Mueller Report Closes Two Years of Drama, Opens the Door for More to Come

Nathan Harman

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Last month, Special Counsel Robert Mueller presented his findings from his nearly two-year long probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election. Attorney General William Barr sent a memo with the principal conclusions of the Mueller report to congressional leaders soon afterward, saying that the investigation found no evidence of collusion, but left the question of whether President Trump committed a crime by obstructing justice. 

The investigation began shortly after President Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Comey had begun a probe on National Security Advisor Michael Flynn shortly before being fired and refused to halt it after the president asked him to cease, which caused a new political drama to ensue over what looked like an attempt by Trump to cover up a scandal and an attempt by the Russian informants to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. 

From the beginning of the investigation, Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was frequently a target of the President’s ire on Twitter for not halting the investigation and recusing himself from it. He ultimately resigned, soon replaced by Barr. Sessions denied allegations that his resignation was due to President Trump’s attacks. 

The Special counsel attempted multiple times to coordinate with the White House to conduct an interview with the President himself but was rebuffed when neither party could agree to terms of such an interview. The White House only issued written answers to a select few questions asked of Trump. 

However, according the memo on the Mueller report, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein believed that the president’s actions did not meet the threshold for obstruction of justice, despite multiple Trump campaign officials being ensnared by the investigation with charges of fraud, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress and investigators. Included among them is former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, and former campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.

Since the special counsel left open the question of whether Mr. Trump committed obstruction of justice, it was up to the Attorney General to decide. Mueller has not explained his reasoning for not answering the question in the report but did notify the Justice Department of his decision not to answer it three weeks prior to the submission of the report. 

Following the release of Barr’s memo, President Trump tweeted “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.” 

Barr and Rosenstein promised to hand over a redacted version of the report to Congress by mid-April for legislators to review. 

Congressional Democrats were quick to note that they would not make any decisions regarding whether President Trump committed a crime until the full report was released. The week before the report was delivered to the Attorney General’s office, the House passed a resolution in a 420-0 vote calling for a public release of the report.

Democrats were also skeptical of Barr’s motives. In 2018, prior to being appointed Attorney General, Barr sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department criticizing the Mueller investigation, which was a sticking point during Senate hearings for his confirmation as Attorney General. Some saw this as an indication of bias towards aiding the president despite potential misconduct. 

Many in Congress are seeking more than just a redacted version of the report, wanting the full, unaltered version along with underlying documentation and research, contrary to the Attorney General’s guidance. The Justice Department’s redactions are meant to protect the identities of individuals not charged with crimes and information involved in other ongoing investigations. 

But since Mueller used a grand jury to carry out the investigation, the only way to obtain the full report without the approval of the Justice Department is with the approval of a judge. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Republicans who sought to maintain the redactions in the report that is to be released to Congress a bunch of “scaredy cats,” and also antagonized the Barr memo along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a joint statement, saying it “raises as many questions as it answers.” 

Since the release of the Barr memo, many Republicans have seized the opportunity to use the Mueller report to paint Democrats as having corrupt intentions and portraying the initiation of the investigation almost two years ago as politically tainted. 

President Trump has begun denouncing the investigation as the “Collusion Delusion,” while also repeatedly hammering many of the largest proponents of the investigation such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) who the President has caricatured as “pencil neck Adam Schiff” at recent rallies. 

In an interview Sunday with Fox News, White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway stated that Schiff “is completely compromised” for his belief that Trump’s past statements during the 2016 election season jokingly asking for more information on the Clinton campaign still amounted to collusion. 

Despite the political backlash, Democrats are mounting a new attack on Capitol Hill, saying they will proceed with their own probes of the Trump administration despite the findings of the Mueller report. 

Along with these probes, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has floated the possibility of calling Barr to testify before the Judiciary Committee panel, seeking to “get the truth and provide full transparency” in doing so. He has also said he would go so far as to issue subpoenas to get the entire Mueller report. 

Democratic leadership has been trying to steer away from impeaching President Trump because it could be too divisive and hurt their prospects of winning the White House next year. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, Pelosi stated that “unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path.” 

No sitting president has ever been successfully removed from office. Only two have ever been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1998.