The Mueller Report makes a case that Trump repeatedly tried to obstruct justice, and provided a road map for congress to adjudicate these offenses. I believe this theory has merit, and we need to break this down to understand what Mueller is really telling us. The key to the theory are the three points that need to be proven to bring obstructions charges, as laid out by Mueller, and whether Mueller identifies acts that meet all three points.
The crime of obstruction of justice depends on proof of three basic points: first, actions intended to obstruct or impede an investigation; second, a nexus to an official inquiry; and third, a corrupt motive. Although a president may lawfully limit or even halt investigations for reasons genuinely related to the national interest, doing so to advance one’s partisan political prospects or to protect oneself or one’s family or friends from criminal exposure or personal embarrassment is to act corruptly.
The second volume of Mueller’s report lays out 10 different sequences of events that might amount to obstruction—from Trump’s efforts to convince FBI Director James Comey to let go of the investigation of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, to his repeated attempts to stop or limit the Mueller investigation, to his public and private efforts to induce witnesses Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen not to testify or to hew to Trump’s preferred view of reality.
Space precludes a blow-by-blow analysis of each of these categories, but Mueller’s conclusions—though guardedly, even opaquely, phrased—are evident and damning. He concludes that on multiple occasions Trump engaged in behavior that either did, or was intended to, obstruct or impede criminal investigations. As to some of the enumerated categories, Mueller concludes that, even if obstructive conduct occurred, there was insufficient evidence of “corrupt” motive.
But as to at least five sequences of events, Mueller unmistakably believes that there is persuasive evidence of obstructive conduct, a nexus to an investigation, and corrupt motive. These included repeated efforts to remove special counsel Robert Mueller; an attempt through Corey Lewandowski to induce Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the Mueller probe to future Russian interference in elections; a brazen attempt to convince White House counsel Don McGahn to lie about the fact that Trump had ordered him to arrange the firing of Mueller; Trump’s efforts to influence the cooperation and testimony of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort; and Trump’s efforts to induce Michael Cohen not to cooperate or to shade his testimony in Trump’s favor.
Quinta Jurecic (@qjurecic) provided a nice spreadsheet for how this plays out in the report. I think it helps illustrate the case Mueller is making. These are not just random facts, he is showing how each action meets or fails to meet each standard.
A perfect explanation of this theory comes from Rachel Maddow. I highly recommend this breakdown, as she is pretty thorough. Also, in this case, she has a lot to get to, so you are not going to spend time waiting for her to get to the point. This segment is dense and informative and feels like one perfectly made argument for impeachment based on Mueller's finding.
Edit: Wrong video. I just swapped it to the correct one.