Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is set to be made public on Thursday, and only a small group of people knows for sure what it will say.
But the report itself is, primarily, about the special counsel’s prosecutorial and declination decisions — that is, why he did and did not bring charges against specific individuals. At just under 400 pages, the report almost certainly will discuss Mueller’s decision to prosecute Russian hackers, the Russian troll farms, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and several other people both inside and outside President Donald Trump’s orbit. More interesting, though, will be who Mueller declined to prosecute and why — this includes Trump himself, who the report will address in a section discussing a potential charge for obstruction of justice.
Much of the most interesting information may be redacted for a variety of reasons. And we don’t know what new information we’ll discover until the report is revealed. We can expect, however, that Trump’s defenders can and will lie extensively about the report — because they’ve already been lying about it and have been lying about the investigation since day one.
Here are five lies you can expect to hear once the report is published — and why you shouldn’t believe them.
1. “There was no crime.”
Trump has already made this false claim.
“I heard it’s going to come out on Thursday. That’s good. And there can’t be anything there because there was no crime. There was no anything,” said Trump to an ABC News affiliate KSTP on Monday. “The crime was committed by the other side. This crime was all made up. It was all a fabrication.”
Though ABC News presented this quote without comment, it’s clearly false based on what we already know. Mueller has charged dozens of crimes. Many of them deal with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, a crime which Trump has repeatedly ignored, downplayed, or outright denied as a “hoax.” And crucially, many of Trump’s aides — Manafort, Cohen, Flynn, and George Papadopoulos — have been found to have lied in an effort to cover up the Trump team’s ties to Russia and its interference campaign. Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Trump, also appears to have lied during the investigation to cover up his connections to the interference effort, though his case is still pending.
2. “Trump wasn’t involved in any crimes.”
Even as so many of Trump’s aides and associates were caught up in the Mueller probe, the president and his defenders have continually argued that he had nothing to do with any of the crimes.
But this is clearly not so. We know Trump had more ties to Russia than he let on during the campaign — including a massive pending deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow. He covered up these ties while the Russian government was aiding his campaign effort, and he denied the fact that Russia was helping him.
After the campaign, he continued to lie about his ties to Russia and dismiss the charges of the Kremlin’s role in the election. And he made clear what his claims would be about the investigation: He had no ties and “no collusion” with Russia. While the president was promoting this lie, several of his former aides engaged in a criminal cover-up by lying to investigators about Russia. Cohen has even recently told Congress that his lies to the House Intelligence Committee, distorting the truth about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, were done as a part of an effort to please the president and tell a cover story consistent with Trump’s lies.
Mueller may have decided that Trump could not be decisively shown to be criminally responsible for these other crimes, but he is clearly morally and politically culpable for illegal lies told on his behalf and at his urging.
3. “Trump has been exonerated.”
But Mueller’s report won’t just leave it there. We know from Attorney General Bill Barr’s letter about the report’s principal conclusions that the special counsel did not make a decision on the obstruction of justice question. Instead, he lays out the case for and against the charge that Trump obstructed justice, Barr said — apparently leaving the final determination to the public and to Congress.
Though Barr has weighed in to say he doesn’t believe an obstruction charge is warranted, he quoted Mueller as clearly saying, “this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
So anyone claiming that the president has been exonerated by Mueller is just flat-out lying.
4. “The report is irrelevant.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has already been dismissing talk about the upcoming report, saying, “We consider this matter closed.” Rep. Devin Nunes (D-CA) says the report is so partisan and irrelevant “we can just burn it up.” Even some Democrats have diminished its importance; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) noted how little the subject comes up on the campaign trail.
And though it may be true that the Mueller report is unlikely to change many minds about Trump’s fitness for office, it’s clear people care and are interested. According to a CNN poll, 87 percent of Americans want the report to be released in full; it’s almost impossible to get that much agreement on a subject in the U.S. unless you’re asking about the approval of cupcakes. Clearly, people care about the report and want it to be freely available — and it’s not just a group of journalists and politicos who are interested.
5. “The Mueller report tells us everything we need to know.”
People on all sides of the issue might be inclined to declare “case closed” after the report is released. The story of the 2016 election has dragged on far longer than is typical, and there is an urge to move on to discuss other important, deserving topics.
But no matter what it says, the Mueller report won’t be the end of the story — for better or for worse. As the recent charges against former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig showed, leads from Mueller’s investigation are still being pursued by the Justice Department.
And Mueller’s report is sure to have many redactions, some of which will cover material related to ongoing investigations. The government has already said that matters uncovered in the Manafort and Stone investigations are still being pursued; cooperators Flynn and former Trump Deputy Campaign Chair Rick Gates have participated in other relevant investigations. And we know that at least one cases, Cohen’s criminal campaign hush money payments that have been charged by the Southern District of New York, already implicates the president.
Democrats are likely to fight to get the report as unredacted as possible, either for public viewing or at least for lawmakers themselves. But there may be important counterintelligence information that is left out of the report entirely.
Whatever Mueller has found and put in his report, the story itself is still unfolding — if for no other reason than the fact that Russia is still trying to interfere in American elections.