The Surprises in the Mueller Report


From the instant Robert Mueller’s report landed Thursday, a nation of legal experts and analysts began tearing into its 448 pages, skipping past the heavy black ink of redactions, and weighing the special counsel’s findings and conclusions against the president’s claims about his campaign’s behavior with the Russians.

What surprises lurked in the two thick volumes released by the Department of Justice? And, given Attorney General William Barr’s decision not to pursue any charges, which of Mueller’s findings will end up mattering the most for the remainder of Donald Trump’s presidency? POLITICO Magazine went to some of the brightest legal minds in America for the answers.

We’d already seen plenty of detail through the 199 criminal charges and 37 criminal indictments and plea deals that emerged from Mueller’s investigations, and in the countless news stories issued in the 100 weeks since Mueller was appointed special counsel. But there were still surprises, depending on what you were looking for—from Mueller’s underargued case for publishing an obstruction report at all to the sharp contradiction—noted by many of our experts—between Barr’s public statements and what Mueller’s team actually found. Here are their responses:

‘The report did not exonerate the president’
Marisa Maleck is a senior associate with King & Spalding, and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

I found the most surprising part of the report to be twofold: One, that special counsel Mueller went out of his way multiple times to dispel the notion that there is any concept called “collusion,” and that what he investigated was instead coordination and conspiracy; and two, that the report did not exonerate the president even with respect to conspiracy and coordination.

Although the report stated that there was “no evidence” of conspiracy or coordination, it left open the possibility that there may be evidence out there that the president’s associates suppressed. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Some information was screened even from the special counsel and his team. Several people affiliated with the Trump campaign (including Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort) lied or provided incomplete information to the special counsel about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals. Still others deleted communications or used encryption that did not provide for the long-term retention of data. And with respect to redactions within the report, the ones concerning the Trump campaign’s interest in WikiLeaks’ releases of hacked material are particularly concerning.

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