After two years of suspense, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released into Washington’s partisan scrum Thursday showing investigators did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia – as Attorney General Bill Barr declared last month – but revealing an array of controversial actions by the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction inquiry.
This included President Trump allegedly telling his White House counsel in June 2017 to inform the acting attorney general that Mueller had conflicts of interest and "must be removed." The report said Trump also fumed over the original appointment -- lamenting it would mean the "end of my presidency" -- first telling then-DOJ leader Jeff Sessions he should resign, and later trying to get Sessions to take back control of the probe.
Mueller ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether the president's conduct amounted to obstruction, stating: "[W]hile this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
But even though Barr's DOJ determined they did not have evidence to pursue such a case, the details in the report only fueled Democrats' mounting calls to not only see the unredacted report but have Mueller testify.
"This is exactly why we need to hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller and receive the full, unredacted report with the underlying evidence," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted, highlighting that section.
Trump and his legal team, though, declared victory upon the release of the report.
"No collusion, no obstruction," Trump said.
The swift reactions indicated the release of the report is only likely to fuel, not quiet, the long-raging debate in Washington over the Russia probe and serve as fodder going into the 2020 election year.
As stated in Barr’s summary last month and reiterated again at a press conference earlier Thursday morning, though, the special counsel did not find clear evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.
“[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 report said, while also saying there were "links" between the two.
“While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal,” the special counsel report stated.
The version of the more than 400-page report that the Justice Department made public Thursday includes redactions, consistent with Barr’s plan to black out portions of the document—including grand jury material, information the intelligence community believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods, any material that could interfere with ongoing prosecutions and information that could implicate the privacy or reputational interests of “peripheral players.”
The redactions in the report were color-coded, labeled with the reasoning behind each redaction, with categories including "grand jury material," "personal privacy," "investigative technique;" and "harm to ongoing matter."
The report, meanwhile, went in depth on the obstruction of justice question, despite the lack of a decision on that front. In Barr's summary to Congress last month, he said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein found the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
The report itself noted that they obtained evidence about the president’s “actions and intent,” and that presented “difficult issues that would need to be resolved” if they were making a traditional judgment.
The report looked at 10 episodes related to the allegations of obstruction of justice, including:
“The campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump; Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn; The President's reaction to the continuing Russia investigation; The President's termination of Comey; The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him; Efforts to Curtail the Special Counsel's investigation; Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence; Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation; and Conduct toward Flynn, Manafort, [REDACTED]; conduct involving Michael Cohen.”
The report revealed that the president reacted to the news a special counsel had been appointed by telling his advisers that it was “the end of my presidency. I'm f---ed,” and demanding that Sessions resign. Once Sessions submitted his resignation, the president did not accept it.
The report also detailed Trump's alleged effort to have Mueller sidelined, amid reports at the time that the special counsel’s office was investigating the president for obstruction of justice. The report detailed a dramatic moment where the president's White House counsel apparently rejected the push.
“On June 17, 2017, the president called [White House Counsel Don] McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,” the report stated, referencing the Watergate scandal.
The report also revealed that when the media reported of the president’s request for McGahn to have Mueller removed, the president directed White House officials “to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the special counsel removed.”
“McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening,” the report said.
The report went on to explain that two days after the initial request to McGahn, the president made another attempt to “affect the course of the Russia investigation.”
“On June 19, 2017, the president met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions,” the report said.
“The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was ‘very unfair’ to the president, the president had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and ‘let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.’”
Lewandowski, according to the report, said he understood what the president wanted Sessions to do.
“Lewandowski did not want to deliver the president’s message personally,” the report said, “so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions.”
Dearborn ultimately did not follow through with the task.
The report also said “substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst” for the decision to fire FBI Director James Comey was his “unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation.” But the report said the evidence “does not establish that the termination of Comey was designed to cover up a conspiracy between the Trump Campaign and Russia.”
The report stated that while the areas the special counsel investigated “involved discrete acts, the overall pattern of the President’s conduct towards the investigations” shed light on the “nature” of his acts. The special counsel determined that the actions investigated are divided into “two phases,” which they said reflected “a possible shift in the President’s motives.”
The first phase was related to the 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,” the report said, adding that “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.”
The evidence detailed in the report related to allegations of obstruction of justice, though, is likely to come under intense scrutiny from congressional Democrats and could be used in their sweeping Trump-related investigations.
The president’s legal team, in anticipation of obstruction of justice details in the report, has prepared their own report to counter the allegations.
“They assumed all along that there was going to be a finding of no collusion, so the rebuttal is about obstruction,” a source close to Trump’s legal team told Fox News. “They are preparing a rebuttal to presumed allegations which will be refuted.”
The special counsel wrote that they sought a voluntary interview with the president, but after more than a year of discussing the prospect of one, the president declined. The president did, though, agree to answer written questions on certain Russia-related topics. But according to the report, he “did not similarly agree to provide written answers to questions on obstruction topics or questions on events during the transition.”
Mueller’s team also said that, while they believed they had the “authority and legal justification” to do so, they decided not to issue a grand jury subpoena to obtain the president’s testimony.
Fox News' Adam Shaw, Jake Gibson, Catherine Herridge, and Bill Mears contributed to this report.