Fearing that his presidency was doomed, an angry Donald Trump pushed for Robert Mueller to be fired before he could deepen his probe into Russian election meddling, the special counsel's long-awaited report said Thursday.
The more than 400-page document, made public in redacted form by the Justice Department, detailed how Trump told his then White House counsel, Don McGahn, to tell the acting attorney general that Mueller "must be removed" -- something McGahn refused to do.
The report -- which landed as the United States dives into the ferment of a bitter presidential campaign -- supports Trump's repeated assertions that he never colluded with Russian intelligence efforts to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.
"As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION - NO OBSTRUCTION!" the president tweeted as he declared a political victory.
Trump added later at a White House function that he was "having a good day," although he departed for his weekend retreat in Florida without commenting further.
However, the report -- based on nearly two years of interviews by Mueller's team with Trump's inner circle -- also emphasized that, contrary to the Republican president's claim, he had not been cleared of obstruction of justice.
And while finding that no Americans took part in the Russian meddling, Mueller determined that Trump was happy enough to gain an advantage from the dirty tricks.
This included the release by WikiLeaks of emails stolen by Russian agents from the team of Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
"The campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts," the report said.
Jerry Nadler, a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, called the report "disturbing," while Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal saw a "detailed, deeply damning portrait of criminal wrongdoing and national scandal."
'This is the end of my presidency'
The secretive Mueller probe has consumed Washington -- and the first half of Trump's first term in office -- over the last two years.
Throughout, Trump has labelled the investigation a "witch hunt," while his Democratic opponents have talked up the extraordinary idea that an American president might have been colluding with Russian agents.
The report released Thursday paints an unflattering picture of Trump in crisis mode as the scandal first hit the White House in 2017.
US intelligence services had already been looking into the Russian meddling. But after Trump fired his FBI director, James Comey, Mueller was appointed as an independent prosecutor to handle the highly sensitive probe.
"The president slumped back in his chair and said: 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked'," the Mueller report said.
Top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway rejected that portrayal, telling reporters: "That was not the reaction of the president that day."
Obstruction of justice?
Trump has been proven right regarding collusion, Mueller says, but a second allegation -- that he might have attempted to obstruct justice by derailing the probe -- remains far from defused.
Attorney General Bill Barr made a nationally televised statement just before the report was released to give the administration's spin on the results.
He explained Trump's hostile behavior during the drama as the actions of a president who was "frustrated and angered."
"And at the same time, the president took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation," Barr said.
Mueller's detailing of Trump's actions however leaves a murkier record.
Trump's attempts to have Mueller removed, according to the special counsel report, were part of a pattern.
"The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests," the report said.
In a passage likely to be welcomed by Trump's Democratic opponents in Congress, Mueller stated that it could be up to lawmakers to determine whether Trump obstructed justice.
"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," the report said.
"Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment."
Legislators have "the authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority," it said.
Fight not finished
Publication of the report -- minus parts blacked out for legal or security reasons -- will allow everyone to get a more complete picture of a scandal that has been tangled in conspiracy theories.
But given the charged political atmosphere in Washington and the left-right chasm across the country as Trump dives into his 2020 re-election bid, the debate over what really happened is likely to rage on.
Trump is supremely confident that his opponents have failed in what he claims was high-level "treason" to destroy his presidency.
"The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!" the president said in yet another tweet Thursday.
Claiming that Barr has been working to whitewash the Russia report, Democrats will push for more details and testimony in the near future -- including from Mueller himself.
"Whether these acts are criminal or not... they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral and unpatriotic and should be condemned by every American," said Adam Schiff, chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee.
Nadler, who heads the House judiciary committee, has set a deadline of May 23 for Mueller to give testimony on his findings to Capitol Hill.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)