WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There are several aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election campaign that were not previously known until the release of his report on Thursday.
TRUMP'S REACTION TO APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL
U.S. President Donald Trump believed the appointment of a special counsel to take over the federal probe would spell the end of his presidency, according to Mueller's report.
When former Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump of Mueller's appointment in May 2017, the report said, Trump slumped back in his chair and said: "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked."
Trump then asked Sessions, whom he had berated for months for recusing himself from the Russia probe: "How could you let this happen, Jeff?" and told Sessions he had let him down.
TRUMP'S EFFORTS TO FIRE MUELLER
Trump tried to get Mueller fired in June 2017, shortly after he was appointed, according to the report. Trump called then-White House counsel Don McGahn twice and directed him to order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller on the grounds that he had conflicts of interest.
McGahn felt "trapped," but did not carry out the order, deciding that he would rather resign, Mueller said.
Other White House advisers later talked McGahn out of resigning, and Trump did not follow up to ask whether McGahn had fulfilled his directive.
TRUMP'S EFFORTS TO LIMIT THE INVESTIGATION
Trump also enlisted his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowksi, to try to limit the scope of Mueller's investigation. According to the report, Trump asked Lewandowski in June 2017 to tell Sessions that he should publicly announce that the Russia probe was "very unfair" to the president, say Trump had done nothing wrong, and limit Mueller's investigation into interference in future elections, not the one that had put him in the White House.
A month later, Trump asked Lewandowski about the status of his request and Lewandowski assured Trump he would deliver the message soon. Trump then publicly criticized Sessions in a New York Times interview and a series of Twitter messages.
Mueller says Lewandowski did not want to deliver the message to Sessions, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to speak to him. Dearborn also did not want to carry out the task. Ultimately, the message never reached Sessions.
MANAFORT'S EFFORTS TO MONETIZE THE CAMPAIGN
Mueller found that campaign chairman Paul Manafort's efforts to work with his former business partners in Ukraine were greater than previously known, as he tried to use his insider status on the campaign to collect on debts owed for his past work by Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Shortly after he joined the campaign in the spring of 2016, Manafort directed his deputy Rick Gates to share internal polling data and other campaign materials with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Ukrainian business partner, with the understanding that it would get passed on to Deripaska, the report said.
During an August 2016 meeting in New York, Manafort told Kilimnik about the campaign's efforts to win the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the report said. Trump ended up winning three of those states in the November election.
Manafort worked with his Ukrainian allies until the spring of 2018, after he had been indicted by Mueller, to promote a peace plan that would have split the country in two. These efforts did not constitute coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts to disrupt the election, Mueller found.
Manafort urged Gates not to plead guilty after they were both indicted by Mueller, apparently believing that they would be pardoned by the president if they did not cooperate with investigators. Trump's numerous sympathetic statements before and during Manafort's criminal trial could be interpreted as an effort to sway the outcome, but they also could be interpreted as a sign that he genuinely felt sorry for Manafort, Mueller said.
THE PRESIDENTIAL INTERVIEW THAT WASN'T
Mueller tried for more than a year to interview Trump, but in the end Trump refused. Trump provided written answers on some Russia-related topics, but did not agree to answer questions about possible obstruction of justice or events that took place during the presidential transition.
Mueller said he thought he had the legal authority to order Trump to testify before a grand jury, but he decided not to take that course, due to the "substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation."
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; editing by Grant McCool)
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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2019 02:07:02 IST