One day after special counsel Robert Mueller publicly refused to exonerate President Donald Trump and hinted at potential impeachment, the President responded Thursday with an avalanche of widely debunked lies about the investigation and its findings.
Over a few hours Thursday morning, Trump spread at least 21 lies and falsehoods about the Russia investigation, Mueller’s findings, the cost of the probe, and the legal restrictions that Mueller faced when grappling with the possibility of a President who broke the law.
Here’s a breakdown of Trump’s comments.
Cost of the investigation
In a tweet, Trump said the Mueller probe cost “$40,000,000 over two dark years.”
Facts First: It’s not clear where Trump is getting his numbers. The latest information from the Justice Department goes through September and says Mueller-specific expenses were around $12 million. Mueller’s final price tag will be higher than that, but the data isn’t public yet.
The Justice Department spent another $13 million investigating Russian meddling, costs that would have been incurred even if Mueller weren’t appointed. That’s a total of $25 million, though the price tag will be higher because that doesn’t cover the last seven months of the probe. It’s unlikely that the final amount for Mueller will reach the $40 million figure claimed by Trump.
Cooperation with the probe
In a tweet, Trump said Mueller had “unlimited access, people, resources and cooperation.”
Facts First: The White House largely cooperated with the investigation, but it’s wrong to say there was “unlimited” cooperation. Trump repeatedly refused a sit-down interview with Mueller’s team. Some Trump campaign associates “deleted relevant communications” or gave conflicting information. Others lied to investigators and were charged with obstruction offenses.
Trump submitted written testimony about Russian meddling but refused to answer any questions about obstruction. Mueller made it clear that Trump’s responses were “incomplete” and insufficient. The President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., also declined an in-person interview.
At least three Trump associates were charged with lying to investigators, which is an obstructive act, and two others were charged with lying to congressional inquiries about Russian meddling.
Mueller’s conflicts of interest
In a tweet, Trump said Mueller was “highly conflicted.”
Facts First: Mueller did not have conflicts of interest, and Trump knows it. The Justice Department cleared Mueller of any conflicts when he took the job in 2017. Trump’s top aides told him that these perceived conflicts were “ridiculous” and were not considered true conflicts.
Trump has long claimed that Mueller was conflicted for a few reasons: Because he once sought a refund from a Trump-owned golf course, because he interviewed to be FBI director after Trump fired James Comey in 2017, and because his old law firm represented key figures in the investigation.
When Trump raised these concerns with his top aides, they “pushed back on his assertion of conflicts, telling the President they did not count as true conflicts,” according to the Mueller report. These White House aides included former chief strategist Steve Bannon, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former White House counsel Don McGahn, according to the report.
Legal constraints on Mueller
In a tweet, Trump said, “Robert Mueller would have brought charges, if he had ANYTHING, but there were no charges to bring!”
Facts First: This is the opposite of the truth. Mueller’s hands were tied by longstanding Justice Department guidelines that a sitting President can’t be indicted. In his public comments this week, Mueller specifically said charging Trump was “not an option we could consider.”
Mueller made it clear in his public comments on Wednesday that the guidelines had a significant influence on the investigation, tying his hands from the very start from even considering whether a crime had been committed. Trump is therefore creating a false narrative by asserting that Mueller “would have brought charges” if there was evidence Trump broke the law.
In fact, Mueller’s report presented substantial evidence that Trump obstructed justice on a few fronts. But Mueller didn’t offer a conclusion on whether Trump should be prosecuted, because he was bound by Justice Department guidelines that stopped him from even considering it.
Fairness of the investigation
In a tweet, Trump called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt,” a label he has used for two years to suggest that the investigation was unfairly targeting him and would bring him down at any cost.
Facts First: If the investigation really were a “witch hunt,” things might have been very different. But Mueller said that the facts didn’t lead him to a collusion conspiracy, and he repeatedly declined to use hardball tactics against Trump, like issuing a subpoena for his testimony.
First, Mueller went to great lengths to be fair to Trump and said there was not a collusion conspiracy. He didn’t play hardball and subpoena Trump’s testimony, and he followed the rules that restrained him from charging Trump. If this was a “witch hunt,” it wasn’t a very good one.
In his comments, Mueller stressed how it would be unfair to Trump to accuse him of a crime without Trump having a legal venue to clear his name, because he couldn’t go on trial while in office. Mueller even said it’s “prohibited” to seek a sealed indictment of Trump for later on.
Many of Trump’s top appointees and associates, like FBI Director Chris Wray and former White House lawyer Ty Cobb, have broken with the President and publicly rejected the “witch hunt” label. Even Barr rejected the term during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year, specifically saying that Mueller wouldn’t be involved in a witch hunt.
Concerns about Russian meddling
In a tweet, Trump said “Russia has disappeared” from the public debate because the Mueller investigation did not establish a conspiracy of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Facts First: The topic of Russian interference is still at the forefront of national politics.
Mueller zeroed in on Russian meddling during his public comments, solemnly saying, “I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”
Top US intelligence officials have warned about Russia’s continued efforts to undermine American politics. Democratic presidential candidates are bringing it up on the campaign trail, and lawmakers are asking about it at Congressional hearings with administration officials.
Trump’s handpicked chiefs to lead the US intelligence community have continued to raise the alarm about persistent Russian meddling. And many of the Democratic candidates for president, including frontrunner Joe Biden, feature their positions on how to counter Russia on their websites.
Trump’s role in Russian meddling
In a tweet, Trump said, “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”
Facts First: The Mueller investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Russians. But Trump’s tweet ignores his role in promoting the fruits of Russian hacks during the 2016 campaign, which he embraced and amplified at his rallies and on social media.
To be completely clear: Mueller never accused Trump, or any Trump aides, or any Americans for that matter, of criminally conspiring with the Russian government to influence the election.
But that doesn’t mean Trump played no role whatsoever, even if it wasn’t criminal. Instead of denouncing Russia for intervening in US politics, Trump embraced their actions and used his platform, and his campaign apparatus, to amplify Russian meddling. He regularly cited the emails that Russian hackers stole from Democrats and gave to WikiLeaks for publication.
In his tweet, Trump seemed to accidentally acknowledge for the first time, that Russia tried to help him defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. (This is the assessment of Obama-era intelligence officials and Trump’s handpicked appointees.) But later Thursday morning, Trump walked back this part of his tweet, saying “Russia did not help me get elected.”
Mueller’s findings on obstruction
In a tweet, Trump said, “Mueller didn’t find Obstruction either.”
Facts First: This is patently false. Mueller did uncover substantial evidence of obstruction by Trump and the report detailed how Trump’s actions crossed the legal threshold on several key episodes. But Mueller said he was prohibited from recommending criminal charges and struggled with “difficult issues” of investigating a sitting President. Instead, he alluded to Congress’ role in holding a president accountable.
The report details a few incidents with “substantial evidence” that Trump obstructed justice, including his efforts to fire the special counsel and have McGahn lie about it to the press, as well as Trump’s efforts to influence the cooperation of several key witnesses in the investigation.
“Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,” the report said.
Regarding the obstruction inquiry, Mueller said Wednesday, “if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr, who announced in March his conclusion that Trump didn’t break the law. Trump’s tweet would have been accurate if he cited Barr instead of Mueller.
More obstruction of justice findings
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump said, “There’s no obstruction, you see what we’re saying, there’s no obstruction, there’s no collusion, there is no nothing.”
Facts First: As explained, Mueller found substantial evidence that Trump obstructed justice on a few fronts, but the special counsel didn’t make a determination on whether the President had committed a crime. After Mueller submitted his report, Barr concluded that Trump hadn’t broken the law. But it’s inaccurate for Trump to say there was “no obstruction” when the report clearly identifies obstructive acts.
It’s true that Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy of collusion. But unlike Trump and Barr, Mueller never used the “no collusion” phrase. He was more careful, saying, “There was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy” between Trump aides and Russia.
But Mueller was crystal clear in his public comments Wednesday that he was not clearing Trump of obstruction. He implicitly rebuked Barr’s finding of “no obstruction” by stating, “If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
Mueller’s perceived conflicts
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump repeated lies about Mueller’s conflicts of interest that he had shared earlier on Twitter. Trump said: “I think he’s totally conflicted, because, as you know, he wanted to be the FBI director and I said no. As you know, I had a business dispute with him after he left the FBI, we had a business dispute, not a nice one, he wasn’t happy with what I did, and I don’t blame him, but I had to do it because that was the right thing to do.”
Facts First: Mueller did not have conflicts of interest, and Trump knows it. The Justice Department cleared Mueller of any conflicts when he took the job in 2017. Trump’s top aides told him that these perceived conflicts were “ridiculous” and were not considered true conflicts.
Trump’s claim that Mueller aggressively sought the FBI job is contradicted by Bannon’s testimony to investigators. Mueller cited Bannon’s testimony extensively in his report.
Trump did meet with Mueller at the White House in May 2017, one day before Mueller became the special counsel. But the White House extended the invitation for Mueller to offer insights on the FBI, and Mueller wasn’t looking for the job, according to the report.
The “business dispute” dates back to 2011, when Mueller quit his membership at Trump’s golf club in Virginia and requested a refund. The club replied with a letter saying that the refund would be explored, and there was no further contact, according to the Mueller report.
Trump knows that these perceived conflicts are not real conflicts because his top aides repeatedly told him in 2017, according to their testimony outlined in the Mueller report.
Mueller’s relationship with Comey
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump said Mueller “loves Comey,” and added, “You look at the relationship that those two – so whether it’s love or deep like – he was conflicted.” Trump later said Mueller’s “relationship with Comey was extraordinary” and that they were “best friends.”
Facts First: Trump has said many times that Mueller was close friends with Comey, but there isn’t any evidence to support that. They crossed paths at the FBI and the Justice Department for many years, but Comey has said in congressional testimony that they are not friends.
Since the beginning of the Mueller investigation, Trump has exaggerated the relationship between Mueller and Comey. By all accounts, they are professional associates but not close friends. Trump has said, with no evidence, that they “love” each other and are “best friends.”
Speaking to lawmakers last year during a private deposition, Comey said of Mueller, “I admire the heck out of the man, but I don’t know his phone number, I’ve never been to his house, I don’t know his children’s names. I think I had a meal once alone with him in a restaurant. I like him. I’m an associate of his who admires him greatly. We’re not friends in any social sense.”
Mueller has not characterized his relationship with Comey. Regardless, Justice Department ethics officials gave Mueller a green light to lead the probe when he was tapped in 2017.
Interviewing Mueller for the FBI job
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump continued harping on Mueller’s perceived conflicts, saying that he “should have never been chosen because he wanted the FBI job and he didn’t get it and the next day he was picked as special counsel. So you tell somebody, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t have the job,’ and then after you say that, he’s going to make a ruling on you.”
Trump later said Mueller “requested” the job and “wanted very badly” to be FBI director again.
Trump later tweeted: “Robert Mueller came to the Oval Office (along with other potential candidates) seeking to be named the Director of the FBI. He had already been in that position for 12 years, I told him NO. The next day he was named Special Counsel - A total Conflict of Interest. NICE!”
Facts First: As explained earlier, the President’s false comments are belied by the Mueller report. The report cites testimony from Bannon, a staunch Trump ally, that contradicts Trump’s claims.
The Mueller report says this about the interview: “As for Mueller’s interview for FBI Director, Bannon recalled that the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI. Bannon said that, although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become Director again, he did not come in looking for the job.”
Though Mueller did accept the President’s invitation to come to the White House to discuss the FBI, there isn’t any public evidence to support Trump’s claim that Mueller “wanted the FBI job.”
Comey’s supposed ‘lies’
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump asked why Mueller didn’t investigate “Comey and all the lies.” He asked, “Why didn’t Comey come clean and say the things that he knows are fact?”
Facts First: It’s unclear exactly what Trump is referring to here. But after an exhaustive investigation, Mueller found Comey to be a credible and reliable witness, especially when testifying about Trump’s troubling interactions with him before he was fired in May 2017.
Taken at face value, Trump’s comments are hypocritical. His version of his conversations with Comey was largely dismissed by Mueller, yet he is accusing Comey of being a liar. Mueller agreed with Comey’s testimony that Trump asked for his loyalty and that he drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has denied it all.
“Despite those denials,” the report says, “substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account,” and that “Comey’s recollections of the encounter have remained consistent over time.”
Regarding the need to “come clean,” one way to measure that would be examining a person’s willingness to testify under oath, under penalty of perjury. Trump submitted written questions to Mueller on a narrow scope of topics, but refused an in-person interview.
On the other hand, Comey was interviewed by Mueller, publicly testified in 2017 before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and gave two days of private depositions last year for the House Republican-led inquiry into how the FBI handled the Clinton probe and the Russia probe.
The infamous ‘insurance policy’
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump asked, “Why didn’t they investigate the insurance policy?” He continued, “In other words, should Hillary Clinton lose, we’ve got an insurance policy. Guess what, what we’re in right now is the insurance policy.”
Facts First: Trump is repeating one of his favorite conspiracy theories, which claims that hostile forces inside the FBI hatched a plan to stop him from winning the election. The theory doesn’t make much sense. The participants, who have been publicly disgraced by their anti-Trump text messages and their extramarital affair, have offered a more reasonable explanation.
The two former FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, mentioned an “insurance policy” in text messages they exchanged in August 2016 about early efforts to investigate Trump’s campaign aides. Their message said, in part: “there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Strzok tried to explain the context in a public hearing last year: The FBI was getting information about links between Trump aides and Russians. But Trump was far behind Clinton in the polls, and FBI officials were trying to decide how aggressively to follow the Russia leads. Strzok said his view was that “we need to do our job” so the threats would be assessed if Trump won.
“While it isn’t likely according to all the pollsters and everybody that candidate Trump is going to be elected, we need to make sure we are protecting America,” Strzok testified, offering similar reasoning that Page gave during her private depositions with congressional investigators.
Last year, Strzok was fired from the FBI and Page resigned. The Justice Department’s internal watchdog was harshly critical of their anti-Trump texts and said it “cast a cloud” over the investigation, though the internal review did not find any evidence that their political opinions affected their decisions regarding the Clinton email investigation.
Russia’s support for Trump
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump said: “Russia did not help me get elected. Do you know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn’t help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.” He later went even further, saying, “I believe that Russia would rather have Hillary Clinton as president of the United States than Donald Trump.
Facts First: Trump is entitled to his own views. But he stands alone in his belief that the Russians did not try to help his campaign and instead tried to boost Clinton. The US intelligence community announced after the 2016 election that the Kremlin tried to help Trump, a conclusion that has been endorsed by all of Trump’s handpicked officials to lead the intelligence agencies.
The stunning assessment that the Russian government tried to help Trump win was first made public in a January 2017 report, released by the Director of National Intelligence, which included unanimous assessments from the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency.
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the intelligence report said. “…We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
This report was prepared during the Obama administration. But Trump’s own appointees at the FBI, CIA and NSA, as well as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, have all publicly endorsed these conclusions. Additionally, the Senate Intelligence Committee conducted a bipartisan review of the intelligence assessment and said it fully agreed with the findings.
Trump obviously deserves credit for his historic upset victory, and for focusing on disaffected voters in the Midwest. But he’s wrong when he says Russia “didn’t help me at all” in 2016.
It’s not about collusion or coordination with the campaign. It’s about the wide-ranging Russian campaign to influence American voters, largely in Trump’s favor. For instance, Russian propaganda reached 126 million Americans on Facebook, and other social media platforms.
And the Russians hacked Democratic targets and released their emails through WikiLeaks at pivotal moments in the campaign, including during the Democratic National Convention and after the leak of the Access Hollywood tape that featured Trump making offensive comments about women. These hacks, carried out by Russian military officers, gave Trump a massive boost.
Ties between Trump aides and Russians
On the White House lawn, Trump said: “You take a look at collusion between Hillary Clinton and Russia. She had more to do in the campaign with Russia than I did. I had nothing to do.”
Facts First: This is a lie, plain and simple. Trump’s claim that Clinton had “more to do … with Russia” during the campaign is provably false. No connections have emerged between Clinton’s campaign and Russian officials. But about 200 pages of the Mueller report are devoted to detailing the plethora of links between Trump campaign associates and Russians.
Even before the Mueller report came out, at least 16 Trump associates were known to have been in contact with Russians during the campaign or transition. More links were revealed in the report, though the investigation did not find that there was any illegal cooperation or collusion.
Also, when Trump said he “had nothing to do” with Russia, he is reviving a phrase that he falsely repeated during the 2016 campaign and during his first few months in the White House. It’s clear now – and has been clear for nearly two years – that Trump and his world had extensive Russian ties, relating both to the election and his personal business empire.
Perhaps the most substantial link was Trump’s pursuit of a business deal in Russia during the campaign. Negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow took place while Trump was running for president, and he could have made millions from the deal, but it ultimately fell through.
Obama’s effort to stop Russian interference
On the White House lawn, Trump said: “President Obama was told in 2016 just before the election in September (2016) that Russia may try to interfere with the election. He did nothing.”
Facts First: Lawmakers from both political parties agree Obama could have done more, but it’s not true to say that he “did nothing.” For one, in a face-to-face meeting with Putin before the 2016 election, Obama threatened “serious consequences” if Russia did not stop interfering. After the election, Obama imposed new sanctions and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats.
When Obama met Putin in September 2016, he demanded that Russia stop its effort to disrupt the presidential election. According to Obama, he told Putin “to cut it out and there were going to be serious consequences if he didn’t.” Obama claims that after the warning, “we did not see further tampering of the election process,” like efforts to manipulate vote totals on Election Day.
In October 2016, the Obama administration publicly announced that the Russians were interfering in the election and were responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee. This staggering announcement came in a paper statement from two US intelligence chiefs, not from Obama directly, and it was quickly overshadowed by the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump, which came out the same day.
After the election, the Obama administration imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and companies believed to be involved with election interference. Obama also expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian compounds that the US said were used for spying.
Many politicians and even some senior Democratic members of Congress have criticized the Obama administration for not going far enough in actions against Russia. But it’s false to say that Obama “did nothing” when he did take steps before and after the 2016 election.
Cracking down on Russian aggression
On the White House lawn, Trump said, “Nobody has been tougher on Russia than me.” He touted his energy policy, which is supportive of oil pipelines and natural gas fracking, his decision to send weapons to Ukraine and the new sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs.
“Whether it’s a whole host of things, there is nobody (who’s) ever been more tough or difficult for Russia than Donald Trump,” he said. “I have to tell you this, I put sanctions on Russia at a level that nobody has seen before. Nobody even wants to write about it.”
Facts First: Trump is right that his administration has cracked down on Russia on a few fronts. But there is a difference between the Trump administration’s actions and the President’s own statements, which have been more Russia-friendly than those of any president in modern history.
The President counted off a few of his policies that are tightening the screws on Russia. The Pentagon’s move to arm the Ukrainians in their fight against Kremlin-backed proxies was a blow to Moscow. So were the Treasury Department’s unprecedented sanctions against Russian oligarchs who are known for doing Putin’s bidding around the world.
But this is only one side of the equation. While his administration gets tough on Russia, Trump has repeatedly bucked its moves by echoing Kremlin talking points and praising Putin.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the NATO alliance, which Putin despises. Trump has suggested that the Russians could keep Crimea, the Ukrainian territory they invaded and annexed in 2014. Over and over, Trump has sided with Putin’s denials on the questions of US election interference. His plan to withdraw US troops from Syria also would give Putin an edge in the region.
Last year, Trump congratulated Putin on his reelection, even though his senior national security advisers told him not to. (Independent observers concluded that the Russian election, where Putin secured 76% of the vote, was not conducted under fair and democratic conditions.)
The mantra of ‘no collusion’
Trump said on the White House lawn, “There was no collusion. Read volume one. There was no collusion.” This is a reference to the first volume of Mueller’s report, which focused on Russia.
Facts First: Volume I of Mueller’s report does not say there was “no collusion” or “no evidence” of collusion. The conclusions were more nuanced than that. As Mueller explained on Wednesday, the investigation found “insufficient evidence” to charge a conspiracy with Russia.
In his new conference, Mueller said out loud what was carefully written in his sweeping report: “The first volume of the report details numerous efforts emanating from Russia to influence the election. This volume includes a discussion of the Trump campaign’s response to this activity, as well as our conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.”
Obviously, “insufficient evidence” is different from “no evidence.” To be crystal clear, the investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump aides and the Kremlin.
But Trump is whitewashing the collusion-related evidence that Mueller documented in Volume I. The special counsel found “multiple links” between Trump’s campaign and Russian agents. He found that top people in Trump’s orbit were “receptive” to offers of Russian help with the election. And he found that the campaign “expected it would benefit electorally” from illegal Russian interference.
What ‘no charges’ really means
On the White House lawn, Trump said, “There were no charges. None…. That means you’re innocent. That means you’re innocent.” Trump continued to make the case that because Mueller had not brought any criminal charges, that “he said essentially, you’re innocent.”
Facts First: That’s not how the system works, and Mueller specifically said the opposite during his news conference and several times in his report. He said that if his team of prosecutors had determined with confidence that Trump was innocent, they would have said so. They declined.
The investigation featured a unique situation where a federal prosecutor was investigating the sitting President – someone who is immune from prosecution while in office. Because of those restraints, Mueller said he never considered charging Trump because it was “not an option.”
That put Mueller in a tough spot. He investigated Trump but even if he found evidence of wrongdoing, he couldn’t charge the President. After two years, Mueller decided he would not clear Trump.
He made this very obvious on Wednesday, saying, “If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Additionally, on three separate occasions, the report declared, “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.”
The “if … then” construction that Trump is following is not what happened in this investigation.
The report said: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” That’s a very far cry from “you’re innocent,” as Trump claimed.
In comments on the White House lawn, Trump cited Article II of the US Constitution, suggesting that it provided powers that he could use to battle charges against him.
“Someday you ought to read a thing called Article II,” Trump said. “Read Article II which gives the President powers that you wouldn’t believe, but I don’t even have to rely on Article II. There was no crime, there was no obstruction, there was no collusion, there was no nothing.”
Facts First: While Article II outlines presidential powers and gives the president While vast authorities, it does not give Trump the ability to skirt investigations and accountability from Congress. And Mueller resoundingly rejected this argument when Trump’s lawyers tried to make it.
Article II of the US Constitution lays out the President’s duties and powers including his abilities as commander in chief of the military, as well as the procedure to elect and remove a president. In his report, Mueller acknowledged that the Constitution gives Trump, “unique and powerful means of influencing official proceedings, subordinate officers, and potential witnesses.”
It’s unclear which part of Article II Trump believes would empower him to “fight back” against an unfair investigation. In letters to the special counsel, Trump’s lawyers argued that Article II essentially shielded Trump from even being investigated for taking actions that he is legally allowed to. This includes removing the FBI director, like he did with Comey in May 2017.
“Even if that Comey argument were correct, there are other elements of obstruction of justice that a president can commit, that a president can be impeached and later indicted for,” Georgetown Law professor Susan Low Bloch told CNN, noting that the articles of impeachment brought against presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon included alleged obstruction offenses.
Mueller’s team agreed with that, and rejected the legal theories promoted by Trump’s lawyers.
The Constitution does not give the President “unfettered authority to direct investigations or prosecutions, with no limits whatsoever,” Mueller wrote. Prosecutors also concluded that “we had a valid basis for investigating” Trump’s conduct and that such an investigation “would not impermissibly burden the President’s performance of his Article II function” and authorities.
This story has been updated
CNN’s Holmes Lybrand contributed to this report.