What to Skim or Skip in the Report.
Part 3 of a series: How to Read the Mueller Report: A Primer for the Rest of Us.
Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election
Before reading What to Skim or Skip in the Mueller Report, you might want to check out Part 1. Why I read the Mueller Report and why everyone should.
I read the entire report, footnotes and all, and I found quite a few pages I could have skimmed or skipped. As I wrote in Part 1, I’m no one special, an everyday American like you, so my words might not pass a legal test. When I want facts, I trust no one. I check multiple sources. I couldn’t swallow the confusing contradictions.
My sense of duty compelled me to read the report and draw my own conclusions, as should you. Don’t believe me. Find out for yourself.
Reading the report is not as intimidating as you might think.
I admit when I heard 448 pages, I wondered how far I’d get, but I learned that actual reading was nowhere near that many pages. In this post I suggest which parts, in my opinion, you can skip to lighten your reading load. The Report consists of two distinct volumes. Read both or start by choosing one. I suggest skimming my previous post: Anatomy of the Mueller Report. Structure and Content. Part 2
Volume 1: What to read, skim or skip
Volume I describes the factual results of the Special Counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and its interactions with the Trump Campaign.
Russian Interference and the Trump Campaign.
Skip the Title and blank pages. Unless you’re looking for, or referring back to something specific, skip the 5-page Table of Contents. Skim the Introduction to Volume 1.
Executive Summary to Volume 1 — These six pages are important. You have three choices: Skim it and proceed to Section 1, Read it and proceed to Section 1, or Read it and call it a day and proceed to Volume 2. I suggest you read it and keep going, because you should be hooked by the Summary.
Section I, The Special Counsel’s Investigation — describes the scope of the investigation. It’s only three pages so why not read them.
Section II, Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign — describes the principal ways Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. A lot of the meat is here and should be read, it’s only 21 pages with about half the content redacted.
Section III, Russian Hacking and Dumping Operations — report of Russian interference continues. This section covers cyber thefts, hacks, leaks, drops and spearphishing. Here’s where stolen emails and WikiLeaks comes in, and so much more for 29 pages. A quick glance looks like 20-25% is redacted.
Section IV, Russian Government Links To and Contacts With the Trump Campaign — here we go to Trump Tower Moscow, Trump Tower Meeting, Republican National Convention and the change to the party platform, emails, notes, dirt and many of the characters we’ve come to know from news reports. This section is packed with the details about contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign and its associated individuals, with few redactions in 107 pages. The guts of Volume I is definitely worth reading.
Section V, Prosecution and Declination Decisions — heavily redacted, my guess is almost 30% of the 26 pages as illustrated below. Section V summarizes Volume I’s conclusions — to prosecute or not to charge, and why. This section can be skimmed for the results, and much of it explains law that can be skipped unless that’s your thing.
Volume I is only 185 pages. Take out redactions (8-9 pages), footnotes (I wouldn’t), and legal stuff and it’s a whole lot less than an average novel.
Volume 2: What to read, skim or skip
Volume II addresses the President’s actions towards the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and related matters, and his actions towards the Special Counsel’s investigation. Volume II separately states its framework and the considerations that guided that investigation.
Obstruction of Justice
Volume 2 is all about Obstruction of Justice and begins on page 208 of the Report. I figure about 170 reading pages. (There’s no reason you can’t read Vol. 2 before Vol. 1.)
Skip the Title and blank pages, and unless you’re looking for something specific, or referring back, skip the 3+ pages in the Table of Contents. Skim the Introduction to Volume 2.
Executive Summary to Volume 2 — These six pages are important. You have three choices: Skim it and proceed to Section 1, Read it and proceed to Section 1, or Read it and call it a day. I suggest you read it and keep going, because you should be hooked.
Section I, Background Legal and Evidentiary Principles — as the title reads, this section explains legal framework and “considerations” of investigation and evidence. This is a tough read for us non-legal folks. Skim it or skip it. However, it’s helpful to understand the legal criteria that each act being investigated must meet: Obstructive act, Nexus to an official proceeding, and Intent.
Section II, Factual Results of the Obstruction Investigation — this is the guts, with point-by-point detail, heavy with footnotes and light on redactions. If Obstruction of Justice is what you came for, you’ll find it in this section. You might get by with only Overview, Evidence and Analysis of each but you’d miss the details. 163 pages.
Section III, Legal Defenses to the Application of Obstruction-of-Justice Statutes to the President — Ugh! This is all about statutes, case law, and legal talk. Tough reading that I would skip.
Section IV, Conclusion — one must-read paragraph. I’ll make it easy. Here it is:
Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct. 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 judgment. 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 judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
You’re almost done. Appendices close the deal.
Choose what piques your interest:
A: Letter — an image of the actual letter appointing the Special Counsel
B: Glossary — of Referenced Persons, Entities and Organizations, and an Index of Acronyms
C: Written Questions and Trump’s Answers — skip the Questions and go straight to the Responses beginning on page 427 (aka: C-11) where the questions are repeated.
D: Transferred, Referred, and Completed Cases — 6 pages, heavily redacted. Worth the read.
Congratulations! You did it. You are now one of only 3-10% of Americans who have read the Report. Be proud. Brag. You’ve earned your opinion.
Thanks for your interest in How to Read the Mueller Report: A Primer for the Rest of Us
Read the report. You can do it. It’s free online right now. I read the PDF document at NPR (National Public Radio)
Listen to the report. A free serialized narrative podcast is online at LawfareBlog.com:
How to Read the Mueller Report: A Primer for the Rest of Us
Thank you for your interest in this non-political how-to series.
I plan to post this 4-part series around the time former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies in an open session of congress on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.
I offer no conclusions, political or otherwise. That’s my point. Read the report and form your own. I simply offer encouragement and based on my experience, I hope to make the reading easier—for the rest of us.
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