The Mueller Report Book Club – Executive Summary to Volume I

Pages 4-10 (pages are those in the original report.)

The executive summary has four subsections:

  • Russian Social Media Campaign
  • Russian Hacking Operations
  • Russian Contacts With The Campaign
  • The Special Counsel’s Charging Decisions

 

Russian Social Media Campaign

The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation-a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States.

The report calls the IRA operations “the earliest,” which implies there were other organizations involved. The first two paragraphs contain redactions, “Harm to Ongoing Matter” (which I will refer to as HOM from now on). This could be the Roger Stone prosecution or the FBI counterintelligence investigation, which continues.

My reading of Rod Rosenstein’s charge to the Special Counsel was that the investigation was to be primarily into the Russian interference, and I assumed it would be comprehensive. But timing is everything, and the investigation ended when it did. On balance, getting the information out sooner and having the FBI continue the counterintelligence investigation is probably a good decision, although it is possible that Donald Trump’s naming of William Barr as Attorney General cut the investigation short.

Counterintelligence investigators tend to be extremely secretive, which I disagree with on the whole. More about that as we hit more redactions.

The IRA itself called its operations information warfare. It began operations before the presidential campaign, as early as 2014, and favored Trump and disparaged Clinton.

The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. Section II of this report details the Office’s investigation of the Russian social media campaign.

 

Russian Hacking Operations

The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out the hacking operations. The hacking began in March 2016 into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The material was disseminated through fictional “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” along with Wikileaks. WikiLeaks began releasing emails stolen from John Podesta on October 7, 2016, less than one hour after a U.S. media outlet released the “grab her by the pussy” video. The Trump campaign displayed interest.

A couple of redactions here (Harm to Ongoing Matter, HOM) look like they have to do with the Roger Stone prosecution.

 

Russian Contacts With The Campaign

The Russian government felt that a Trump win would benefit it, and members of the Trump campaign expected to benefit electorally from the Russian actions, but

the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

The Russian contacts consisted of

  • business connections,
  • offers of assistance to the Campaign,
  • invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person,
  • invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and
  • policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations.

This section then gives a summary timeline of Russian contacts which you might want to mark to check back on sequences of events. I’m not going to summarize the timeline, as the events will be treated in detail later in the report.

Worth emphasizing:

On January 6, 2017, members of the intelligence community briefed President-Elect Trump on a joint assessment-drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, and National Security Agency – that concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s. A declassified version of the assessment was publicly released that same day.

In January and February 2017, three Congressional committees announced investigations into Russian interference. In May, Trump fired James Comey, and the Special Counsel was appointed.

This timeline implies that the report covers only the period up to the appointment of the Special Counsel. The January 2017 briefing and DNI report make it impossible for Trump to claim he knows nothing about Russian interference, but he does anyway.

 

The Special Counsel’s Charging Decisions

The charging decisions have three main components:

First, the report concludes that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election – the  social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations – violated  U.S. criminal law. Therefore, individuals and entities involved in the social media campaign were charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States and related counts of identity theft.

Second, although 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, three in particular:

  • The evidence was not sufficient to charge any campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government;
  • Evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’ s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation.
  • Evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election

Third, several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) and to Congress about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Some of those lies were charged as violations of the federal false statements statute, including by Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Cohen. A redaction (HOM) in the series naming those charged may refer to Roger Stone. The US District Court also found that Paul Manafort lied to the SCO and the grand jury.

A few other points:

Interactions between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at Trump’s April 2016 foreign policy speech and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive.

The investigation did not establish that the efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia.

The investigation was limited in a number of ways – by individuals invoking their fifth-amendment rights, by lies, and by materials and witnesses being outside the United States. Also, some witnesses deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using encrypted applications that do not provide for long-term retention of records.

There are gaps in the record, which is part of the reason that conclusions could not be drawn about some of the potential crimes.

 






54 replies
  1. 1

    […] to Balloon Juice. If you want more discussion, there’s more over […]

  2. 2
    debbie says:

    the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities

    How does one “establish” inferences, unstated assumptions, and body language? I know much more was going on in those meetings than (nudge, nudge) Russian adoptions.

  3. 3
    Steeplejack says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Thanks, Cheryl. This nascent series has prompted me to start looking up good editions of the report for my computer and my Kindle.

    I know that some suggestions have been made. I’ll check those out and also report on what else I find. Seems like people were complaining that the available editions don’t contain the footnotes?

  4. 4

    @debbie: I left it out, but on page 8, under the “Charging Decisions” heading, the report is explicit about how it uses evidence to arrive at conclusions or not.

  5. 5
    debbie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Ah, okay. I’m going to break down and buy the book.

  6. 6

    @Steeplejack: The DOJ version contains the footnotes. I don’t immediately have a url, because I downloaded it. The DOJ website is very slow.

  7. 7
    debbie says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I couldn’t find a pdf that included the appendices. I read that Appendix D is a list of ongoing investigations. I thought that would be a good “cheat sheet” to have.

  8. 8

    @debbie: Probably a good idea. My summaries and highlights will never contain everything. The report is hard to read, though, so I suspect it’s best to read the two together.

  9. 9
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Steeplejack:

    I got the Washington Post paperback from Amazon for less than $10. (I know, I know) It has the footnotes.

    (I was supposed to be away from home and computers this week, but I wasn’t able to get on the plane this morning.)

  10. 10
    James E Powell says:

    @debbie:

    We know that there was a meeting at Trump Tower, but we will never know what was discussed. Everyone who was there is a liar who has a strong incentive to lie about that meeting.

    And it is reasonable to assume that there were meetings and contacts that we don’t know about.

  11. 11
    zhena gogolia says:

    Asha Rangappa thinks this part you quoted from p. 10 is really important:

    The investigation was limited in a number of ways – by individuals invoking their fifth-amendment rights, by lies, and by materials and witnesses being outside the United States. Also, some witnesses deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using encrypted applications that do not provide for long-term retention of records.

    We don’t know what happened in large part because of the obfuscation of the witnesses.

    ETA: I guess you’re summarizing, not quoting.

  12. 12

    @debbie: The DOJ version has the appendices.

  13. 13
    debbie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    According to Amazon, the WaPo paperback ($8.99) does too. Sold!

  14. 14
    zhena gogolia says:

    To quote p. 10:

    Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

  15. 15

    @zhena gogolia: This is something to keep in mind whenever the point is brought up that something was not established in the investigation.

  16. 16
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    If only there were highly-paid professionals whose job it was to read the relevant information and interpret it so as to convey it to the public . . . .

  17. 17
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Do you have a syllabus? It would help me to know how much you’re going to cover and (roughly) when, so I could make sure to read the relevant sections in time. I’m up to p. 37 at this point.

  18. 18
    zhena gogolia says:

    @debbie:

    Yes, it does, and the Introduction looks good, although I haven’t read it yet. I wanted to read the report without pre-analysis.

  19. 19

    @zhena gogolia: No syllabus. I wish my life were that organized at this point.

  20. 20
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Okay! I’ll just try to read a few pages a day. I’m depressed about missing my vacation, so I have to parcel it out and not get overwhelmed.

  21. 21

    @zhena gogolia: Are you missing the entire vacation? That’s awful!

  22. 22

    @zhena gogolia: Next week and the week after get pretty busy for me, so posting on this will slow down.

  23. 23
    Ruckus says:

    I downloaded the DOJ file in about 6 seconds so the server load must be not that long. I put it in my kindle reader which allows me to make notes on the side of a page. I got the DOJ link from the link I put up the other day. It gives the link to the original document rather than the AP form which is what it shows you when you open the link.

  24. 24
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Yeah. Medical issues. It was going to be a working vacation with my husband, and he really needs to do the work, so he went without me.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Pretty sure the Jackaltariat has read and comprehended more of the Mueller Report than most of the Congressional Republicans.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    Oh, zg, I’m really sorry. Hope whatever it is gets resolved soon and easily.

  29. 29
    Matt McIrvin says:

    If you’re a well-placed Republican all you have to do to get away with crimes is lie about them and then dismiss any prosecutions for the lying itself as piddling “process crimes”.

  30. 30
    zhena gogolia says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    Thanks. It’s the kind of thing you “manage,” but I wasn’t managing it correctly, I guess.

  31. 31
    chris says:

    @zhena gogolia: Sorry to hear that, get well soon.

  32. 32
    zhena gogolia says:

    @sukabi:

    I’m assuming that although the profile photograph is of Kamala Harris, this is not actually coming from her. (not that there’s anything wrong with that)

  33. 33
    Another Scott says:

    Thanks again for this, Cheryl.

    The investigation did not establish that the efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia.

    Really?!

    NPR from December 2017:

    President Trump may have been involved with a change to the Republican Party campaign platform last year that watered down support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, according to new information from someone who was involved.

    Diana Denman, a Republican delegate who supported arming U.S. allies in Ukraine, has told people that Trump aide J.D. Gordon said at the Republican Convention in 2016 that Trump directed him to support weakening that position in the official platform.

    Denman is scheduled to meet this week with the House and Senate Intelligence committees to discuss what she saw, said two sources familiar with the briefings.

    Of course. That makes sense and fits the available evidence.

    ABCNews from November 2018:

    Sources tell ABC News the president told Mueller he was not aware of the platform change to the best of his recollection. That would be consistent with his answer to a question about the matter to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos during the summer of 2016.

    “I wasn’t involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved,” Trump said at the time.

    That is ridiculous and incredible.

    It’s curious that Mueller was so determined to refuse to say that the Emperor has no clothes when he almost certainly doesn’t. He should appear before Congress to answer questions about these obvious discrepancies.

    Thanks again.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  34. 34
    sukabi says:

    @zhena gogolia: it’s not Kamala’s acct, but the information contained in the audio book version of the clip is 100% Mueller report.

  35. 35
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Another Scott:

    They also absolved lil Jeffy.

  36. 36
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    I doubt there’s much we can do beyond providing you with moral and emotional support, but please let us all know if we can help in the “management.”

  37. 37
    zhena gogolia says:

    @sukabi:

    I love the part where Jared has to ask Simes who the Russian ambassador is.

  38. 38
    zhena gogolia says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    Oh, it’s nothing like what some people here are dealing with! I don’t want to go into too much detail. I just didn’t want to be on the other coast and away from familiar medical assistance if necessary.

  39. 39
    Procopius says:

    I’m really grateful for this summary. This is the kind of understandable explanation that I’ve been hoping for for several years, now.

  40. 40
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Another Scott:

    p. 10:

    The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.

    To channel rikyrah, uh-huh, uh-huh

  41. 41
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    That’s reassuring, and I’m not looking for details, merely wishing you well.

  42. 42
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @zhena gogolia:

    To channel rikyrah, uh-huh, uh-huh PHUCK. OUTTA. HERE.

    There, fixed.

  43. 43
    sukabi says:

    @zhena gogolia: mind numbing isn’t it?

  44. 44
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Another Scott: It’s curious that Mueller was so determined to refuse to say that the Emperor has no clothes when he almost certainly doesn’t. He should appear before Congress to answer questions about these obvious discrepancies.

    Exactly. I’ll accept that “ignorance of the law” is an excuse for Fredo The Elder wrt to the meeting and the offer and acceptance of help (“If it’s what you say it is, I love it!”), but that gets hard to justify with Jared Kushner (JD, NYU) and even more so for Paul Manafort, who was hired specifically, they said at the time, because of his expertise in campaigns and the rules governing them Mueller needs to explain that (and no I have not read the report yet, but even if I get around to it, I’ll be part of a tiny minority. I heard to today that three percent of the country has, I’ll be surprised if that number goes over 5).

  45. 45
    zhena gogolia says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    Thanks!

  46. 46
    zhena gogolia says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT

  47. 47
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    To get a criminal conviction, a prosecutor has to provide at least one piece of admissible evidence proving each element of the crime. If they aren’t able to get that evidence because someone refuses to talk and is willing to fall on his sword like Scooter Libby did, there really isn’t anything a prosecutor can do. They may, and we may, know what happened but they may not be able to prove it in court.

  48. 48
    Mike in NC says:

    There are gaps in the record, which is part of the reason that conclusions could not be drawn about some of the potential crimes.

    Gaps in the record = Team Trump destroying evidence, which they have a long history of doing.

  49. 49
    Another Scott says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: There you go, dashing my hopes for righteous retribution.

    :-/

    Still, it seems like an awful lot of stuff that we know was admitted in public – DailyBeast:

    President Trump only sat down for a disastrous May 2017 interview with NBC because he did not trust his own communications staff, the Mueller report reveals.

    Two days after firing FBI Director James Comey, Trump sat down for an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt and proudly contradicted his and his staff’s own previous statements about the decision to axe the top cop.

    “The President told the White House Counsel’s Office attorneys in advance of the interview that the communications team could not get the story right, so he was going on Lester Holt to say what really happened,” reads the Mueller report, which was released in redacted form on Thursday.

    The revelation gives further insight into the behind-the-scenes chaos surrounding Trump’s decision to boot Comey—from the White House’s fumbling excuses for the firing to the president’s eventual contradiction of previous statements on the matter.

    During that chat with Holt, Trump admitted to having been determined to fire Comey even without a recommendation letter from the Justice Department.

    “Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump boasted to Holt.

    That admission directly contradicted the White House’s oft-repeated line that Comey’s firing was the result of a contentious face-to-face meeting and a letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein asking that the FBI chief be replaced. (Another common refrain, famously uttered by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was that Trump spoke with “countless” FBI agents who “lost confidence” in Comey. Sanders later admitted to having made that up entirely, the Mueller report reveals.)

    The president’s contradictory confessions during the Holt interview led to weeks worth of bipartisan outrage and concerns that Trump fired Comey in order to squash an investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

    That same evening, the New York Times reported that, shortly after inauguration, Trump repeatedly demanded Comey pledge loyalty to him, and the FBI director sternly declined. The news further fueled suspicion the president’s actions were not simply based on thoughtful recommendation.

    […]

    Oh, but there’s not enough evidence that he obstructed justice. (groucho-roll-eyes.gif)

    I understand the legal niceties, but it sure seems like if that much is easily available in public then much, much more should be available to federal investigators. It feeds cynicism when what’s obvious to our lying eyes isn’t recognized as such by prosecutors and those who are charged with defending the Constitution…

    (Just venting.)

    Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  50. 50
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Another Scott:

    I understand the legal niceties

    Okay.

  51. 51
    trnc says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    The DOJ website is very slow.

    They probably put the Mueller report on a Windows 2000 server with 1 GB of ram set up as a honeypot for DOS attacks. You can be sure that the server that hosts the Barr Report On Spying (BROS) will be lightning fast.

  52. 52
    Ruckus says:

    @zhena gogolia:
    Best of luck with the situation. Take care of yourself.
    It is difficult to not know who you are going to be dealing with in an ongoing issue.

  53. 53
    J R in WV says:

    No proof of conspiracy:

    On live TV, Trump: “Russia, if you’re listening, I sure hope you can find those 30,000 lost Hillary emails we’re hearing about!”

    Russia –> Assange –> Wikimedia/Guccifer V2 — 6 hours after Live TV Request from Trump: “Here are 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails for Mr Trump.”

  54. 54
    Mart says:

    @Another Scott: “The investigation did not establish that the efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia.”

    Agree with you. This is one of the most easily identified deviations from Republican doctrine. I remember asking Trumpers to explain it right after the convention. They would just change the subject to Hillary.

    Thanks to Ms. Rofer for undertaking this work.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] to Balloon Juice. If you want more discussion, there’s more over […]

Comments are closed.