At long last, the Russia investigation, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, is officially over. But what does that mean, exactly?
A lot of questions still remain, especially since the report has not yet been made public. Once it does come out — or rather, IF it does — it’s probable that a lot of additional questions will still remain.
That seems to be the one constant in the investigation: the more we learn, the more questions we seem to have, about President Donald Trump, his inner circle, and to what extent these investigations seem to involve the commander-in-chief or those around him.
Here are four questions we still have yet to see answered following the conclusion of Mueller’s Russia investigation.
What does “no new indictments” mean?
Within the hour of Mueller handing over his final report to Attorney General William Barr, word leaked out that Mueller wasn’t suggesting any new indictments to be made as a result. With no new charges being recommended, we’re left to conclude that Trump is vindicated of any wrongdoing…or so some think.
In actuality, we don’t know that yet. “No new indictments” can mean a wide variety of things. It could mean that there is no evidence of malfeasance on the part of Trump or any other actors in his immediate vicinity.
It could also mean that Mueller is respecting a long-established DOJ rule that states a sitting president cannot be indicted, and that “no new indictments” is Mueller’s way of acknowledging he simply won’t issue new charges, specifically against the president. As Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, puts it in a New York Times op-ed, “Mueller may have decided that some of Mr. Trump’s conduct, while deeply concerning, unacceptable or even potentially illegal, did not rise to the level of a chargeable offense in the presidential context.”
In other words, Mueller had to ask not only whether a crime was committed by the president, but also consider: was it a crime that went to such an extreme that required him to indict Trump? It might be that Mueller didn’t like what he saw happen, but that he also didn’t think he was in a legal position to do anything about it.
Will the report be made public?
In that same op-ed, Bookbinder points out that Mueller may not believe he has the legal authority to charge Trump because he thinks that authority lies with Congress. The legislative branch has “primary jurisdiction over presidential accountability,” making it imperative that Barr “should transmit to Congress whatever materials are relevant [within Mueller’s report], particularly to potential abuses of power.”
It’s also important that the American people be able to see what’s in the report. This investigation has lasted over two years. It has consumed our lives at times, and resulted in guilty please from some of Trump’s most trusted former allies.
Ultimately, Barr has the final say in whether the report gets released to the public or not. That hasn’t stopped many lawmakers (predominantly Democrats) from demanding that Mueller’s findings be available for Americans to take a gander at themselves.
Frankly, the report must be made public, if only to ease the public’s concerns.
If, as pointed out above, there are “no new indictments” simply because the president cannot be indicted in Mueller’s mind, the people deserve to know that. But they also deserve to know the opposite is true: if no acts of malfeasance have occurred, the report ought to be made available to allow the citizenry to know that.
Is Trump, et. al., “out of the woods,” so to speak?
With the end of Mueller’s Russia investigation comes the inevitable believe by some on the right that this means that Trump and his underlings are safe from prosecution. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As The Daily Beast pointed out on Friday after the Mueller news dropped, this is not the end of Trump’s legal woes, as the special counsel has sent other cases that were dug up during the investigation to at least four other U.S. attorneys’ offices.
Campaign violations and fraud cases in the Southern District of New York, for example, where Trump’s former fixer lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty and named Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in their alleged criminal activities, are still likely to keep the president up at night…or at least his fingers busy tweeting in the early morning.
Is this the end of the “Resistance” movement?
Not by a long shot.
The movement that stands against President Donald Trump will continue to exist long after Mueller closes shop. And the reasons why are varied, but justified.
For starters, there will continue to be investigations into the president’s actions, and not just those related to Russia. The SDNY inquiries, as noted above, have only just started, and Democrats in Congress are signaling they plan to keep an eye on Trump, demanding documents from his administration as they delve into questions about how he conducts himself in the Oval Office.
Then there are issues to consider that don’t yet have investigations, or that don’t require them, that demonstrate Trump is unfit for office. These include:
- his decision to rescind sanctions for North Korea, and his reluctance to place any on Russia;
- huge deficits being piled onto our nation’s already high debt, the result of a failed tax policy that benefited the rich;
- locking up children of immigrants in cages, and separating them from their families, in some cases likely to never be reunited again;
- a Muslim travel ban that seems to have been derived only out of the president’s own biases against people of that faith;
- continuous threats toward the free press, notions that he’s going to attempt to change press freedoms, and constant statements that he makes calling members of the media “enemies of the American people;”
- calling neo-Nazis and far-right extremists, who engaged in violent actions based on their bigoted worldviews in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 “very fine people” after one of those individuals murdered a counterprotester with his car;
- and his constant lies to the American people, which, at last count, have averages at 11 misleading statements or direct lies per day he makes in public statements on countless issues.
And that’s just a short list of grievances the American people have, or should have, with this president.
No, even if Trump is never charged by a federal prosecutor, or never faces impeachment proceedings, it won’t vindicate or justify the ways in which he’s governed so far. There are still plenty of things to be concerned about, and the movement to oppose Trump’s presidency will continue on for quite some time.