The release of the redacted Mueller report raises nearly as many questions as it answers. What’s under the many redactions in the section about WikiLeaks? What are the dozen non-public investigations that Mueller’s team referred out? How did Attorney General William Barr think he was going to get away with that shameful four-page summary of the special counsel’s work?
But the Mueller team has also done America a public service by sorting through some of the most contested moments of the Trump era and telling the public: From what we found, these really weren’t a big deal.
Here are six such episodes debunked or demystified by Mueller’s 448-page redacted report:
1) The Mysterious Change to the 2016 Republican Party Platform Concerning Ukraine
During the 2016 Republican National Convention, the party quietly altered its platform, removing language calling on the United States to provide “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine to protect itself against Russian aggression. Many speculated that the change may have been directed by Trump to please Russia.
The Mueller team determined this was not the case, writing: “The investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia.”
2) The Russian Ambassador’s Trump Contacts
Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak seemed to be everywhere in the 2016 campaign, showing up at Trump campaign events in Washington and even the Republican National Convention.
The Mueller report concludes that there was mostly not much to be concerned about: “The investigation established that interactions between Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate’s April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive.”
3) Jeff Sessions’s Russian Contacts
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s first attorney general, recused himself from overseeing the Russia probe because of interactions he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he failed to disclose as he was being confirmed to head the Justice Department.
Mueller did not find evidence that these interactions were important, writing: “The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.”
4) Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen’s Trip to Prague
The so-called “Steele dossier” claimed that Cohen, Trump’s long-time personal attorney and fixer, had traveled to Prague in 2016 as part of a potential collusion scheme with Russian officials. Cohen repeatedly denied that the trip had ever happened, once tweeting a photo of his passport.
Mueller dismissed the theory in his report, writing: “Cohen understood Congress’s interest in him to be focused on the allegations in the Steele reporting concerning a meeting Cohen allegedly had with Russian officials in Prague during the campaign. Cohen had never traveled to Prague and was not concerned about those allegations, which he believed were provably false.”
5) Cohen’s Lies to Congress About Trump Tower
In January, Buzzfeed News published what looked to be a bombshell story claiming that Cohen had told the special counsel’s office that Trump directed him to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow real-estate project, which overlapped with the 2016 presidential campaign. The story prompted a rare public comment by Mueller’s team, which said that Buzzfeed’s characterizations of Cohen’s comments and evidence gathered “are not accurate.”
Mueller’s report similarly undercuts Buzzfeed’s reporting. “With regard to Cohen’s false statements to Congress, while there is evidence…that the President knew Cohen provided false testimony to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project, the evidence available to us does not establish that the President directed or aided Cohen’s false testimony,” Mueller wrote. “Cohen said that he and the President did not explicitly discuss whether Cohen’s testimony about the Trump Tower Moscow project would be or was false, and the President did not direct him to provide false testimony.”
6) Michael Flynn’s Sanctions Talk With Russia
The president’s first national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, landed in hot water for conducting diplomacy during the Trump transition, reaching out to Russians, discussing sanctions — and later lying to the FBI about it. Many speculated that Flynn’s efforts weren’t freelance, and that they had the blessing of Trump himself, and that’s why Trump encouraged then-FBI director James Comey to go easy on Flynn.
Mueller debunks that theory, writing: “Our investigation… did not produce evidence that established that the President knew about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions before the Department of Justice notified the White House of those discussions in late January 2017. The evidence also does not establish that Flynn otherwise possessed information damaging to the President that would give the President a personal incentive to end the FBI’s inquiry into Flynn’s conduct.”