It appears special counsel Robert Mueller has provided neither the slam-dunk impeachment material that many Democrats had hoped for nor the “Total EXONERATION” that President Donald Trump has been quick to claim. Rather, what Americans now have access to is a mere four-page summary of Mr. Mueller’s findings prepared by Attorney General William Barr that reaches two major conclusions — that the Trump campaign did not actively conspire with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election but that there was sufficient evidence of obstruction of justice to require Mr. Barr to decide whether prosecution was justified. And after consulting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Mr. Barr decided that no charges would be filed.
This has to be regarded as something of a victory for the White House. Assuming Mr. Barr has given a straightforward and honest account, one can scarcely blame President Trump for feeling a sense of relief. And he clearly didn’t see it coming. Given Mr. Trump’s attacks against Mr. Mueller (describing the investigation as a “witch hunt” at least 183 times on Twitter, for example), there’s a rich irony to his current claim of “complete and total exoneration.” Apparently, the “rigged” investigation “by Mueller and 13 angry Democrats” just turned out to be honest. Whether there was collusion or not, Mr. Trump’s acts of mendacity are legion.
That the White House would spin these findings — a mere summary of a summary, as it were — is hardly a surprise. But Americans would be wise to remember that prosecutors, including Mr. Mueller, aren’t in the business of finding people blameless. They are in the business of collecting evidence and deciding whether to prosecute. There’s a big difference. And the special counsel has been doing plenty of prosecuting and plea bargaining. From Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, to Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, not to mention Michael Flynn and Richard Gates, there has been no shortage of people in the president’s inner circle to face criminal charges. In all, more than 30 people, including some Russian nationals, have been charged with more than 200 counts of criminal activity as a result of the Mueller probe.
That’s why the decision not to file criminal charges against Mr. Trump or more people associated with his campaign is one thing, the actual contents of the Mueller report are another. Mr. Barr was quick to produce his summary within two days of Mr. Mueller’s report landing on his desk. He should release the full report (minus anything that might harm ongoing investigations or compromise U.S. intelligence efforts, of course) with great haste. Even President Trump has supported such a release, and the House passed a resolution earlier this month calling for the report to be made public by a 420-0 margin. The public deserves to know the full truth.
The basic facts of what happened in 2016 aren’t in dispute. Nor have they been called into question by Mr. Barr. They are this: the Russian government at the behest of Vladimir Putin went to great lengths to interfere, on social media platforms and elsewhere, in the presidential race. Their preferred candidate was Mr. Trump. Trump insiders took multiple meetings with individuals with connections to Mr. Putin and, in some cases, mislead the public and investigators about those meetings. President Trump has subsequently acted as his own worst enemy, often siding with Mr. Putin over his own intelligence agencies, railing about “deep state” conspiracies and condemning his own attorney general for allowing the Mueller investigation to move forward. As recently as last week, Mr. Trump was calling on Mr. Barr to reopen — for the umpteenth time — an investigation into Hillary Clinton and her use of a personal email server while serving as secretary of state.
Surely, House Democrats won’t be folding up their tents on the Russia investigation quite yet. Nor should they. In addition to the Mueller report, there’s also the matter of what the House intelligence and judiciary committees may uncover in their oversight hearings. And then there’s the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which is involved in at least three Trump-related criminal investigations as well as investigations by federal prosecutors in D.C. and Virginia, one of which relates to Trump associate Roger Stone. Mr. Barr’s letter is just a first, annotated step in finding out what’s really going on with a president who certainly seems to associate himself with a lot of criminal wrongdoing.
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