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President Trump has spent the last two years denouncing the “fake news” media, and yet some of the key moments in Robert S. Mueller III’s report were uncovered or bolstered through journalists’ investigative scrutiny. Moreover, in seeking to find out whether the president had obstructed justice, Mr. Mueller and his team looked to the administration’s public and private responses to reports in the media.

The Mueller report cites work from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other news outlets dozens of times. Some of the stories published over the past two years were important turning points for the investigation. The report also reveals moments when the president and his aides rebutted stories they knew were true. Televised interviews figure prominently in the report as well. The president’s now-famous sit-down with Lester Holt on “NBC Nightly News” and Rudolph Giuliani’s discussions of pardons for Paul Manafort on CNN were crucial viewing for the Mueller investigative team.

The report reveals a lot we didn’t know about how the president and his aides responded to overtures from Russia and how they attempted to thwart investigations. But many of the bombshells in the document were first reported by the press. Below, we’ve rounded up a selection of stories from The New York Times and The Washington Post that shaped this investigation.

The Washington Post

Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?

By David Ignatius

Where it shows up: Vol. 2, Page 29

Key quote from the report: “On January 12, 2017, a Washington Post columnist reported that Flynn and Kislyak communicated on the day the Obama Administration announced the Russia sanctions. The column questioned whether Flynn had said something to ‘undercut the U.S. sanctions’ and whether Flynn’s communications had violated the letter or spirit of the Logan Act.”

Why it’s important: One of the origin points of the investigation can be found in David Ignatius’s column, which revealed that Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s choice to serve as national security adviser, had talked to Russian officials during the transition period about possibly lifting sanctions once the Trump administration was in place. The piece set off a string of high-profile denials from the White House, causing alarm among Justice Department officials since they knew Mr. Flynn’s statements to be untrue. Mr. Flynn resigned the following month.

The New York Times

Excerpts From The Times’s Interview With Trump

By Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman

Where it shows up: Vol. 2, Pages 93-94

Key quote from the report: “Hicks, who was present for the interview, recalled trying to ‘throw [herself] between the reporters and [the President]’ to stop parts of the interview, but the President ‘loved the interview.’”

Why it’s important: Mr. Mueller’s team never got Mr. Trump to sit down for a formal interview. Instead, the president submitted written responses, vetted by his lawyers, to questions from the special counsel. In July 2017, however, Mr. Trump spoke to these three reporters from The New York Times. The Mueller report seizes upon the president’s remarks to The Times about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his efforts to get Mr. Sessions to withdraw his recusal and reassert control over the Russia inquiry.

The Washington Post

Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say

By Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz

Where it shows up: Vol. 2, Pages 84-85

Key quote from the report: “On the evening of June 14, 2017, the Washington Post published an article stating that the Special Counsel was investigating whether the President had attempted to obstruct justice. […] On Saturday, June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn and directed him to have the Special Counsel removed.”

Why it’s important: The Washington Post’s reporting that the special counsel’s investigation had expanded into questions of obstruction seemed to have agitated the president. Only two days after The Post’s publication of its story, Mr. Trump called his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, at home from Camp David, directing him to fire the special counsel.

The New York Times

Trump Ordered Mueller Fired, but Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit

By Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman

Where it shows up: Vol. 2, Pages 113-116

Key quote from the report: “The President began the Oval Office meeting by telling McGahn that the New York Times story did not ‘look good’ and McGahn needed to correct it. McGahn recalled the President said, ‘I never said to fire Mueller. I never said “fire.” This story doesn’t look good. You need to correct this. You’re the White House counsel.’”

Why it’s important: In January 2018, The New York Times reported that Mr. McGahn had threatened to quit after the president asked him to fire the special counsel. The fallout and the president’s reaction to the story are integral to the special counsel’s review of whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice.

The Washington Post

Trump moved to fire Mueller in June, bringing White House counsel to the brink of leaving

By Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey

Where it shows up: Vol. 2, Page 114

Key quote from the report: “The next day, the Washington Post reported on the same event but added that McGahn had not told the President directly that he intended to resign rather than carry out the directive to have the Special Counsel terminated. In that respect, the Post story clarified the Times story, which could be read to suggest that McGahn had told the President of his intention to quit, causing the President to back down from the order to have the Special Counsel fired.”

Why it’s important: The Washington Post built on The Times’s reporting about Mr. McGahn’s refusal to fire Mr. Mueller.

The New York Times

In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred.

By Michael S. Schmidt

Where it shows up: Vol. 2, Page 35

Key quote from the report: “After Comey’s account of the dinner became public, the President and his advisors disputed that he had asked for Comey’s loyalty. The President also indicated that he had not invited Comey to dinner, telling a reporter that he thought Comey had ‘asked for the dinner’ because ‘he wanted to stay on.’ But substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account of the dinner invitation and the request for loyalty. The President’s Daily Diary confirms that the President ‘extend[ed] a dinner invitation’ to Comey on January 27.”

Why it’s important: We now know that James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, wanted to make sure that his contemporaneous memorandum about his dinner with the president made it into the hands of the press. In May 2017, The Times revealed Mr. Comey’s account of this meeting, detailing the president’s insistence that he pledge his loyalty. The report makes clear that, despite the administration’s denials, The Times’s reporting on this meeting is accurate.

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Anna Dubenko is an editor for off platform strategy. She was previously the editorial director at Digg and an editor at The Huffington Post. @annadubenko

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