Nearly two weeks since Robert Mueller, the man charged to lead and complete the Russia investigation, submitted his final report to Attorney General William Barr, we’re back to being at square one — where nobody knows what it all means for President Donald Trump.
When Barr received Mueller’s report, he took a weekend to review it, and produced a 4-page summary. He sent that summary in a letter to Congress, which was essentially a report on a report.
Differences of opinion between Barr and Mueller’s team on ‘obstruction of justice’
Anyone who has ever played the game “telephone” can tell you that things probably are omitted from Barr’s letter compared to Mueller’s report — especially since the final report was hundreds of pages long. But how much was omitted, and how important those omissions are, has been anybody’s guess up to this point.
Within the letter, Barr said Mueller found no misdeed of collusion committed by Trump or his campaign in 2016. He also implied Mueller’s investigation found questionable cases of possible acts of obstruction of justice, but when he reviewed them himself Barr said nothing Mueller uncovered warranted any action against the president.
Trump did an immediate victory lap following Barr’s letter being released. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” the president tweeted. He soon attended a campaign rally where he repeated the line.
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
However, reporting by NBC News Thursday demonstrated that those celebrations may have been premature. Three government officials told NBC that, especially on the question of obstruction of justice, there was a dispute within the special counsel’s office itself. Members of Mueller’s team couldn’t agree on facts of what occurred and what the law proscribed regarding charging a president with a crime.
Mueller ultimately decided to leave the question of charges open-ended, allowing Barr to comment on them instead, which some in the special counsel’s office said was an inappropriate action made by Barr.
A senior law enforcement official tells NBC News that some Mueller team members say his findings paint a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation. Some of that information may be classified.https://t.co/8j8xlZFsOD
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 4, 2019
The dispute between the two offices won’t change the outcome in the immediate — charges wouldn’t have been levied either way toward Trump. But there’s a lot of distance between the two sides’ characterizations of what Trump may or may not have done, and it’s possible that leadership in Congress could see the president’s actions as impeachable offenses. Barr’s description of Trump’s actions in his letter, however, did not
No collusion, but still some troubling aspects, investigators say
There is also some distance between what Barr wrote in his letter concerning crimes of collusion and what members of Mueller’s team are now saying is in the report.
According to NBC’s Ken Dilanian, who tweeted out the news on Thursday morning, even though charges of collusion aren’t suggested, the Mueller team did find that Trump campaign members “were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation.”
NBC News is also reporting that some on the Mueller team say his findings paint a picture of a campaign whose members were was manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation. Some of that information may be classified.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) April 4, 2019
What else is yet unknown?
For most of the time that Robert Mueller was in charge of the Russia investigation (following Trump firing former FBI Director James Comey), leaks were not a common occurrence. That makes the leaks that are coming out now, two weeks after Mueller submitted his report on the inquiry, all-the-more interesting.
Wow. Mueller’s team went nearly two years without a single leak. They must be quite frustrated with what Barr is doing for this to make it out now. https://t.co/KKhklfA4kA
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) April 3, 2019
We’re left now with too many questions and not enough answers — a common occurrence throughout this whole ordeal.
What kind of interactions were happening between Trump’s team and the Russians? What instances of obstruction of justice could feasibly be considered prosecutable according to some within the special counsel’s office? Would a reasonable person believe that Trump’s actions should render him impeached, or are they innocuous enough to ignore for the time being? None of these questions will ever be answered until the full Mueller report is made public.
Here’s another question I have, pertaining to the testimony from Trump’s former fixer lawyer Michael Cohen, who told Congress earlier this year that Trump “doesn’t give orders — he speaks in code.” Trump won’t tell you to do something, Cohen explained, but rather speaks in a way that let’s you know exactly what he wants to see happen.
Was Trump speaking in such a way to Russia when, in 2016, he asked them to hack his opponent in the presidential election? “It would be interesting to see, I will tell you this, Russia if you’re listening, I hope that you’re able to find the 30,000 emails [of Hillary Clinton’s] that are missing,” Trump said in July 2016.
That same day, Russia tried to hack into Clinton’s personal office server for the first time, reported the New York Times.
Maybe Mueller wasn’t able to prove collusion in his inquiry. But does his report look into instances like these, where Trump gives a sort of “wink-wink” gesture to the Kremlin, hoping they’ll do what he asks? Does the report delve into any other actions by the Trump campaign, where the strict definition of collusion isn’t necessarily shown but something just as nefarious is going down? We don’t know.
The report must be made public, and soon
These sort of questions are on the minds of Americans across the country. Indeed, a vast majority of citizens still want to know what’s in the Russia report, and what wrongdoings, if any, the president stands accused of.
On Thursday morning, Trump suggested on Twitter that Americans were over the Russia investigation in the wake of Barr’s letter. “According to polling, few people seem to care about the Russian Collusion Hoax,” Trump wrote.
It’s doubtful that Trump ever looked at such polling, otherwise he’d know that just the opposite is true. A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll shows that 82 percent of Americans want the Mueller report to be made public, while only 18 percent are satisfied with the Barr letter alone. Why might that be? Most Americans (49 percent) say they trust Robert Mueller’s findings over the word of the president (27 percent).
The skepticism against the president certainly is warranted. Trump is telling up to 22 lies per day, and there’s every reason to believe he’s lying when he says “no collusion” and “no obstruction,” especially since there seems to be some gray areas involved in Mueller’s report, according to those who helped formulate it.
Here’s the bottom line: the American people deserve to know the truth about their president. They’re not going to get it by following Trump on Twitter — the truth, as far as what’s divulged in Mueller’s report, is only going to be uncovered once the bulk of that report is released for everyone to see.
The time to release it is now. If Trump is as innocent as he says he is, there should be no problem letting the citizenry see it with their own eyes.
Featured image credit: Ryan J. Reilly/Flickr