On April 18th 2019, the Justice Department released the redacted Mueller Report to the public. The 448 page document details a story that has captured America's attention. From Russian plots to interfere in our election to constitutional questions of executive power, the Mueller Report is potentially one of the most important and consequential documents of our time. But there's a problem. Very few people have read it.There is still so much confusion about the Report. What it says, who it implicates, and what it means for our country. At Lawfare, we are distilling the report into a multi part audio narrative series, telling you the story of what is in this document, the story Mueller wants you to understand.We are grateful to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Fund for their support for this project.Produced by Goat Rodeo.www.goatrodeodc.comLawfarewww.lawfareblog.com
It’s January 31, 2020. It’s the 10th day of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump. I’m Margaret Taylor, Senior Editor at Lawfare. Today, Senators listened to the arguments of the parties, and then voted 49-51 not to call new witnesses or subpoena new documents. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Mitt Romney voted with Democrats, but the vote was nonetheless unsuccessful. Senate leadership then offered a new procedural resolution to govern how the trial would conclude over the coming days. Closing statements from the parties will occur at 11am on Monday, and a final vote on the articles of impeachment will occur at 4pm on Wednesday. Democrats offered 4 amendments to the resolution. The first was an amendment to subpoena acting white house chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Michael Duffey, and David Blair, as well as documents from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State. The second was to subpoena just John Bolton. The third was to subpoena Bolton and allow for one day for a deposition and one day for live testimony. The fourth and final amendment was to require the Chief Justice to rule on motions to subpoena witnesses and documents, and to rule on any assertions of privilege. On all four amendments, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to table--or defeat--them, and all were defeated. Thereater, the resolution setting out the path for resolution of the trial passed on a 53-47 party line vote.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then asked for unanimous consent to include statements of Senators explaining their votes in the Congressional record next week, along with a full record of the Senate’s proceedings and handling of the impeachment proceedings. The Senate then agreed, by unanimous consent, to allow Senators to speak for up to 10 minutes each on Monday. This is The Impeachment, Episode 10. The Senate votes not to subpoena witnesses or documents, and charts a path forward to end the impeachment trial.
On the 9th day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Senators have a second day to ask questions through the Chief Justice to house managers and white house counsel. As Senators pass their questions on small cards in 5 min rounds, the question of the testimony of witnesses and documents looms large over Friday’s proceedings. This is the Impeachment, Day 9.
It's January 28th, 2020. It’s the seventh day of the impeachment trial of president Donald J. Trump. The president's team of lawyers wrap up their arguments in defense of the president. Over the last two days of the trial, senators heard about 10 hours of presentations from White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, and his team, along with the president's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, former independent counsels, Robert Ray and Kenneth Starr, as well as professor Alan Dershowitz. Today, they wrap up their arguments, before the senators’ questioning begins. This is the Impeachment: Day Seven.
It’s January 27, 2020. On the sixth day of the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump, the President’s team of lawyers resume their arguments in defense of the President. On Saturday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his team began their presentation, spending two hours summarizing their arguments. They continue today, just as press reports indicate that former National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote in his not-yet-published book manuscript that President Trump told Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats. including the Bidens. This is The Impeachment, Day 6.
This is Day 5 of the Impeachment. In this short session, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone opened the case for the president’s defense, laying out what the defense believed are the stakes of impeachment. He noted that the defense would focus on facts that, he asserts, the House Managers ignored in their presentation.
Today, the fourth day of the Impeachment, the house managers wrap up their case. They close their arguments on Trump’s first article of impeachment, and then turn to the second--obstruction of Congress. Today is their last chance to speak before the President’s counsel presents their case. The managers have left everything they have on the gallery floor. For the past three days, they have spoken for eight hours or more, trying to convince the senators before them that Trump should be removed from office.
Today is Day 2 of the Impeachment -- the House Managers bring their opening cases to the Senate. They walk through the chronology of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, as well as the other central figures involved. They also stress the need for documents in this trial, urging Senators to subpoena where they see fit. With today marking the first day of opening arguments, the trial is just getting under way.
It’s January 21st, 2020. A month ago, the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Now the United States Senate must decide whether to convict the president and remove him from office. Chief Justice John Roberts has been sworn in and is presiding over the first day of the trial.There’s no report this time; no definitive document laying out what happened. Instead, there is a trial. House impeachment managers will present the case against Trump. Then the president’s representatives will present a defense. When that is over witnesses may be called, but we don’t know who or how many. And then the Senate will have to vote. Two-thirds of the senate are required to convict and remove a president from office, 67 votes.This podcast will let you hear what those senators hear. They have to sit there silently, without phones or laptops or anything else to read; they don’t get to skip the boring parts. We’re going to make it easier on you; we’ll cut down the many hours of testimony and procedural motions so you can just listen to the substance. You’ll get a fair representation of what members heard each day, just in less time. This is unfolding in real time. So this podcast won’t always be polished, or put together perfectly. But you’ll be able to hear it for yourself--not a highlight reel, not someone else’s opinion of what mattered, but the actual trial--and you can make up your own mind. The following weeks will become an important part of American history, whatever happens. The outcome isn’t just about 67 votes. Because every American faces the same fundamental decision as those 100 senators: Does the evidence show that President Trump is unfit to carry out the office of the commander in chief. This is the Impeachment. Day One.
On January 21, 2020 The Impeachment Trial of President Donald Trump will begin. Each day, on the Senate floor, the case for and against his impeachment and removal from office will be made to Senators. During this trial there will be dozens of hours of speeches, testimony, and procedures. Impeachment is one of the most consequential actions taken by our government. And while the proceedings of the impeachment trial should be carefully heard by each and every American, the reality is most do not have the luxury of sitting through the daily grind of lengthy testimony. Which is why Lawfare & Goat Rodeo are going to be releasing a daily cut of the impeachment distilled to a manageable and accessible podcast. This abridged version will contain the compelling and substantial elements of throughout the day. No analysis. No punditry. Simply the unfolding events in the Senate.
It Friday, March 22, 2019. It’s been nearly two years since Robert Mueller was first appointed Special Counsel. Now, he’s ready to submit a final report to the Attorney General. He has uncovered a sprawling and systematic effort by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. And he’s developed a mountain of evidence about the president’s efforts to obstruct his investigation, things like witness tampering, ordering the creation of false records, and trying to fire Mueller himself. But Mueller’s got a problem: a Department of Justice memo says he can’t indict a sitting president. So what is he supposed to do with all this evidence? Mueller decides to just lay it all in the report, all 448 pages of it. It’ll be someone else’s problem to decide what to do about it: maybe a future prosecutor, maybe Congress, maybe the America electorate. That isn’t really Mueller’s concern. He’s done what he was asked to do. Now his report can speak for itself._______________________Thank you for listening to the final chapter of The Report. This podcast is made possible by the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Fund. And by listeners like you. To support this project, please go to lawfareblog.com. The Report is a production of Lawfare & Goat Rodeo in Washington D.C. Ian Enright is the executive producer. Production assistance from Char Dreyer. From the Lawfare team, the Project is lead by Executive Editor Susan Hennessey. Editor in Chief is Benjamin Wittes. Interviews conducted by Managing Editor Quinta Jurecic. Recordings by Mikhaila Fogel and Jacob Shulz. Additional assistance by Gordon Ahl . Special thanks to Daniel Hemel, Chuck Rosenberg, Jack Goldsmith, John Barrett, Paul Rosensweig, Mary McCord, Mike Schmidt, and everyone who made this podcast possible. And thank you, the listening audience. If you think this story matters, and the more Americans should understand what is in the Mueller Report, please share this podcast widely and leave us a rating and review wherever you listen to podcasts. And continue following this feed for bonus episodes and additional content in the future. On behalf of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo, thanks for listening.
We’re almost at the end of our story. This episode will cover the final set of activity that the Special Counsel examines for possible obstruction of justice: the president’s behavior towards his long time attorney Michael Cohen. Unlike the other possible acts of obstruction in Volume II, which mostly occur after Trump takes office, the relevant conduct towards Cohen spans the entire time period at issue in the Mueller investigation. It starts all the way back before the campaign. To Trump Tower Moscow.
It’s January 2018. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are in a whole lot of trouble. The past is catching up to them. Three months earlier, they’d both been indicted on multiple felony counts and now it looks like there might be even more charges coming. Gates is getting nervous--they’re facing many years in prison. Manafort tells Gates to relax. He’s talked to the president’s personal counsel. He says they’re going to “take care of us.” Manafort tells Gates he’d be stupid to plead guilty now, “just sit tight, we’ll be taken care of.” Gates wants to be crystal clear on what exactly Manafort’s getting at. So he asks: Is the president going to pardon them?
It’s February 6, 2018. Don McGahn is back in the Oval Office with President Trump and the new White House chief of staff John Kelly. The New York Times has just published a story reporting that, back in June of 2017, Trump had directed McGahn to have Mueller fired and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The story doesn’t look good. Trump says: “You need to correct this. You’re the White House counsel.”Trump wants McGahn to say it never happened. But McGahn knows that it did happen. The White House Counsel is sticking to his guns. He’s not going to lie. The president asks again. Is McGahn going to do a correction? McGahn feels Trump is testing his mettle, seeing how far he can be pushed. And so he answers: No. He’s not.
It’s May 17, 2017. White House Counsel Don McGahn is in the Oval Office with the president. McGahn’s job is to represent the office of the presidency, which isn’t quite the same as representing the president personally. It’s a delicate line to walk, and Trump hasn’t made the job any easier. McGahn is supposed to act as the point of contact between the White House and the Department of Justice, to ensure all the rules are being followed. But the president has made clear, he’s not interested in following the rules. Trump has already fired his FBI director. That’s why McGahn is in the Oval that morning, they need to interview a new nominee for the position. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is there too.Sessions interrupts the meeting. He has an urgent phone call from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, so he steps outside to take it. Sessions returns a moment later and relays the message: Rosenstein has appointed a Special Counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. It’s the former FBI director, Robert Mueller. Trump slums back in his chair. He says, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”
It’s March 7, 2017. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the nomination of Rod Rosenstein to be the Deputy Attorney General. Rosenstein’s whole career has been leading up to this moment. He’s a non-partisan sort of guy. He’s served under both President Bush and Obama. Now he’s being elevated to the role of running the day to day at DOJ.But this hearing is about more than just confirming a new deputy attorney general. On March 2, five days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced his recusal from all investigations involving the 2016 election, a recusal which included the Russia investigation. And so, the moment he becomes deputy, Rosenstein will also become the acting attorney general for the purposes of the Russia investigation.Rosenstein is confirmed and he’s sworn in on April 26, 2017. But his oath is about to be tested, like never before. Less than two weeks later, President Trump says he wants to fire the FBI Director and Rosenstein decides to help.
It’s January 26, 2017. Sally Yates is the acting Attorney General; she’s leading the Justice Department until Jeff Sessions is confirmed by the Senate. Yates has just learned some alarming news. The new National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has lied to FBI agents. He’s told them that he hadn’t discussed sanctions in a call with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. But he had. And it looks like Flynn has lied to the vice president about it as well. Yates calls White House Counsel Don McGahn. She says they have to meet right away. Yates knows that the FBI has the tape to prove Flynn lied, which is a crime, but right now there’s an even bigger problem: the Russians probably have the tape too.
It’s May 12, 2017. The FBI is still reeling from the sudden firing of Director James Comey. Andrew McCabe has only been the acting Director for 3 days. He’s trying to talk to Rod Rosenstein about the issue weighing on his mind: how are they going to protect the Russia investigation? The FBI is already investigating whether the president has tried to interfere with that inquiry. But the Deputy Attorney General is distracted and upset; he can’t believe the White House is making it look as if firing Comey were his idea. He says “There’s no one I can talk to. There’s no one here I can trust.”McCabe urges Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel. The credibility of the FBI and DOJ are on the line; without a special counsel a firestorm threatens to destroy the nation’s storied law enforcement institutions. It’s five days later—Wednesday, May 17—when McCabe sits beside Rosenstein in the basement of the United States Capitol where they’ve assembled the Gang of Eight. Then Rosenstein announces that he’s made a decision. He’s appointed a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation and the new inquiry into the president: Robert S. Mueller III.
We’ve just finished Volume I of our podcast bringing to life Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, and are hard at work on Volume II. We’ll have that ready for you soon. But in the meantime, we’ve put together some bonus episodes for you to enjoy. In this episode, the Lawfare teams brings you some of the more interesting pieces of Volume I that didn't make it into our episodes. From Donald Trump Jr's grand jury redactions, the role of Bitcoin in election interference, to Michael Flynn's wild plot involving a Turkish national, in the footnotes of the Mueller Report are some wild details.
It’s July 2016. Then-FBI Director James Comey gives a press conference explaining that, while he has recommended that the Justice Department not pursue charges against Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified information, Clinton’s conduct was “extremely careless.” Evidence has never surfaced that Clinton’s account was compromised. But a Republican political operative named Peter Smith becomes obsessed with the idea that Russia might have gained access. He spends the next year trying to get ahold of Clinton emails that he thinks Russia has hacked. But he never gets to see what Special Counsel Robert Mueller makes of his efforts—because a year later, he dies by suicide.This is a bonus episode of The Report. We’ve just finished Volume I of our podcast bringing to life Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference. In a few weeks, we’ll be back with new episodes on Volume II of Mueller’s report—covering President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation.
It’s April 18, 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr summons reporters to the Department of Justice in Washington DC. Robert Mueller’s report is about to be released. Before the press and the public finally see the document for themselves, Barr wants a chance to tell his own version of the story it contains. But is the bottom line according to Barr the same as the bottom line according to Robert Mueller? We’ll let you decide. Previous episodes have told the story of the factual findings of the Mueller report—what did investigators figure out about what happened? And what were the questions they couldn’t fully answer? Conducting the investigation is one part of the Special Counsel’s job: collecting evidence and assembling a record. But the investigation actually supports Mueller’s larger responsibility: he must reach a set of legal conclusions about the evidence his team has found. The Special Counsel needs to decide which parts of the story laid out in Volume One of the Report amount to prosecutable crimes.This episode covers those decisions. Where does Mueller decide to bring charges? And when he doesn’t, is that because he thinks nothing improper or possibly criminal occurred? Or is it because he finds that the evidence just isn’t sufficient to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt? Here’s what the Mueller Report says about how the Special Counsel’s office made these decisions.This is The Report: Episode 7: Charging Decisions
It’s December 29, 2016. The Obama administration announces that it’s imposing sanctions on Russia, as punishment for election interference. Michael Flynn has been tapped to become Trump’s national security advisor when the new administration takes office in January, but it’s still the transition period. Flynn is taking a few days vacation at the beach, when he sees the news. He grabs his phone and texts the transition team at Mar a Lago. He writes “Tit for tat with Russia not good” and says that the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak is reaching out to him today. Flynn calls Kislyak and asks that Russia not escalate in response to the sanctions. Apparently, it works. The next day, in a surprise move, Putin says that Russia won’t retaliate. Trump tweets, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin). I always knew he was very smart.”
It’s the morning of April 25, 2016. At a hotel in London, a Maltese professor meets with a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. The two have been in touch over the past few weeks; the professor has been helping the young man connect with Russian officials. Now, over breakfast, the professor lets him in on a secret. On a recent trip to Moscow, high-level government officials told him that the Russians have “dirt” on Trump’s opponent. What was the “dirt” in question? “Emails,” he says. They have “have thousands of emails.”
As the Russians were engaged in operations to hack and dump emails, the Trump campaign and its associates were in communication with Wikileaks about the distribution of stolen materials. But that’s far from the whole story of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia during the 2016 election. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller began to piece together the rest of that story, his investigation came to focus on two Trump Towers.The first is Trump Tower Moscow. Beginning all the way back in 2013 and through the spring of 2016, the Trump organization is pursuing a project to build a skyscraper in Russia. For a long time, the plans for Trump Tower Moscow had gone nowhere. But when Donald Trump announces he is running for president, things start to get interesting.
It’s July 27, 2016. Donald Trump has just given a press conference during which he suggests that Russia hack Hillary Clinton and release the 30,000 allegedly missing emails from her private email server. The Russians, unbeknownst to people in the United States, appear to take the request seriously and hour later begin cyber-attacking Clinton’s private office for the first time.Privately, Trump has instructions for his top aides: He repeatedly asks individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails too. His national security adviser, Michael Flynn, says Trump made this request repeatedly. And so Flynn acts on it, teaming up with a shadowy Republican political operative in an ill-fated attempt to track down a trove of Clinton emails from Russian hackers
It's March 2016. John Podesta is sitting at his computer. He opens an email. Something’s wrong with his password, it says. It looks a little fishy, but IT says it is legit. And so he clicks. He follows the prompt. inputs his old password, resets a new one. And just like that hackers from a Russian military intelligence unit are in. It barely takes a minute, one click and a few keystrokes and there is no going back.This is Episode 2 of The Report: Hack. Dump. Divide
It is 2014 in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the heart of the city, a small nondescript office building sits beside the Bolshaya Nevka River. Inside, workers stare at computer screens open to Facebook and Twitter, furiously typing. Their task: Sow discord, disinformation, and doubt. Their target: The United States of America. Through fake social media accounts and armies of bots, they are flooding online media with disinformation. This is a Troll Farm. It’s name: The Internet Research Agency.
On April 18th 2019, The Justice Department released the redacted Mueller Report to the public. The 448 page document details a story that has captured America’s attention. From Russian plots to interfere in our election to constitutional questions of executive power, the Mueller Report is potentially one of the most important and consequential documents of our time. But there’s a problem: Very few people have read it.There is still so much confusion about the Report. What it says, who it implicates, and what it means for our country. At Lawfare, we are distilling the report into a multi part audio narrative series, telling you the story of what is in this document, the story Mueller wants you to understand.