The Russia Connection

The Report, Episode Eight: The End of the Beginning

By Susan Hennessey, Benjamin Wittes
Friday, September 20, 2019, 11:39 AM

Today, we released the eighth episode of Lawfare’s narrative audio documentary, The Report, which tells the story Robert S. Mueller lays out in his famous 448-page document. 

This episode begins our coverage of Volume II of the Mueller report, on the president's effort to obstruct the investigation.

Episode 1 covers the Russian social media campaign and the activities of the Internet Research Agency. Episode 2 focuses on the Russian hacking operation; the stealing of documents and emails from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and figures associated with the Clinton campaign; and the leaks of the stolen materials timed to affect the U.S. election. Episode 3 covers the Trump campaign’s involvement in the distribution of hacked materials. Episode 4 tells the story of two Trump Towers—one in Moscow, which Donald Trump sought to build even as he was denying having any business in Russia, and one in New York, where Russian representatives showed up promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Episode 5 recounts the tale of three men associated with the Trump campaign: George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Paul Manafort. Episode 6 details backchannel attempts by the Russians to influence the Trump campaign and transition on policy matters—an effort to reboot U.S.-Russia relations one secret meeting at a time. And Episode 7 covers the special counsel’s charging decisions—which individuals Mueller decides to prosecute, whose prosecutions and declines, and the reasons for his decisions.

That was Volume I—the story of the Russian plot to interfere in the U.S. election, what the Trump campaign knew and what they did, and the many lies. If Volume I is a spy thriller, then Volume II is a detective story. Mueller and his team are trying to solve the mystery of Russian election interference—and, for some reason, the president is trying to stop them. And so the president’s efforts to hamper the investigation become a story all its own. In this part, there’s only one question Mueller is trying to answer: whether or not the president obstructed justice by trying to limit the investigation of everything Mueller describes in Volume I.

So what is obstruction of justice? And why might President Trump have wanted to stop the investigation in its tracks?

This episode features Chuck Rosenberg, Paul Rosenzweig, Jack Goldsmith and Greg Miller.

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