The Mueller report: no collusion, unclear on obstruction



Jake Webster

The long-awaited report on the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was completed Friday.

Since the investigation began in May 2017, there have been dozens of indictments and multiple guilty pleas and convictions of members of the Trump campaign for crimes that were uncovered during the course of the investigation. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was recently sentenced to 7.5 years in prison after being convicted of tax and bank fraud after prosecution by the Mueller team.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr received Mueller’s report Friday and released his summary of it to the chairs and ranking members of the congressional judiciary committees Sunday.

“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,” Barr said in his summary.

Over the course of the nearly two years that the special counsel investigation took place, Trump took to twitter on various occasions to call the investigation a “witch hunt” conducted by Democrats. Mueller is a registered Republican who was appointed FBI Director by former Republican President George W. Bush in 2001.

Despite concluding that no coordination between the Trump campaign took place, Mueller’s report “determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election,” according to the summary.

A Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency, sought to conduct disinformation campaigns on social media with the intent of interfering in the election. The other main Russian effort was a hacking operation that hacked into servers belonging to the Clinton campaign and Democratic party to disseminate materials such as emails to attempt to influence the election.

Trump said in a tweet after the release of Barr’s summary “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT,” though Mueller’s report reached no conclusion whether Trump had obstructed justice, according to Barr’s summary.

The special counsel having declined to conclude whether the president had obstructed justice, the Attorney General said in his summary it was left to him to determine whether the conduct described in the Mueller report constitutes a crime.

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded “the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” according to the summary.

Various congressional Democrats have released statements calling for the release of the full report.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a tweet, “there must be full transparency in what Special Counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the President from wrongdoing. [The Department of Justice] owes the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a joint statement with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., “the fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”

Pelosi has previously said that she was not in favor of impeaching Trump, because Trump was “just not worth it,” and “because it divides the country.”

However, Trump and members of his family still have legal exposure in various jurisdictions. In the Southern District of New York, a federal court district, Trump and his campaign remain the subject of a probe related to alleged campaign finance violations, including the hush-payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Mack Shelley, a professor of political science said it is too early to tell anything definitively at this point.

Investigations will continue through House committees and by the New York Attorney General’s Office into potential wrongdoings at the state level by Trump and his associates, Shelley said.

Those House committees, controlled by Democrats after the midterms, will be able to issue subpoenas to continue investigating potential wrongdoings by Trump, his campaign and his administration.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., could potentially view Trump’s tax returns under a law allowing for the heads of congressional tax committees to request any American’s tax returns. Trump never released his tax returns during or since the 2016 election. This broke precedent dating back to Richard Nixon of presidential candidates releasing their tax returns when they run for office.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans have taken to twitter to say the president has been exonerated.

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz sent tweets to various Democratic officials calling on them to apologize to the president for tweets they made during the investigation Trump’s own justice department appointees began.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a tweet that the topline findings of the investigation found “no collusion and no obstruction,” and in another tweet said it is time to “move on.”

In the 2018 midterm election, the Russia investigation was among the least important factors in voters decision for congressional races according to a CNN poll.

Anyone who is trying to be definitive at this stage about how this will affect the 2020 presidential election is not very credible, Shelley said.

The special counsel’s report is a confidential report to the Attorney General. However Barr said in his summary that he will attempt to release as much as possible due to the public interest in seeing the results of the report.