jared Kushner’s suggestion at a Nov. 16, 2016, postelection meeting at Trump Tower to Kislyak that the Trump transition team use secure facilities at the Russian Embassy to communicate to a Putin aide or friend reflected or constituted coordination.

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