To the editor:
On Friday, April 19, the Gloucester Daily Times published a story with the headline “Report: Trump tried but failed to obstruct justice.” This is a false narrative because there is not one sentence in the report that actually says this.
Although the Mueller report did state: “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests" (Page 158 of the Mueller report), it also stated “The President’s actions toward witnesses in the Special Counsel’s investigation would qualify as obstructive if they had the natural tendency to prevent particular witnesses from testifying truthfully, or otherwise would have the probable effect of influencing, delaying, or preventing their testimony to law enforcement" (page 131 of the Mueller report).”
The standard is that a person’s actions would have the “probable effect,” or in other words the likely effect, of preventing the investigation even if the effort was not successful. The Mueller report did not say that Trump attempted to obstruct justice, that is it did not say that he tried to “prevent particular witnesses from testifying truthfully,” nor did it say that he tried to influence, delay or prevent testimony from law enforcement. In fact, it said that “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgement" (page 182 of the Mueller report).
In fact, the Trump administration waived executive privilege, which allowed the Mueller team access to every document and witness they wanted – which allowed these witnesses to paint the President in the most unflattering light. Trying to influence the conduct of the investigation (i.e. wanting the attorney general to un-recuse himself, firing Comey, or desiring to remove the acting attorney) is not the same as trying to obstruct or prevent the investigation. While the media focuses on this false obstruction narrative, perhaps in the hopes of fueling more investigations, they are ignoring the conclusion from the report that there is no evidence that Trump or the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the election, and the conclusion from many Americans that Trump won the 2016 election because he was the better candidate.