Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
I have to open this newsletter with a shameful admission.
So, I’m sitting at my desk in The New York Times’s Washington bureau, waiting, like everyone in town, for the release of Robert S. Mueller III’s report. CNN in on, Twitter is open and the office is wired.
This is a moment, people: It’s a major crossroads in Donald J. Trump’s presidency. It’s the conclusion of 23 months, 34 indictments and guilty pleas, 500 search warrants and 2,300 subpoenas.
Finally it drops. I open the 448-page document, with all its legalese and redactions, breathe in the history of the moment and … immediately open five different tabs of junk on the internet. I mean, this thing is long. And overwhelming.
Of course, I did eventually dive into it — this is my job, after all — and man, does it paint a picture of an administration with a culture of stretching, if not undermining, the truth.
(If you read only one section, make it pages 290-299, which detail Mr. Trump’s attempts to fire the special counsel.)
For the rest of you with a life outside of politics, journalists at The Times spent all day digging through the report. Here’s a recap of what we found.
Was there one standout moment?
Perhaps the most dramatic passage is an account from May 2017. Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, told Mr. Trump that Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, had appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel.
According to notes written by Jody Hunt, Mr. Sessions’s top aide, Mr. Trump slumped into his chair.
“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency,” he said, finishing the thought with a word we can’t print in a family newsletter.
Mr. Trump then “lambasted” Mr. Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation, saying his attorney general had let him down.
“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,” Mr. Trump said. “It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
What does it say about collusion with Russia?
The Trump campaign didn’t coordinate with the Russian government. But the two talked a lot.
In the report, Mr. Mueller’s team wrote that they were not looking for “collusion” — a term they said was used in the press but has no clear legal definition. Instead, they examined whether anyone associated with Mr. Trump “coordinated” with Russians, defined as an agreement between both parties to break the law.
The report does not find evidence of coordination. But it does offer a rather damning list of interactions between Trump allies and Russians.
One noteworthy mention?
Those infamous tapes from a Moscow hotel. In October 2016, a Russian businessman, Giorgi Rtskhiladze, texted Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer, to say that he had “stopped flow of tapes from Russia,” a reference to claims that Mr. Trump was caught on video with prostitutes in 2013. The report notes, though, that the tapes were likely “fake.”
The report also details a search by Mr. Trump’s associates for Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails, which Mr. Trump, in July 2016, publicly asked Russia to help him obtain.
The president said at the time that he was joking, but in the report, Michael T. Flynn, who would later work as national security adviser, said he was asked repeatedly by Mr. Trump to find the emails. Mr. Flynn contacted multiple people to help his search, including Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative.
Mr. Smith created a company, raised tens of thousands of dollars and recruited security experts and business associates. He claimed “he was in contact with hackers ‘with ties and affiliations to Russia’ who had access to the emails, and that his efforts were coordinated with the Trump Campaign,” the…