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Trump didn't obstruct justice, but it wasn't for lack of trying: Mueller report

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Mueller investigation makes it clear Trump's aides tried to save him from himself; there are several major questions raised by the United Conservative Party's win in Alberta; dealing with workplace burnout.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

U.S. President Donald Trump takes questions at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Thursday. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • What is abundantly clear from the Mueller investigation report is that Donald Trump should thank his aides for trying to save him from himself.
  • There are pressing questions raised by the United Conservative Party's win in Alberta.
  • Stressed out at work? You're not alone.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Mueller report

Donald Trump didn't obstruct justice, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

That's the clear take-away from Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the U.S. president's efforts to quash questions about contacts between his campaign and the Kremlin.

Volume II of the 400-plus page report, which was made public this morning, begins by laying out the reasons why it would be next to impossible to indict a sitting president for a crime — saying such an action might violate the U.S. Constitution, and would certainly undermine Trump's ability to govern.

But the special counsel then lays out what amounts to a fairly damning case.

After nearly 23 months, the public has finally seen the redacted report prepared by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, left, on the Trump-Russia investigation. The Trump-appointed superior Attorney General William Barr, right, released the report Thursday. (Reuters)

From the very beginning of his presidency in January 2017, Trump seemed obsessed with making the Russia story go away as swiftly as possible and by any means necessary.

Some of what went down was already known, like the president's efforts to persuade James Comey, the FBI director at the time, to go easy on White House national security advisor Mike Flynn for lying about his dealings with Russia's ambassador to the United States. And how Comey's refusal led to his subsequent firing.

However, Mueller also details several other efforts to derail the Russia investigation.

Trump tried to get Flynn's deputy, K.T. McFarland, to write up a statement saying that he had nothing to do with the Russia discussion, dangling an ambassadorial appointment as a quid pro quo.

When Robert Mueller was brought in to probe the issues raised by Comey's sacking, Trump pushed to have him dismissed on ginned-up conflict of interest grounds, and when that failed, flat out ordered the firing of the special counsel.

Former FBI Director James Comey and his attorney David Kelley, right, speak to reporters after a day of testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 7, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The president repeatedly tried to pressure his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the matter, to take control of the investigation and bring it to an end, or at the very least limit its scope.

Trump has always maintained that there was "no collusion" with Russia, and Mueller's two-year investigation failed to produce evidence to substantiate that charge.

So why did Trump try so hard to interfere?

Mueller offers a glimpse in a section about the president's reaction to his appointment as special counsel.

"Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f**ked," Trump lamented, according to notes taken by a staffer during an Oval Office meeting. "Everybody tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me."

Special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is 400 pages long. Seen here, portions of the material were redacted in black before the report was released to the public. (Albert Leung/CBC)

And what is abundantly clear from the investigation is that Trump should thank his aides and advisors for at least trying to  save him from himself.

Steve Bannon and Chris Christie told him not to try and influence Comey, and argued strenuously against his firing.

Repeated attempts to send backchannel messages to Sessions were frustrated by staffers who refused, or simply lied about having delivered them.

And Don McGahn, the White House counsel, refused to carry out the president's direct order to fire Robert Mueller, threatening to resign unless Trump backed down.

"The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful," Mueller writes, "but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests."

All in all, a conclusion that falls well short of an exoneration.  

Follow coverage of the Mueller report at

At Issue

There are pressing questions raised by the United Conservative Party's win in Alberta, writes The National co-host Rosemary Barton.

Hello from the Nation's Capital. It was great to spend four days in Calgary, but it's good to be back in Ottawa.

I will admit I did not expect the United Conservative Party (UCP) to get such a strong mandate from Alberta's voters. This is only based on me asking everyone I met who they were going to vote for, but I got the distinct impression people were really considering their choices.

They did, apparently, and then they came out in big numbers to vote for Jason Kenney, who no-one can accuse of not working very hard for that win.

United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney reacts to his party's win at his provincial election night headquarters in Calgary on Tuesday night. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

It's the "what's next" that becomes fascinating.

Will Kenney's very confrontational approach to the Prime Minister get different results for Alberta?

Will cancelling the province's carbon tax do anything other than turn over power to Ottawa to impose one?

Does a pipeline get done faster or slower under the new UCP government?

And from my Ottawa perspective, does the force of Conservative premiers create a serious problem for the Liberal government, particularly going into the next federal election in a few months? Does Andrew Scheer now have a built-in coalition of people to bring him a win in October, or does it create opportunity for Justin Trudeau in the form of a bunch of convenient enemies?

Politics is ever-changing and ever-fascinating. I would say it just got a little bit more so after what we saw in Alberta earlier this week.

Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hébert and Shachi Kurl will help us sort through things on Tonight's At Issue. See you on a screen of some sort.

- Rosemary Barton

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Battling burnout

Stressed out at work? You're not alone, producer Tarannum Kamlani writes.

Be honest. When you meet someone at a party, what's the first question you ask after being introduced?

Chances are, it's "what do you do?"

As in, what do you do for a living. And that speaks to how work has come to dominate life for so many of us.

The National is launching a series that looks at the changing nature of work in Canada, and how it's affecting people. (Shutterstock/LightField Studios)

Ask yourself another question: if you're not feeling stressed, are you working hard enough?

What is going on, and why are our jobs so deeply woven into our identities?

In the coming days, The National is doing a deep dive into the consequences of this obsessive relationship our culture has with work — one of the big ones being burnout.

It all starts Sunday with Andrew Chang's feature interview with author and digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush on her new book, Hustle and Float. Burnout happened to her, as it has to so many others in all sorts of workplaces and industries. Her book examines some of the cultural factors behind the relationship we have with work, and what can happen when overwork becomes your norm.

Rahaf Harfoush, author of 'Hustle and Float.' (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

On Monday, Christine Birak looks at the impact of shiftwork, but not in the medical field or on the factory floor. We're talking about the increasing number of people who work in places like 24-hour convenience stores and all-night gyms.

On Tuesday, Dianne Buckner examines the work-from-home trend. It's touted as a solution to solving stress in the workplace, but some are finding that it may be making things worse.

Later in the week, we'll see how other countries are dealing with workplace burnout on a mass scale. And Eli Glasner takes a hard look at problems in a fast-moving, high-pressure industry worth billions.

Then to cap it all off, Andrew Chang will sit down with a panel of special guests to examine how we can start building a culture of work that's better adapted to the changing nature of jobs in 2019.

Hope you'll watch!

- Tarannum Kamlani

NHL playoffs

The National may be delayed on the CBC television network in Newfoundland & Labrador and provinces in the Eastern time zone due to the NHL playoffs. The show will air at its usual time, 9 p.m. ET, on News Network and online.

A few words on ... 

Remembering a really big win.

Quote of the moment

"I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled … I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but … [another] person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us."

- Kwon Jong Gun, an official with North Korea's ministry of foreign affairs, on the Hermit Kingdom's desire to freeze U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from future disarmament talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

What The National is reading

  • Astrophysicists find elusive molecule that "kick-started" the universe (CBC)
  • More than 200 dead as Tripoli fighting continues (Al Jazeera)
  • Thai soccer team rescue diver saved from Tennessee cave (Washington Post)
  • Half of England is owned by less than 1 per cent of the population (Guardian)
  • Doctors use gene therapy to fix "bubble boy" disease (CBC)
  • Former New Zealand official guilty of hiding camera in embassy toilet (BBC)
  • Salisbury council to Donald Trump: No ducks were harmed in Skripal poisoning (Politico EU)

Today in history

April 18, 1981: Polar bear hunt boosts Inuit income

By 1981, Canada was the only country in the world that permitted polar bear hunting for sport. And for the residents of Holman (now Ulukhaktok) N.W.T., that meant economic opportunity. Wealthy foreigners were paying top dollar for the chance to shoot some Arctic big game — $4,400 for a Muskox, or up to $15,000 for a two-week bear hunt. "To be in constant search of rare animals, and sometimes dangerous animals, is quite a challenge for a man," explains a Belgian visitor who had already shot things in 26 different countries.

In 1981, sport hunters shell out big bucks to shoot big game in Canada's Arctic. 4:23

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.