Mueller Report, Volume II, Page 7

Several features of the conduct we investigated distinguish it from typical obstruction-of-justice cases. First, the investigation concerned the President, and some of his actions, such as firing the FBI director, involved facially lawful acts within his Article II authority, which raises constitutional issues discussed below. At the same time, the President’s position as the head of
the Executive Branch provided him with unique and powerful means of influencing official
proceedings, subordinate officers, and potential witnesses-all of which is relevant to a potential
obstruction-of-justice analysis. Second, unlike cases in which a subject engages in obstruction of justice to cover up a crime, the evidence we obtained did not establish that the President was
involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. Although the obstruction statutes do not require proof of such a crime, the absence of that evidence affects the analysis of the President’s intent and requires consideration of other possible motives for his conduct. Third, many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view. That circumstance is unusual, but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws. If the likely effect of public acts is to influence witnesses or alter their testimony, the harm to the justice system’s integrity is the same.

Key Points: Factors that made the case against obstruction less fervent for the Special Counsel include the fact that there was no evidence showing Trump was involved with Russian election interference. Therefore there, it can be argued there is no real motif for obstructing. Another factor is that Trump did not hide his aggression against those trying to cooperate with the government from the public, which could be interpreted as confidence in his innocence. However, it is just as likely that Trump intentionally did this to show innocence to the public and therefore reduce public support for the investigation. Or he did this to pressure others into capitulating out of fear of public shaming. Notwithstanding these factors, obstruction could still happen and that is why the Special Counsel investigated further.

Although the series of events we investigated involved discrete acts, the overall pattern of
the President’s conduct towards the investigations can shed light on the nature of the President’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent. In particular, the actions we investigated can be divided into two phases, reflecting a possible shift in the President’s motives. The first phase covered the period from the President’s first interactions with Comey through the President’s firing of Comey. During that time, the President had been repeatedly told he was not personally under investigation. Soon after the firing of Comey and the appointment of the Special Counsel, however, the President became aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction-of-justice inquiry. At that point, the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation. Judgments about the nature of the President’s motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.”

Summary: Trump’s ostensible distrust of Comey, for reasons that could be warranted or unwarranted (either to hide his crimes or preventing mutiny), led to Trump firing him. After this, Trump became aware that he was being investigated for obstruction. From this point onwards, he changed his behavior by publicly condemning the investigation, secretly trying to control it, and trying to manipulate others into not cooperating with the Special Counsel. As many of you may have ascertained if you have either read or have closely followed the Mueller report, there is neither anything in the report condemning Trump of crimes, nor exonerating him. In spite of this, it is still logical for the Special Counsel to lean towards suspicion, considering a player involved is Russia, a non-ally whose threat cannot be ruled out. 

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