After nearly two years of investigation, a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report has been finally released to the public, and there’s quite a bit to talk about. The investigation, which, according to National Public Radio, began in May of 2017 in response to President Donald Trump’s firing of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey. It has resulted in indictments and/or guilty pleas from 34 individuals and three companies, as reported by Vox, and the final report generated by the investigation is 448 pages long. To call the investigation thorough would be a severe understatement. There are many important conclusions to be drawn from the report, but probably the most important is that, although he has not technically been charged with a crime, Trump is far from innocent. His legal innocence is dubious at best, but more important is the fact that this report contains information which ought to be extremely concerning to Americans who believe that our public officials ought to be honest, accountable and free from corruption.
It is worthwhile to review the legal findings of the report, as they are hardly the exoneration that the president and his allies have claimed to the American people. The report is in two sections, the first of which focuses on Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s potential coordination with them in that effort, and the second of which focuses on potential obstruction of justice by the president. The investigation concurred with all American intelligence agencies finding that the Russian government and its intelligence agencies did indeed work to sway the election against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and in favor of Trump. Concerning the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russian government, the investigation shows that Trump and people on his campaign were if nothing else receptive to the idea of Russian aid, as reported on by The Washington Post, and that some members of the campaign did make attempts to work with the Russians. Mueller was unable to find sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any of these attempts were actually successful enough to constitute the crime of conspiracy. That’s a pretty low bar to clear, and though none of the president’s actions were proven to be criminal, they are absolutely concerning. On the matter of willingness to secretly cooperate with a hostile foreign power in order to sabotage the workings of our democracy, it would be nice to think that the American people have a slightly higher standard than “not technically a crime.” Briefly putting aside the contents of the Mueller report, the American people know full well that the president has a disturbingly friendly and submissive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is based on what we saw when the two of them met in Helsinki and the president of the United States told the entire world that he trusted the ex-KGB Russian dictator more than U.S. intelligence agencies, covered at the time by BBC News. The fact that his campaign did not successfully manage to conspire with the Russian government during the last presidential election should do little to assuage anyone’s concerns on this matter.
More damning still is the second section of the report, in which Mueller gets as close as Department of Justice policy allows him to accusing Trump of obstruction of justice. It is the policy of the DOJ that a sitting president cannot be indicted with a crime, and it is very likely that this policy is the only reason why Mueller declined to specifically indict Trump with obstruction of justice. The report specifically does not exonerate the president of obstructing justice, instead saying, “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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,” as quoted in The Washington Post. That’s a pretty big deal; after a two year investigation, one of the most competent investigators in the country, an ex-FBI director who has commanded bipartisan respect for his ability to get to the truth, is unable to definitively state that the President of the United States is not a criminal. It’s also worth pointing out that obstruction of justice, by its nature, involves attempting to thwart the legal process, and that obstruction on the part of Trump and his associates may well have hidden information that bears relevance to the question of conspiracy.
Taken as a whole, Mueller’s report paints a picture of a president and an administration with no respect for democracy, the rule of law or the American people. Mueller’s investigation has lead to 14 other investigations which are still ongoing, one of which has named Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in a campaign finance violation related to hush money payments, as reported by The New York Times. Whether or not Trump will face legal consequences for his actions is an important question, and it is imperative that those capable work to make sure he is held accountable; regardless, all the American people will have a chance to make sure he faces electoral consequences come 2020. He has made it abundantly clear that he cares for no one but himself, and that the good of the people, the nation and the world mean nothing to him. When 2020 comes, when that chance does arrive, it is imperative that we take full advantage of it and vote him out.