On Wednesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller spoke publicly for the first time about the Russia investigation he began over two years ago, and with that a book that is likely to contain the political story of our era, came to life in a way it hadn’t before.
I purchased my copy, published by The Washington Post with an introduction by Rosaline S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky, staff of The Post. It’s a daunting book, to say the least. famously consisting of 448 pages of investigation and those executive summaries you may have heard about, in (famously again) two volumes. Volume I introduces and summarizes the Special Counsel’s investigation into the Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election, and includes the Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign, the Hacking and Dumping Operation (of, just in case you’ve forgotten, those emails), along with the Russian governments links to and contacts with the Trump Campaign. It wraps up with “Prosecution and Declination Decisions.” In The Post edition, there are nearly 300 additional pages of content, including a Post piece contrasting Donald Trump and Robert Mueller, along with key documents in the Special Counsel’s investigation, including court documents indicting George Papadopoulos, Micheal Flynn, and Paul Manafort, and a legion of Russian actors involved in the 2016 election interference.
Volume II, which has, in some circles, become a damning document of what has come to be known as efforts to obstruct the investigation detailed in Volume I. Seeing the contents listed in this way has a chilling effect, even before one gets to what the report calls the “Factual Results.” Volume II, it is instantly clear, exists as a result of the efforts to construct Volume I. Consider these high points:
• “When (former Attorney General Jeff) Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f——d.’”
• “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
• “The evidence supports the inference that the President intended (former campaign Chairman Paul) Manafort to believe that he could receive a pardon, which would make cooperation with the government as a means of obtaining a lesser sentence unnecessary.”
• “You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod …,” Trump told former White House Counsel Donald McGahn during a June 17, 2017, phone call in which he asked McGahn to remove Mueller due to conflicts of interest.
At the opening of his public remarks on Wednesday, Mueller said, “I am speaking out today because our investigation is complete. The attorney general has made the report on our investigation largely public. We are formally closing the special counsel’s office, and as well, I’m resigning from the Department of Justice to return to private life.” Given Mueller’s reputation as a paragon of nonpartisan conviction, it was startling to many that he spoke at all. One can imagine, given the distortion his work has undergone by this White House and its administration, why the normally silent public servant chose now to reiterate the words, and the deeds, he and a famously sweeping team labored to uncover. And those words have power. As Mueller himself said this past week:
“…the office’s written work speak for itself.”
All he asks in return is that we read it.