President Donald Trump feared Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe would be the end of his presidency, setting off a course of actions Mueller struggled to classify as obstruction of justice.
In the lengthy 448-page report detailing his conclusions, Mueller pointed to 10 “episodes” that raised questions of obstruction, including the president’s attempt to remove the special counsel from his post and attempts to curtail his investigation.
Those actions included Trump’s June 2017 directive to former White House counsel Don McGahn to speak with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to say Mueller must be expelled because Trump believed he had alleged conflicts of interests.
Just one month prior to the directive Trump, in a meeting with Sessions, said he feared Mueller’s appointment would lead to the end of his then-nascent presidency.
“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f***ed,” Trump said, according to notes of that meeting obtained by Mueller’s team and published in the redacted version of his report.
Also at issue was Trump’s May 2017 firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Trump’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with the probe and his efforts to prevent emails about a meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer from leaking to the public.
Mueller declined to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment whether Trump should be tried for attempts to obstruct his investigation, citing in part Justice Department practice not to indict a sitting president, as well as the extensive constitutional latitude a president has to direct officials.
“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” Mueller wrote.
Still he added that if his team was confident that Trump was clear of any possible obstruction it would explicitly make the judgment.
“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,” Mueller wrote.
The reports findings were not enough to deter the president from insisting on Twitter after its publication: “As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION – NO OBSTRUCTION!”