The American public has yet to see a full sentence from the Mueller report. So what do we really know about the 2-year-long investigation into President Trump?
The American public has yet to see a full sentence from the Mueller report.
We don’t know what’s in it. One of the few things we do know is that it explicitly ‘does not exonerate’ the president of at least one crime.
That’s where we are right now.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller finished his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Trump campaign, and whether Trump committed obstruction of justice in trying to shut down that investigation.
Mueller, he’s officially done. He delivered a confidential report of his findings to Attorney General William Barr, and since then, he’s already been photographed more times out and about in DC than he has in, like, the entire past two years. Good for you, Bobby. Enjoy your time off.
But the end of his investigation is truly just the beginning for the rest of us. Here are 5 things you need to know about the Mueller probe and what happens next.
Here’s how the rules of a Special Counsel investigation go: the Special Counsel writes a confidential report for the head of the Justice Department, the Attorney General. The Attorney General then has the power to decide whether or not to make the report public — part of it or all of it. While he’s deciding, he writes his own summary for Congress so they get an update on the investigation. Now, AG William Barr wrote a four-page summary for Congress that did not include a single full sentence from the Mueller report.
So #1, we need to remember, the Barr summary is not the same as the Mueller report. A lot of news headlines may lead you to believe otherwise.
So all we've got is William Barr's take on the investigation. And why wouldn't we take his word for it?
Let’s rewind a bit: Barr wrote a memo in 2018 saying he thought the Mueller investigation was “fatally misconceived,” and that he didn’t believe President Trump had committed obstruction of justice. So it’s not really a huge surprise that a year later, his own summary of the Mueller report would conclude that Trump did not commit obstruction of justice. His bias was pretty open and clear all along.
So what did Barr’s letter to Congress say? Here’s the second thing that you need to know: According to Barr, Mueller confirms that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election, and “did not establish” that the Trump campaign was criminally involved with that. Mueller apparently punted on the question of obstruction.
There’s a key partial quote from Mueller in the Barr summary: “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
That’s just one reason why Congress, and the public, want to see the full context of the Mueller report. It sounds like Mueller gathered a lot of evidence to try to answer the question of whether Trump committed obstruction of justice, and then didn’t reach a conclusion on his own — leaving it to others to decide. Some legal experts say it’s then Congress’s role to decide, but AG Barr stepped in himself to let people know that he doesn’t think Trump is guilty. Again, not a surprise.
As for the sections about Russian interference: we’d again need the full report to really understand Mueller’s conclusions. The quotes we do have are very specific: it’s focused on ‘election interference by the Russian government’ in terms of two operations, internet trolling and the hacking of DNC emails. According to Barr, the report ‘did not find that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts.’ That leaves out a lot of other questionable behavior by the Trump campaign when it comes to Russia, like campaign chairman Paul Manafort giving polling data to a Russian associate, or Trump adviser Roger Stone talking to Wikileaks. Why did they do that? We still don’t know the full breadth of what Mueller looked at.
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