A major finding, but release full Mueller report
There are many reasons to criticize the presidency of Donald Trump. Allegations of misconduct, potentially criminal, will continue to dog him. Being a traitor, however, cannot be counted among them.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” writes Attorney General William Barr in his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the election.
This is good news for the country. If Mueller had found evidence of coordination between the Trump organization and Russian operatives to turn the election in Trump’s favor it would have plunged the nation into a constitutional crisis unprecedented in its history.
The finding also takes talk of impeachment off the table. Only evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and agents of Russia would have risen to the level of misconduct so severe to potentially obtain both impeachment in the Democrat-controlled House and conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Trump’s oft-repeated chant, “No collusion,” has been affirmed.
Barring something unexpected, Trump will continue his term and the judgment whether he deserves a second will be made by the voters in November 2020.
For numerous reasons, however, the full Mueller report and the documents and evidence accumulated in support of it should be released to Congress and the American people. Given the scope of the two-year investigation — a team of 40 FBI agents, about half as many lawyers, about 2,800 subpoenas and 500 search warrants, the interviewing of roughly 500 witnesses — a four-page summary from the attorney general will not suffice. On that both Democrats and Republicans, and even the president, have agreed.
Some information blocked by grand jury secrecy rules or classified due to national security reasons may have to be redacted from the publicly released report, but Barr should release as much as he can, as promised in his summary letter to Congress. And the appropriate congressional committees, with security clearance, should receive a fuller accounting.
Most importantly, the nation needs to know what Mueller found out about the nature and extent of the Russian meddling in the election, information that could be critical in defending against such mischief moving forward. The integrity of our elections is at issue.
The public and Congress also need a fuller understanding of Mueller’s ambiguous conclusions concerning potential obstruction of justice by the president. According to Barr’s summary, on the crime of obstruction Mueller’s report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Also according to Barr, the Trump campaign did not work with the Russians “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” What was the nature of these offers and what was the response of the Trump campaign?
Did Mueller find information on why Russia favored Trump in its campaign of disinformation and the hacking of Democratic Party communications?
Some on the political right and within the president’s orbit have alleged that an effort to try to link Trump to Russian campaign meddling, dating back to the administration of President Obama, was motivated by partisan politics. What did the Mueller investigation and the documents it collected demonstrate on that point?
While the Mueller investigation “did not establish” collusion, neither has Trump received the “complete exoneration” he claimed in a tweet. In addition to the vagueness surrounding potential obstruction, investigations in New York continue about the hush money paid in the final weeks of the campaign to keep Trump's affairs quiet, in apparent violation of campaign spending disclosure laws. Federal prosecutors there are also asking questions about the dealings of the inaugural committee and concerning various business transactions. Any indictments, however, would likely come after Trump’s time in office.
Congress must do its due diligence in assessing the Mueller findings and those disclosures should be part of the public policy debate. But it should not be allowed to dominate the body politic to the exclusion of other policy matters. Such issues as fixing our health care system, reversing the erosion of the middle class, assuring the solvency of Social Security and addressing runaway federal debt are vitally important to the everyday lives of Americans.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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