President Trump directed his communications team three separate times to mislead the public over the reasons for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian attorney who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
But the lies did not amount to obstruction of justice, special counsel Robert Mueller said in his 400-page report. The reason is that Mr. Trump sought only to mislead the press and public, not thwart a legal investigation.
“Each of these efforts by the president involved his communications team and was directed at the press,” Mr. Mueller wrote. “They would amount to obstructive acts only if the president, by taking these actions sought to withhold information from or mislead congressional investigators or special counsel.”
The meeting involved Natalia Veselnitskaya and members of Mr. Trump’s campaign, including Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and others.
When the story about the meeting broke, the president’s senior communications aide, Hope Hicks, warned him emails related to the meeting were “really bad” and the story would be “massive,” the report said.
The president told Ms. Hicks not to comment and dictated a statement to her claiming the meeting was about Russian adoption and that Ms. Veselnitskaya did not divulge dirt on Mrs. Clinton.
But the report notes that Mr. Trump had been told twice adoption was discussed at the meeting.
Mr. Mueller said Mr. Trump’s actions do not rise to obstruction because he was not attempting to shield the meeting’s purpose from Congress or the special counsel.