Interpretation by PBS
I have found a list similar to the one posted by Fizz, the list is compiled by PBS and contains eleven 'moments Mueller investigated for obstruction of justice'. In addition to the list posted by Fizz, PBS also mentions:
What Trump knew and what he denied about Russia and WikiLeaks (pages 228-236).
Did the president try to cover up Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian ambassador or protect him from prosecution? (pages 237-259)
Trump’s repeated urging of top administration officials to deny he was under investigation (pages 260- 273)
Directly from the Mueller report
Given the discrepancies between those lists, it might be worth looking at what the Mueller report itself says about the matter. Luckily, the Mueller report summarises just that in the first part of the executive summary to volume II, titled Factual Results of the Obstruction Investigation. The key issues and events (starting on page 3 of the second volume, page 215 in the linked pdf) as stated in that summary are posted below.
For each of the counts, I will add the full explanation from the summary. Initially, I tried to quote a sentence (or two) to condense it a bit further but that's basically cherry-picking as everything in the summary is already written in as few words as can be. I added extra line breaks where appropriate.
Factual Results of the Obstruction Investigation
The key issues and events we examined include the following:
The Campaign’s response to reports about Russian support for Trump
- During the 2016
about any further planned WikiLeaks
presidential campaign, questions arose about the Russian government’s apparent support for
candidate Trump. After WikiLeaks released politically damaging Democratic Party emails that
were reported to have been hacked by Russia, Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia
was responsible for the hacks at the same time that he and other Campaign officials privately
sought information [redacted; harm to ongoing matter]
Trump also denied having any business in or connections to Russia, even though as late
as June 2016 the Trump Organization had been pursuing a licensing deal for a skyscraper to be
built in Russia called Trump Tower Moscow. After the election, the President expressed concerns
to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the
legitimacy of his election.
Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn.
- In mid-January 2017,
incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn falsely denied to the Vice President, other
administration officials, and FBI agents that he had talked to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak
about Russia’s response to U.S. sanctions on Russia for its election interference. On January 27,
the day after the President was told that Flynn had lied to the Vice President and had made similar
statements to the FBI, the President invited FBI Director Comey to a private dinner at the White
House and told Comey that he needed loyalty. On February 14, the day after the President
requested Flynn’s resignation, the President told an outside advisor,
“Now that we fired Flynn, the
Russia thing is over.
” The advisor disagreed and said the investigations would continue.
Later that afternoon, the President cleared the Oval Office to have a one-on-one meeting
with Comey. Referring to the FBI’s investigation of Flynn, the President said,
“I hope you can
see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this
go.” Shortly after requesting Flynn’s resignation and speaking privately to Comey, the President
sought to have Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland draft an internal letter stating
that the President had not directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak. McFarland declined
because she did not know whether that was true, and a White House Counsel’s Office attorney
thought that the request would look like a quid pro quo for an ambassadorship she had been offered.
The President’s reaction to the continuing Russia investigation.
- In February 2017,
Attorney General Jeff Sessions began to assess whether he had to recuse himself from campaign-related investigations because of his role in the Trump Campaign. In early March, the President
told White House Counsel Donald McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing. And after Sessions
announced his recusal on March 2, the President expressed anger at the decision and told advisors
that he should have an Attorney General who would protect him. That weekend, the President
took Sessions aside at an event and urged him to “unrecuse.”
Later in March, Comey publicly disclosed at a congressional hearing that the FBI was investigating “the Russian government’s
efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including any links or coordination between
the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.
In the following days, the President reached
out to the Director of National Intelligence and the leaders of the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) to ask them what they could do to publicly dispel
the suggestion that the President had any connection to the Russian election-interference effort.
The President also twice called Comey directly, notwithstanding guidance from McGahn to avoid
direct contacts with the Department of Justice. Comey had previously assured the President that
the FBI was not investigating him personally, and the President asked Comey to “lift the cloud”
of the Russia investigation by saying that publicly.
The President’s termination of Comey.
- On May 3, 2017, Comey testified in a
congressional hearing, but declined to answer questions about whether the President was
personally under investigation. Within days, the President decided to terminate Comey. The
President insisted that the termination letter, which was written for public release, state that Comey
had informed the President that he was not under investigation. The day of the firing, the White
House maintained that Comey’s termination resulted from independent recommendations from the
Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General that Comey should be discharged for mishandling
the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
But the President had decided to fire Comey before
hearing from the Department of Justice. The day after firing Comey, the President told Russian
officials that he had “faced great pressure because of Russia,
” which had been “taken off’ by
Comey’s firing. The next day, the President acknowledged in a television interview that he was
going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice’s recommendation and that when he
“decided to just do it,
” he was thinking that “this thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
In response to a question about whether he was angry with Comey about the Russia investigation,
the President said,
“As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly,
adding that firing Comey “might even lengthen out the investigation.
The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him.
- On May 17, 2017, the
Acting Attorney General for the Russia investigation appointed a Special Counsel to conduct the
investigation and related matters. The President reacted to news that a Special Counsel had been
appointed by telling advisors that it was “the end of his presidency” and demanding that Sessions
resign. Sessions submitted his resignation, but the President ultimately did not accept it. The
President told aides that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and suggested that the Special
Counsel therefore could not serve. The President’s advisors told him the asserted conflicts were
meritless and had already been considered by the Department of Justice.
On June 14, 2017, the media reported that the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating
whether the President had obstructed justice. Press reports called this “a major turning point” in
the investigation: while Comey had told the President he was not under investigation, following
Comey’s firing, the President now was under investigation. The President reacted to this news
with a series of tweets criticizing the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel’s
investigation. On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call
the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be
removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather
than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.
Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel's investigation.
- Two days after directing McGahn
to have the Special Counsel removed, the President made another attempt to affect the course of
the Russia investigation. On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with
his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and
dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions. The message said that Sessions should
publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation
was “very unfair” to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to
meet with the Special Counsel and “let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling
for future elections.
” Lewandowski said he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do.
One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the
President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel
investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message
would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an
interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that
Sessions’s job was in jeopardy. Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President’s message
personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions.
Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through.
Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence.
- In the summer of 2017, the President
learned that media outlets were asking questions about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower
between senior campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who was
said to be offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its
government’s support for Mr. Trump.
” On several occasions, the President directed aides not to
publicly disclose the emails setting up the June 9 meeting, suggesting that the emails would not
leak and that the number of lawyers with access to them should be limited. Before the emails
became public, the President edited a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that
acknowledged that the meeting was with “an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have
information helpful to the campaign” and instead said only that the meeting was about adoptions
of Russian children. When the press asked questions about the President’s involvement in Trump
’s statement, the President’s personal lawyer repeatedly denied the President had played any
Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation.
- In early
summer 2017, the President called Sessions at home and again asked him to reverse his recusal
from the Russia investigation. Sessions did not reverse his recusal. In October 2017, the President
met privately with Sessions in the Oval Office and asked him to “take [a] look” at investigating
Clinton. In December 2017, shortly after Flynn pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation
agreement, the President met with Sessions in the Oval Office and suggested, according to notes
taken by a senior advisor, that if Sessions unrecused and took back supervision of the Russia
investigation, he would be a “hero.
” The President told Sessions,
“I’m not going to do anything
or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly.
” In response, Sessions volunteered
that he had never seen anything “improper” on the campaign and told the President there was a
“whole new leadership team” in place. He did not unrecuse.
Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special
- In early 2018, the press reported that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed in June 2017 and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather
than carry out the order. The President reacted to the news stories by directing White House
officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to
have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn told those officials that the media reports were
accurate in stating that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed.
The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the
reports. In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special
Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes
of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered
happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.
Conduct towards Flynn, Manafort, [redacted; HOM].
- After Flynn withdrew from a joint defense
agreement with the President and began cooperating with the government, the President’s personal
counsel left a message for Flynn’s attorneys reminding them of the President’s warm feelings
towards Flynn, which he said “still remains,
” and asking for a “heads up” if Flynn knew
“information that implicates the President.
” When Flynn’s counsel reiterated that Flynn could no
longer share information pursuant to a joint defense agreement, the President’s personal counsel
said he would make sure that the President knew that Flynn’s actions reflected “hostility” towards
During Manafort’s prosecution and when the jury in his criminal, trial was
deliberating, the President praised Manafort in public, said that Manafort was being treated
unfairly, and declined to rule out a pardon. After Manafort was convicted, the President called
Manafort “a brave man” for refusing to “break” and said that “flipping” “almost ought to be outlawed.” [large redaction; harm to ongoing matter]
Conduct involving Michael Cohen.
- The President’s conduct towards Michael Cohen, a
former Trump Organization executive, changed from praise for Cohen when he falsely minimized
the President’s involvement in the Trump Tower Moscow project, to castigation of Cohen when
he became a cooperating witness.
From September 2015 to June 2016, Cohen had pursued the
Trump Tower Moscow project on behalf of the Trump Organization and had briefed candidate
Trump on the project numerous times, including discussing whether Trump should travel to Russia
to advance the deal.
In 2017, Cohen provided false testimony to Congress about the project,
including stating that he had only briefed Trump on the project three times and never discussed
travel to Russia with him, in an effort to adhere to a “party line” that Cohen said was developed to
minimize the President’s connections to Russia. While preparing for his congressional testimony,
Cohen had extensive discussions with the President’s personal counsel, who, according to Cohen,
said that Cohen should “stay on message” and not contradict the President.
After the FBI searched
Cohen’s home and office in April 2018, the President publicly asserted that Cohen would not
” contacted him directly to tell him to “stay strong,
” and privately passed messages of support
to him. Cohen also discussed pardons with the President’s personal counsel and believed that if
he stayed on message he would be taken care of. But after Cohen began cooperating with the
government in the summer of 2018, the President publicly criticized him, called him a “rat,
suggested that his family members had committed crimes.
Why the president wasn't prosecuted for obstruction of justice
In reply to your comment under Fizz's answer:
As far as I understand, Mueller didn't indict Trump because he didn't think that he had the authority to do so, not because he didn't see cases of obstruction.
The executive summary ends with the following conclusion (on page 8 of the second volume, page 220 in the linked pdf):
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.
Note that pages 7 and 8 of the second volume go into more detail when it comes to the decision not to prosecute the president for obstruction of justice, but I think the conclusion suffices here.