Note: this is written in the voice of the SCO/America, but it is a summary based on their summary.
Introduction to Volume II: The President’s Actions
OK. Remember Volume I was all about the stuff that Russia pulled on the USA during the 2016 election and thereabouts. Some before, some after, but centered around that election, in which the president got elected at the same time the Russians were helping him get elected.
Here in Volume II, it’s all about once how things went down around the investigation because the president and his campaign were being investigated for possibly helping the Russians to help him.
[Now, since the report has come out, the Attorney General and the Deputy (since-resigned) decided that they should make a determination on whether the president obstructed, which our report doesn’t do. But they haven’t released hundreds of pages of analysis or reasoning, which seems damned odd. Where’s their analysis? Anyway…]
A prosecutor usually looks at the evidence available, looks at the law, and decides one way or the other if e thinks e should bring charges. But there’s this Office of Legal Counsel piece of paper that says, ‘Thou shalt not charge the president while e’s president.’ Total bummer, right? I mean, what if e shoots someone on some street in NY? Also, we thought about it and said, ‘If we charge him, it would be really divisive and such. We can’t be the ones to make it all divisive, that’s Congress’ job if they want it.’ But, we wanted to get everything down on paper while everything was still fresh, and investigating is completely what we do, so we did.
But we were investigating, and then we were like, ‘Hmm.’ It occurred to us that if we can’t charge the president, it wouldn’t be right to say, ‘You took the cookies, but we can’t charge you yet.’ I mean, even if we could prove it, we can’t charge on it. So really we just have to get the evidence down, and then it’s up to Congress, or maybe up to the next Attorney General after the president isn’t president. But it’s not up to us! So there!
But by the way, even though we can’t charge him and don’t make an analysis under the usual rules, if we were sure the president was innocent we would say that. We do NOT say that the president is innocent. We can’t say that, based on the very thorough evidence in this volume. But we can’t charge him, or accuse him. It might be a good idea for Congress to read this and possibly think about it (not as hard as they should really think about what to do about all the crap that Russia pulled, as documented in Volume I, but still very hard).
Volume II Summary
Trump lied about his Russian connections
Trump’s response to the fact that Russia messed with America in 2016 was to act like they didn’t. He also lied about not having any business or connections to Russia, despite the fact he had just been trying to build a tower in Moscow (which is in Russia).
Trump was weird as fuck about Flynn and firing Comey
Michael Flynn lied to the FBI, to Pence, and to other officials about talking to the Russian Ambassador about America’s sanctions meant to punish Russia for their efforts to sabotage the 2016 elections in favor of Donald Trump. Right after Trump was told that Flynn lied, he goes to FBI Director Comey and tells him he needs loyalty. And then on Valentine’s Day, one day after firing Flynn, he tells an advisor that firing Flynn would end the investigation.
Also on Valentine’s Day, he tells James Comey that he hopes Comey will let Flynn go. Not to the Lonely Heart’s Club dance, but to let him go scot-free despite lying loudly and proudly. He tried to get a deputy national security advisor to write down that Trump never told Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador—the deputy declined, because she didn’t know if it was the truth.
Trump didn’t want the investigation to be very independent
Around that time, Attorney General Sessions was mulling over whether he should recuse himself, and Trump told While House Counsel McGahn to tell Sessions not to recuse (which isn’t how recusal decisions work). Trump was pissed when Sessions recused, and he told advisors that he should have an AG that would protect him (which isn’t how attorneys general work). He talked to Sessions that weekend and told him to unrecuse.
After Comey told Congress that the FBI was investigating Russia’s 2016 attacks, Trump called on the intelligence community, asking them to shout from the rooftops that Trump was innocent of any wrongdoing in the 2016 attacks (not how the intelligence community works). He called Comey and asked him to shout from rooftops the same way (not how the director of the FBI works).
Trump fired Comey because Comey wouldn’t be a lackey
In May, after Comey refused to tell Congress that Trump wasn’t under investigation, Trump fired Comey. He made them include in the termination letter that Comey said he wasn’t under investigation. The White House lied and said Comey was fired for other reasons, and they had had Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein write a memo to justify it, but Trump had decided to fire him before that. Trump told the Russians that firing Comey had taken pressure off him.
The appointment of Special Counsel and Trump trying to fire him
That’s when we came in. In order to insulate the investigation from interference or potential conflicts, the special counsel is a step-removed investigatory office. Trump, upon hearing that we were investigating, told advisors it was the end of his presidency. He demanded that Attorney General Sessions resign, but when Sessions submitted a letter of resignation, Trump did not accept it. He claimed our office had conflicts of interest, but his own advisors told him such claims were wrong and that the office had been cleared by the Department of Justice.
Upon hearing reports that our office was charged with investigating obstruction, Trump told McGahn to call Rod Rosenstein and have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn refused, prepared to resign if it came to it.
Trump tried to curtail the independent investigation
Trump met with his former campaign manager, Lewandowski, later in June and dictated a message to be delivered to Attorney General Sessions. That message would have ordered Sessions to publicly shout from the rooftops that our investigation was very unfair, that Trump hadn’t done anything wrong, and that Sessions would meet with us and restrict our investigation to future elections only. How or where Sessions would procure said time machine was not included in said memo. But, for the record, none of that would be kosher for any attorney general to do under orders from any president.
A month later, Trump asked Lewandowski about the status of the message, and he was told it would be delivered soon. The message was then passed-on to a senior White House official, but that official also did not want to deliver the message, so it was never delivered.
Trump tried to have people hide evidence
Once the media started asking about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and agents of the Russian government, Trump ordered aides not to disclose e-mails that set up the meeting and personally edited a press statement by Trump Jr. to obfuscate the context and purpose of the meeting. When asked by the press, Trump’s personal attorney lied about Trump’s role in editing the statement (not how attorneys are supposed to work).
Trump tried to have Sessions take over the independent investigation
Trump called Sessions at home during early summer of 2017 to again press him to take charge of the investigation. In October, he asked Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton. Again, neither are lawful things for any president to ask nor would it be cool for attorneys general to act on such orders. In December, Trump told Sessions that if he took over the investigation, he would be a hero. Sessions held firm on his recusal.
Trump tried to have evidence falsified about his attempt to fire the Special Counsel
Upon press reports in early 2018 that Trump had ordered McGahn to fire the special counsel, Trump told his officials to forge a record, that is, to fabricate a document that would serve as an official lie. He also pressured McGahn to publicly lie. He questioned McGahn as to why he had been forthcoming with the investigation on these facts. This shit is fucked up.
Trump acted cagey as fuck about the various cases (Flynn, Manafort, and redacted but you know it’s Roger Stone)
Upon Michael Flynn’s withdrawal from cooperation with the president’s lawyers, said lawyers left voicemail for Flynn seeming to request cooperation and a heads up if Flynn became aware of incriminating evidence against Trump. During Paul Manafort’s trial, the president sang his praises, and upon his conviction, stated a belief that testifying against coconspirators should be outlawed. No, no, no, no, no.
Trump did not react well to Cohen cooperating
That pattern of anti-lawful rhetoric continued with Michael Cohen, to whom the president was nasty when he found out that Cohen had become a cooperating witness. Cohen had lied to the United States Congress about the timeline regarding the Trump Tower Moscow project, and Moscow is in Russia. According to Cohen, during preparation to lie before Congress, Trump’s personal attorney told him to stay on message and not contradict Trump about the project. He also discussed pardons with Trump’s personal attorney. Once Cohen began cooperating, Trump called him a rat. Can this be real?
While the office is prevented from indicting, and for that and other reasons cannot conclude whether the above offenses constitute crimes, we can say a few things about all of it.
For one thing, a few of the actions Trump took are normally okay, but he did them in ways or under circumstances that call them into serious question. Also, we didn’t find the president was involved in any underlying crimes specific to the Russian election interference (but we didn’t rule it out, either). Also, we are carefully making no comment about underlying crimes not related to that specific set of events. Finally, a lot of the stuff Trump did that we can’t outright call obstruction, but it’s very potentially obstruction (if we had an obstruction detector, it would be beeping and we’d have to pretend that the beeping wasn’t annoying us), happened in plain view. It doesn’t really change anything, but it’s weird that he was basically wearing a T-shirt that said “crime in progress” on it.
There was a pattern here. Phase I was Trump trying to pretend he wasn’t under investigation, up until he fired Comey and we got here, at which point (phase II) it was more run-of-the-mill obstruction-but-for-it-being-the-president.
It’s 73 weeks until the 2020 election. Will the House start an impeachment inquiry? I think of that question like a chart, where the horizontal is time and the vertical is probability of impeachment.
From early in the administration, it was already pegged to say, 20% chance, which is way higher than the average president, especially as the House was controlled by Republicans. With the 2018 elections, it jumped to maybe 40%, just because the party in control changed. With the closure of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference, it jumped to right around 60%, maybe a little higher.
But with each further attempt to forestall Congress’ investigations, it inches a little higher. (There’s a similar chart for Senate removal if he were impeached; it’s around 10% and hasn’t moved significantly either way.)
In text form, the chart of likelihood of impeachment:
60 | ,---^`
50 | /
40 | ,------'
30 | /