By Duke Staff
The anticipated end to the “Mueller report,” which has grabbed headlines and reigned over cable news chyrons for the 22 month span of the investigation, dominated national attention on Sunday afternoon. All of this attention, and we haven’t even seen it yet.
If for some reason you have been living under a rock and this is all news to you, here is a quick recap: Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed after President Trump fired his FBI Director James Comey, was assigned to look into the wrongdoings and potential crimes committed by President Trump and his campaign team. Since 2017, Mueller has been in charge of investigating potential ties between the Trump team and Russia, looking for instances of collusion or obstruction of justice. Following Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election, there were suspicious activities on the part of Trump campaign officials that indicated that there may have been a conspiracy to “steal the election.”
Fast forward to Friday, March 22, it was announced that Mueller had concluded his investigation and was delivering his full report to the Justice Department. The debate currently raging in the Capitol and across the country is whether the Mueller report should be made public in its entirety (while leaving out the highly sensitive or classified bits), or if we should settle for what we were provided instead: a CliffNotes version of the investigation by Attorney General William Barr.
Perhaps intended as a compromise, Barr delivered a four page summary to reporters on Sunday in which he concluded that the President did not “collude” with Russia, based on Mueller’s findings. However, the report left the question of obstruction of justice wide open.
The exact words were, “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Maybe Trump didn’t read that part, or was too busy doing victory laps around the Twitter-sphere, because he tweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” on Sunday following the release of Barr’s summary.
Close, but no cigar, Mr. President.
Let us not forget that the Mueller probe indicted 34 individuals over its 22 month span, including Michael Cohen (Trump’s former lawyer), Roger Stone (Trump’s former advisor), Paul Manafort (Trump’s former campaign chair), George Papadopoulos (a former Trump campaign aid), Michael Flynn (Trump’s former national security advisor) and many more. There is far more to this story than Barr’s micro review of Mueller’s report lets on.
It is important to realize that the Barr summary is not the Mueller report, and cannot take its place in determining what Trump and his associates are truly responsible for. Though Republicans and even news outlets are counting this as a win for Trump entirely (the New York Times chose to phrase it as “a significant political victory for Mr. Trump, and lifted a cloud that has hung over his presidency since before he took the oath of office…”) that could not be further from the truth.
Just because many in the media and government have significantly lowered the bar for the standard we should hold the president to does not mean that the rest of us are required to. The public deserves to know the details of the investigation that was paid for with taxpayer money, especially when there are so many questions left unanswered regarding obstruction of justice.