Last Sunday, Attorney General William Barr delivered to Congress his highly anticipated and ultimately controversial summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation into whether President Donald Trump, or any of his minions, conspired in Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
According to Barr’s summary, Mueller’s extensive probe “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.” In other words, Mueller found no evidence of collusion whatsoever. Mueller’s finding on this point was greeted with delight by President Trump and his supporters, but with despondency by Democrats and other Trump critics.
By any objective measure, Mueller’s investigation into collusion with the Russians was intensive and thorough. His staff, which included 19 lawyers, “issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants and spoke to about 500 witnesses.” Mueller also had “a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff.” They seem to have left no stone unturned, but still came up empty-handed on the collusion charge.
However, in reference to “obstruction of justice,” Barr quoted Mueller as stating “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” This comment pertains to the question of whether Trump “obstructed justice” in the investigation of Russia’s alleged actions. Specifically, did he fire FBI Director Comey in an attempt to derail the Russia probe?
Mueller’s ambiguity on this point-and his deferral to Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to resolve it, might have given Democrats a glimmer of hope that Trump could still be brought down, except for the fact Barr and Rosenstein, who initiated Mueller’s probe and recommended Comey’s firing, took Mueller’s punt and ran with it. According to Barr, they determined together “that the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”
In a classic case of “shooting the messenger,” House and Senate Democrats claimed Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report was inadequate and probably misleading. They also castigated Barr and Rosenstein for exonerating Trump on any obstruction of justice.Therefore, they issued an ultimatum for Mueller’s entire report to be given to Congress by Tuesday, April 2. The chances of that actually happening by then are slim and none.
What happens next is anybody’s guess. However, one thing is certain. Both parties will play their respective versions of the truth for maximum financial and political gain on the campaign trail to the 2020 elections.
Meanwhile, even President Trump is all for the public release of the Mueller Report, properly redacted, of course. That may be the one thing Democrats, Republicans, and the American people can agree on.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.