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Here’s why the whole Russiagate scenario set out in Trump Dossier is totally absurd

The Trump Dossier upon which the whole Russiagate scandal rests describes a process of decision making within the Russian government that bears no relation to reality, thereby proving itself a fake.

Alexander Mercouris

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It has become increasingly clear over the last two weeks that the amateur sleuths who are driving Russiagate are taking the Trump Dossier prepared by the British ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele as their starting point.

This is despite the fact that the Trump Dossier is still “uncorroborated”, and has been trashed by seasoned intelligence professionals like former CIA Acting Assistant Director Michael Morell.

Right from the first moment the Trump Dossier was first published I speculated that it might be the original source of the ‘Russiagate’ story.  Here is what I wrote about it on 11th January 2017, immediately after it was published

The big question is not whether the facts in this dossier are true or not; it is the extent to which the paranoid claims made in the dossier have shaped and might even have been the origin for the whole Russian hacking scandal.

I say this because media reports confirm that the dossier or extracts from it have circulated amongst US politicians (including Hillary Clinton and John McCain), US intelligence agencies, and within the media for weeks if not months.  The earliest reports in the dossier are dated to July, which suggests that some of its claims – which include circumstantial details of who supposedly within the Russian government was behind the Clinton leaks – were already circulating early in the summer.  That is a very early point in the Russian hacking story, making it at least possible that the dossier at least influenced the thinking of some of the people in the US intelligence community and in the media who have been pushing the Russian hacking scandal most aggressively.

Many have remarked on the absence of evidence in the ONDI report which was published last Friday.  Even Masha Gessen – one of President Putin’s most relentless critics – has pointed this out.

Publication of this dossier looks like an attempt to provide “evidence” which the ODNI report failed to do.  If so then that at least gives rise to the possibility that the dossier is the “evidence” – or more correctly a part of the evidence – that formed the background to the ONDI report but which the ODNI report omitted.

Whatever the truth of this, the fact that an obviously concocted dossier like this has circulated for weeks if not months with its source apparently still considered “unimpeachable” and “reliable” by the West’s intelligence agencies shows how wildly paranoid and ignorant about Russia the West’s intelligence agencies and its politicians and journalists have become.

Fantasy has replaced truth, and it seems that a clever fabricator out to make money has successfully cashed in on it, quite possibly doing serious harm along the way.

The US investigative reporter Robert Parry is now saying the same thing: that the Trump Dossier is the document which provides the frame narrative for the whole Russiagate story, and this was also confirmed by the BBC article I discussed yesterday, which says the following

The roadmap for the investigation, publicly acknowledged now for the first time, comes from Christopher Steele, once of Britain’s secret intelligence service MI6.

As it happens I am far from sure that the actual investigation being carried out into the Russiagate claims by the FBI is using the Trump Dossier as its ‘roadmap’.  Contrary to what the BBC says I have never seen this “publicly acknowledged” anywhere.  However what is now indisputable is that the Democrats on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are doing so, and that much of the media is following them.

This is extraordinary because even a cursory knowledge of how the Russian government operates ought to make it obvious that the scenario described in the Trump Dossier makes no sense, and is completely fantastic.

Briefly, the Trump Dossier’s story is that a furious Putin, who supposedly hates Hillary Clinton, was persuaded by his press secretary Dmitry Peskov and his Chief of Staff Sergey Ivanov to order an elaborate campaign to interfere in the US election in order to swing the election to Donald Trump over whom the Russians supposedly possess various forms of leverage, including blackmail film of his cavorting with prostitutes.

The Russian intelligence officials supposedly carrying out Putin’s orders are then supposed to have closely coordinated their actions with Trump’s campaign.  They are also supposed to have discussed it with each other and with all sorts of other people who passed on information about these conversations to the Trump Dossier’s compiler, Christopher Steele.

If one is to believe the Trump Dossier, the campaign to meddle in the election was also the subject of furious argument and recrimination within the Kremlin itself, with people like Ivanov, Peskov, Medvedev and Rosneft CEO Sechin complaining about it to each other and to various intimates, so that word of their arguments also found its way to Christopher Steele.

The Trump Dossier provides a phantasmagoric description of cloak and dagger meetings between Russian intelligence officials and Trump campaign associates in Moscow, Prague and other places, and of discussions of senior Russian officials with each other and of the recriminations which supposedly passed between them as the extent of Russian meddling in the US election supposedly became public.

There is so much wrong with this whole scenario that it is difficult know where to start, but a good point might be to question the whole starting thesis that President Putin “hates” Hillary Clinton.

There is virtually no evidence of this.  The origins of this claim appear to be a comment of Putin’s made at the time of the election protests in Russia in December 2011.  Putin as reported by Reuters said the following

She (Hillary Clinton – AM) set the tone for some opposition activists, gave them a signal, they heard this signal and started active work

What a politician says during an election is not usually taken too seriously, and this comment scarcely seems to confirm the thesis that Putin “hates” Hillary Clinton.  By the standards of what Western leaders regularly say about Putin it comes across as rather temperate.  Compare it for example with Hillary Clinton’s comparison in March 2014 of Putin with Hitler.

The claim that Putin “hates” Hillary Clinton is anyway at odds with a far more recent and much more thought through comment Putin made about her at the SPIEF conference in St. Petersburg last June, which because it hardly supports the claim Putin “hates” Hillary Clinton has gone almost completely unreported

I worked with Bill Clinton, although for a very short time, and we had a very good relationship. I can even say that I am grateful to him for certain moments as I was entering the big stage in politics. On several occasions, he showed signs of attention, respect for me personally, as well as for Russia. I remember this and I am grateful to him.

About Ms Clinton. Perhaps she has her own view on the development of Russian-US relations. You know, there is something I would like to draw [your] attention to, which has nothing to do with Russian-US relations or with national politics. It is related, rather, to personnel policy.

In my experience, I have often seen what happens with people before they take on a certain job and afterward. Often, you cannot recognise them, because once they reach a new level of responsibility they begin to talk and think differently, they even look different. We act on the assumption that the sense of responsibility of the US head of state, the head of the country on which a great deal in the world depends today, that this sense of responsibility will encourage the newly elected president to cooperate with Russia and, I would like to repeat, build a more secure world.

These remarks do not suggest any hatred for Hillary Clinton.  Spoken at a time when the universal assumption was that Hillary Clinton would win the US Presidential election, they suggest on the contrary a willingness to work with her, a readiness to disregard her harsh anti-Russian election rhetoric, and a hope that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would exercise a restraining influence over her.

Putting aside the fact that there is no real evidence that Putin “hates” Hillary Clinton, Putin at the time of the US election had been continuously at the top of the Russian power structure for 17 years, ever since Boris Yeltsin appointed him Russia’s Prime Minister on 9th August 1999.  Over that long period Putin has gained immense experience and knowledge of politics, including of US politics.  No one moreover seriously doubts that Putin is also highly intelligent and well-informed, and is able to put this experience and knowledge to good use.

It beggars belief that such an experienced and knowledgeable person as Putin was in 2016 would seriously believe that Russia could influence a US Presidential election so as to effect its outcome.  That by the way is something which no outside power has ever previously managed to do.  Putin would surely know such a thing was impossible, and that it would be completely counter-productive and extremely dangerous to try it.

Let us assume however that Putin acted completely contrary to what we know of his background and character, and nonetheless ordered Russia’s intelligence agencies to meddle in the US election in order to act out some feud he has against Hillary Clinton.

It beggars belief that Russia’s intelligence agencies would agree.  Their chiefs – Patrushev, Ivanov, Fradkov and Bortnikov, all experienced intelligence professionals and like Putin all members of Russia’s Security Council, together with General Shoigu, who is not only a member of Russia’s Security Council but who as Russia’s Defence Minister has overall charge of the Russian military’s main intelligence agency the GRU – would undoubtedly have told Putin it couldn’t be done, and that it would be extremely dangerous to try.

Let us nonetheless go on to assume – ever more farfetched though these assumptions become – that Putin acted even further against his known background and character, and decided to ignore their advice, and ordered them to conduct the operation regardless.

it beggars belief that they would not in that case have insisted on having his order formally debated by Russia’s Security Council, Russia’s most important policy making body, which significantly finds no mention in the Trump Dossier at all.  They would have been bound to do this if only to safeguard their positions when the operation went wrong – as it was bound to do – by putting it on formal record during the Security Council meeting that they opposed the order.

The Security Council is in theory an advisory body, and Putin could in theory have refused to convene it and have his order debated there.  However that would almost certainly have provoked a crisis at the heart of the Russian government, and there is no evidence that ever happened.  In practice it is inconceivable that an order of such magnitude would not have been discussed by the Security Council.

At that point Putin would have encountered the collective opposition of the entire Security Council, which includes people like Prime Minister Medvedev and Foreign Minister Lavrov who speak English and who know the US well, and who would also have told him what he wanted couldn’t be done, and that it would be extremely dangerous to try

Putin has been Russia’s leader for as long as he has precisely because he heeds the advice and warnings of his experts, and is careful to ensure the prior backing of the rest of Russia’s political leadership for his decisions.  It is precisely because Putin acts in this way that he has a loyal and disciplined government behind him.

Conceivably Putin could have cast all this aside and in a fit of madness struck out on his own, ignoring what would almost certainly have been the collective opposition of the country’s entire political and national security leadership in order to carry out a quixotic quest to stop Hillary Clinton from being elected.  However had he done such a thing he would have risked a government crisis and furious recriminations when it all went wrong, which would almost certainly have spilled over into public argument as does occasionally happen in Russia.  That there is no evidence of anything like this happening is the surest sign it didn’t happen at all.

As it happens this focus on Putin is anyway completely misplaced.  If the the Russians did carry out hacks of the computers of the DNC and of John Podesta then the whole Trump Dossier/Russiagate story becomes even more surreal, since there is actually no need to introduce Putin to explain the hacks.

Russian intelligence would not have needed an order from Putin to hack John Podesta or the DNC.  At a time of extreme tension in US-Russian relations, with the militaries of the two countries cranking up towards a potentially disastrous face-off in Syria, the entirety of Russia’s mighty foreign policy and intelligence establishment would have been working overtime trying to find out what the policies of the US after the election would be.  Ambassador Kislyak together with the diplomats and spies in his embassy would have been trying hard to build as many contacts with both the Hillary Clinton and the Donald Trump camps as they could, and Russian intelligence would have been pulling out all the stops to gather all the intelligence on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and their associates that it could.

Quite possibly this would have included reading the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails.  Since both had obvious relevance to an information gathering effort intended to ascertain the future policies of a Hillary Clinton administration, it is easy to see why Russian intelligence might have wanted to read them, and it would not have needed an order from Putin for it to try to do so.

Conceivably the evidence of hacking by Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear discovered by CrowdStrike is evidence of this, though the crude way in which those hacks were done suggests they may actually have been the work of someone else.  Russian intelligence would hardly have been the only intelligence service trying to find out as much information about Hillary Clinton (and Donald Trump) as possible, and besides there is reason to think the Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear hacks were the work of private individuals.

In saying all this I wish to make it clear that I do not know for a fact that Russian intelligence did obtain the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails.  My point is that they would not have needed an order from Putin to try to do so, since trying to obtain those emails would have been a normal part of their work, and there is no reason to introduce an angry and vengeful Putin to explain them doing it.

As for the question of whether Russian intelligence might have leaked the emails, the only possible scenario where they might have done so would have been if they had found in the emails – obtained as a result of an entirely conventional intelligence gathering operation almost certainly not ordered by Putin himself – things that were so damaging to Hillary Clinton that their effect on the election if they were published could be absolutely guaranteed.

At that point Russian intelligence might conceivably have reported this finding to Putin and Russia’s Security Council, and have asked for permission to publish the emails.  However given Russia’s longstanding policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and the extremely high political risks for Russia of publishing the emails, it would still even in those circumstances have been highly unlikely that Putin or the Security Council would have granted Russian intelligence permission to publish the emails.

Which in turn brings us to the contents of the emails themselves.  The actual content of the DNC and Podesta emails hardly fits the criteria of something so damaging that it would be guaranteed to effect the outcome of the election if it were published.  Putin himself made this very point in an interview he gave to Bloomberg on 5th September 2016

I could never even imagine that such information would be of interest to the American public or that the campaign headquarters of one of the candidates – in this case, Mrs. Clinton – apparently worked for her, rather than for all the Democratic Party candidates in an equal manner. I could never assume that anybody would find it interesting. Thus, in view of what I have said, we could not officially hack it. You know, it would require certain intuition and knowledge of the U.S. domestic policy peculiarities. I am not sure that even our experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have such intuition.

Putin is absolutely right.  Not only would it have required profound knowledge of US politics – knowledge which the Russians almost certainly don’t have – to see why the contents of the DNC and Podesta emails might be damaging to Hillary Clinton, but it is actually doubtful that the contents of the emails were in fact especially damaging to Hillary Clinton.  Certainly no polling evidence I have seen has proved conclusively that they were.

Given this uncertainty, it is very difficult to believe that the Russians would have taken on themselves the immense risk of meddling in the election by publishing the emails, and of course the people who actually did publish the emails – Julian Assange and Wikileaks, together with ambassador Craig Murray – categorically deny that they did.

The BBC article I discussed yesterday reports former Obama administration officials complaining that the FBI is “fumbling” its inquiry because “The FBI doesn’t know about Russia” and cannot “see, let alone understand, the bigger picture”.

On the contrary it is the “bigger picture” the Trump Dossier gets hopelessly wrong, and which immediately exposes it as a fake.

The Trump Dossier’s baroque picture of the Russian decision making process bears some resemblance to the chaotic way the Russian government operated back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when sinister figures like the oligarch Boris Berezovsky and Boris Yeltsin’s bodyguard General Korzhakov wielded vast power outside Russia’s formal state structures.  That of course was the period when Christopher Steele, the Trump Dossier’s compiler, was working in Moscow for MI6, and when he formed his ideas about Russia.

However the Trump Dossier bears no resemblance to the way Russia’s government operates today.  Anyone who follows Russian affairs at all closely and whose opinions are not blinded by prejudice can see that immediately.  Unfortunately it seems that such people in the West are in short supply.

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Parliament Seizes Control Of Brexit From Theresa May

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part I – cold, hard reality

The full text of Attorney General William P Barr’s summary is here offered, with emphases on points for further analysis.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The conclusion of the Russiagate investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was a pivotal media watershed moment. Even at the time of this writing there is a great deal of what might be called “journalistic froth” as opinion makers and analysts jostle to make their takes on this known to the world. Passions are running very high in both the Democrat / anti-Trump camps, where the reactions range from despondency to determined rage to not swallow the gigantic red pill that the “no collusion with Russia” determination offers. In the pro-Trump camp, the mood is deserved relief, but many who support the President are also realists, and they know this conflict is not over.

Where the pivot will go and what all this means is something that will unfold, probably relatively quickly, over the next week or two. But we want to offer a starting point here from which to base further analysis. At this time, of course, there are few hard facts other than the fact that Robert Mueller III submitted his report to the US Attorney General, William Barr, who then wrote and released his own report to the public Sunday evening. We reproduce that report here in full, with some emphases added to points that we think will be relevant to forthcoming pieces on this topic.

The end of the Mueller investigation brings concerns, hopes and fears to many people, on topics such as:

  • Will President Trump now begin to normalize relations with President Putin at full speed?
  • In what direction will the Democrats pivot to continue their attacks against the President?
  • What does this finding to to the 2020 race?
  • What does this finding do to the credibility of the United States’ leadership establishment, both at home and abroad?
  • What can we learn about our nation and culture from this investigation?
  • How does a false narrative get maintained so easily for so long, and
  • What do we do, or what CAN we do to prevent this being repeated?

These questions and more will be addressed in forthcoming pieces. But for now, here is the full text of the letter written by Attorney General William Barr concerning the Russia collusion investigation.

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:
As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.
The Special Counsel’s Report
On Friday, the Special Counsel submitted to me a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c). This report is entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.
The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public. Below, I summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel’s report.
Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
The Special Counsel’s report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans including individuals associated with the Trump campaign joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The Special Counsel’s investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.
The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.
Obstruction of Justice.
The report’s second part addresses a number of actions by the President most of which have been the subject of public reporting that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion one way or the other as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
Status of the Department’s Review
The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel’s report will be a “confidential report” to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038, 37,040-41 (July 9, 1999). As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
Based on my discussions with the Special Counsel and my initial review, it is apparent that the report contains material that is or could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to “matter[s] occurring before grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B) Rule 6(e) generally limits disclosure of certain grand jury information in a criminal investigation and prosecution. Id. Disclosure of 6(e) material beyond the strict limits set forth in the rule is a crime in certain circumstances. See, e.g. 18 U.S.C. 401(3). This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.
Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. Separately, I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices. As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
* * *
As I observed in my initial notification, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” notifications to your respective Committees “would be in the public interest.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.9(c). I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.
Sincerely,
William P. Barr
Attorney General

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