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Here’s why Mueller declined to charge Trump with obstruction of justice

Attorney General William Barr says he would have no problem with Robert Mueller testifying before Congress

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report revealed that investigators struggled with whether to charge President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice, but ultimately declined to do so because there was no underlying crime and because the president’s actions “took place in public view.”

WATCH: Mueller’s redacted report says Trump didn’t commit crime — stops short of exonerating him

The 448-page redacted report released Thursday showed that Mueller’s office examined a number of alarming actions by President Trump, including his reaction to reports about Russia’s support of him, the firing of FBI Director James Comey, his response to charges against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and efforts to curtail the special counsel investigation and even get rid of Mueller.

WATCH: Trump admin, U.S. lawmakers react to Mueller report

Extended reaction to the Mueller report by the Trump administration and U.S. lawmakers
Extended reaction to the Mueller report by the Trump administration and U.S. lawmakers
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Overall the report outlined 11 episodes involving Trump and legal questions about obstruction of justice.

In one instance from June 2017, the report said that when the media reported Mueller’s team was investigating the president, Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller should be ousted because he had “conflicts of interest.”

“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 said, referencing events that took place during the Watergate scandal.

READ MORE: William Barr said White House gave Mueller ‘unfettered’ access — but Trump refused to testify

Since the completion of the Mueller investigation, one of the central questions has been why the special counsel’s team failed to reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgement,” the report said. “At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgement.”

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WATCH: Takeaways from the Mueller Report

Takeaways from the Mueller Report
Takeaways from the Mueller Report

The report said investigators were unable to find evidence that the president was “involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference” and that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice practice.

“Although the obstruction statutes do not require proof of such a crime, the absence of that evidence affects the analysis of the President’s intent and requires consideration of other possible motives for his conduct,” the report said.

“Many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view,” the report said. “If the likely effect of public acts is to influence witnesses or alter their testimony, the harm to the justice system’s integrity is the same.”

WATCH: Democrats call on Mueller to testify publicly before Congress on Russia investigation

Democrats claim Barr is waging media campaign on behalf of Trump over Mueller report
Democrats claim Barr is waging media campaign on behalf of Trump over Mueller report

However, the redacted report states Trump attempted to influence the Mueller probe on multiple occasions and only failed because those working around him refused to follow his orders.

“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful,” the report states, “but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

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In one instance, Trump told aides Corey Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn to tell Sessions to partly un-recuse himself and limit the investigation to Russian interference in future elections, not 2016. They did not deliver the message.

And when Trump’s administration faced growing questions about former-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s conversation about sanctions with a Russian ambassador, the president ordered aide, KT McFarland, to write an email saying that the president did not direct those conversations.

“McFarland declined because she did not know whether that was true, and a White House Counsel’s Office attorney thought that the request would look like a quid pro quo for an ambassadorship she had been offered,” the report said.

Mueller’s report also detailed how Trump became panicked when he learned of Mueller’s appointment.

“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f**ked,” Trump said according to the report, citing testimony from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff.

“How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump continued. “You were supposed to protect me. … This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

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As for whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mueller said the evidence was insufficient to support criminal charges.

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“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,” the report said.

READ MORE: Trump’s reported reaction to Mueller appointment

Mueller also said the infamous Trump tower meeting in June 2016 between Russian officials and Trump’s son Donald Jr., adviser Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort would be unlikely to result in charges.

“The government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful,” the report said. “The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context.”

The report included 12 pages of Trump’s written responses to the Mueller team, but none included questions about obstruction of justice — as was part of an agreement with Trump’s legal team.

Trump repeatedly told Mueller he had “no recollection” of learning in advance about the much-scrutinized Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer.

Mueller said his investigators considered issuing a subpoena for Trump’s testimony as the president would not sit for an interview.

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“We viewed the written answers to be inadequate,” the report said. “But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed to costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits from our investigation and report.”

U.S. president responds

Prior to the release of the report, the president attacked the investigation on Twitter.

“PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he tweeted. “The Greatest Political Hoax of all time! Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats.”

Attorney General William Barr said the redacted report confirmed that while the Russian government sought to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, it did so without coordination with the Trump campaign.

“That is the bottom line,” Barr said. “After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the investigation confirmed the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.”

WATCH: Barr says he disagreed with some of Robert Mueller’s legal theories on obstruction of justice

William Barr: I disagreed with some of Robert Mueller’s legal theories on obstruction of justice
William Barr: I disagreed with some of Robert Mueller’s legal theories on obstruction of justice
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The Mueller team spent almost two years investigating whether any U.S. citizens conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election and whether the president may have tried to obstruct justice. The investigation resulted in seven guilty pleas and charges against 34 individuals and three separate companies.

Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters that Barr “appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump” and had “taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.”

Nadler said that after his committee had time to review the redacted report, he would ask Mueller and other members of his team to testify before Congress “no later than May 23.”

*With files from the Associated Press

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