Over the last two years, the American public and political sphere have been haunted by the ghosts of 2016. The Mueller investigation, which was tasked with determining if the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 election, has been lingering in American politics. However, on March 22, 2019, the Special Counsel office concluded its investigation, and submitted its final report to Attorney General William Barr, who then delivered a four-page letter to Congress detailing highlights from the Mueller report. With Barr’s summary, one would hope that the American public’s questions would finally be answered. The report concluded that the Trump campaign, and anyone associated with it, did not collude Russia, but unfortunately Capitol Hill is far from satisfied with these results. One should be furious that the Special Counsel’s investigation has dragged on and has culminated more fuel for the hyper partisanship divide that we have seen over the last decade. There was nothing wrong with the purpose of the investigation, but the problem is that it leaves more questions than answers.
The Mueller investigation, unlike the narrative that some have been pushing, was completely warranted. From President Trump asking the Russians to hack his opponent’s email servers, to his son attending a questionable meeting in the Kremlin and to the countless indictments, it is clear that the investigation brought to light the unusual character of the campaign. While most indictments did not stem directly from the campaign, they do illuminate the shady individuals who held important positions in the campaign and in the Trump’s administration. Those indicted include Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, Michael Flynn, a former campaign adviser and former national security advisor, and Michael Cohen, longtime personal attorney to Trump and his family. Although it is clear that the Mueller investigation was able to uncover and bring to justice those who had violated federal laws, there is much left to be clarified.
For instance, the Barr summary states that Mueller did not find evidence that the President or his campaign colluded – something that Trump would quickly take to Twitter as he would state, “No Collusion.” However, the Mueller report did discover that there were two major efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election. The Kremlin used the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization, that was “Designed to sow social discord.” Russians also used government actors, the very same ones who are responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Convention hacking, to reach out to the Trump campaign in order to offer them their services – all of which were rejected by officials working on the Trump campaign. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the Mueller report, as relayed by Barr, was that Mueller did not a draw a conclusion as to whether Trump’s actions as President led to an obstruction of justice. Instead, Mueller laid out the arguments for both sides of the question and stated that, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Mueller spent over $28 million dollars in the two-year long investigation, yet could not conclude if the President committed this crime or not.
The reaction from either side of the aisle convey that the discussion of Russian collusion is far from being over. The President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., immediately criticized media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and Buzzfeed by touting that they had pedalled “More than two years of non-stop conspiracy theories.” Also, Scott Dworkin, co-founder of the Democratic Coalition super PAC, tweeted that the Barr summary is “propaganda.” However, it is clear that the majority of Americans, according to an NPR/PBS/Marist Poll, want to see the full report be made public. The full report should be released, but instead of endlessly dragging on the Mueller investigation, we should be focused on possible egregious violations of the American Constitution. Solid arguments have been made that Trump is violating the emoluments clause with his web of business holdings overseas.
We have come to the end of an investigation that has persisted over the last few years, and which has left us with more questions than answers. It is known that President Trump is very controversial, and that the Mueller investigation is evidence of that. However, it seems that both parties are locked onto the investigation, and that the ghosts of 2016 will continue to haunt the American public.