By: V. Susan Hutchinson
Special Counsel Robert Mueller went before the American people on May 29 to speak briefly about the report he compiled after a 2-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. How brief was Mueller’s press conference? Just 9 minutes.
But those few minutes spoke volumes about what he found and why he chose not to make definitive conclusions about possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, or recommend indictment of President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.
To understand, however, don’t just listen to Mueller’s press conference or listen to the talking heads; read the Executive Summaries Volumes I and II here.
It’s important to remember that this investigation into Russian interference started 3 years ago when the House Intelligence Committee was briefed on possible meddling in America’s democratic election process. The original investigation was never directed at Donald Trump personally. The Intelligence Committee, FBI and other intelligence agencies were attempting to assess foreign involvement in our elections with the intent of determining what needed to be done to prevent it from happening again.
Trump just happened to be the beneficiary of the 2016 Russia meddling so it was only logical to follow through to determine if anyone in his campaign knowingly assisted Russia in its efforts as the attacks were aimed at discrediting Hillary Clinton. Russia didn’t want Clinton as president and most likely would have worked to sabotage the election regardless of who the GOP nominated.
Would another Republican nominee have notified the FBI immediately when approached by Russia with dirt on Clinton so the intelligence community could act to stop any interference before the election?
We will never know because the Republican candidate was the narcissistic Donald J. Trump. A man who will do anything to get what he wants.
After the Special Counsel was appointed and the investigation moved forward, Trump cried “witch hunt”. Once he played the victim, his supporters and the conservative media jumped to his defense, as did the Republicans in Congress who cowtow to him. South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham still supports Trump’s erroneous conclusion that Mueller exonerated him.
Trump chooses to disregard the fact that our democracy was attacked by a foreign government and, to date, has done nothing to condemn it or urge Congress to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Instead he continues to make this report all about him and now has asked Attorney General William P. Barr to investigate the investigators. Unfortunately, Barr is all too willing to do Trump’s bidding. In the meantime, Trump the puppet master is putting up roadblocks to further Congressional hearings.
The Importance of Understanding Mueller and the Report
It is widely known that most people, including Lindsey Graham and other members of Congress have not read the report. One representative, Justin Amash (R-Mich), is one who has read it in its entirety. He is the only Republican in Congress to make public statements based on his conclusions.
And what was that conclusion? That Donald Trump should be impeached.
He said so publicly in a series of Tweets and recently re-iterated his stance at a town hall in his home state. One of his constituents at that town hall commented that she was upset that Amash was pushing for impeachment because she is a Trump supporter; however, once she heard Amash discuss what was in the report, she was surprised that it conflicted with her understanding of it. Why the surprise? She admitted that she only gets her news from conservative sources who parrot Trump.
Mueller’s press conference conveyed succinct bullet points about his findings. The first key point was that he confirmed there was documented evidence of Russian meddling in our election process about which all Americans should be concerned.
The second key point was that a Department of Justice policy holds that a sitting president can’t be charged with a federal crime and so he was precluded from charging Trump with obstruction. However, Mueller pointedly stated that if he was confident Trump clearly did not commit a crime, he would have said so.
Thus, the expectation is that Congress will now determine if the evidence will lead to charges or impeachment.
Attorney General Barr, of course, made his own comments about Mueller not definitively exonerating Trump in his conclusions on obstruction, continuing to defend the president. Meanwhile, Trump is still on his rant claiming that Mueller found no collusion and no obstruction and is disparaging Mueller even more vehemently than before.
In effect, both Barr and Trump are throwing Mueller under the bus.
Next Steps for Congress
Robert Mueller stated in his press conference that this would be his final statement, that the report speaks for itself and if called before Congress to testify he would only reference the report and restate what is already known. There are some who agree that he no longer needs to testify while others think Congress needs to hear more from him as soon as possible. Mueller’s press conference was powerful and any appearance before Congress will surely make people take notice.
Not everyone is willing to read a report, but they will listen intently to the author conveying the information to them on television. Although public opinion currently does not favor impeachment of Trump, that could change once Congress begins the process. Before the televised impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon in 1974, public opinion opposed impeachment. Once people heard directly from the witnesses, his popularity took a nosedive.
Increasing numbers of Democrats in Congress and the 2020 presidential contenders are now calling for impeachment hearings to start. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still in the “let’s get our ducks in a row” stage. She has also publicly said she thinks Trump wants to be impeached because he knows the Senate will not prosecute him and he will then be able to continue playing the victim card.
Robert Mueller is seen either as a hero or as someone who dodged an issue he should have pursued to a definitive conclusion. The bottom line is that the American people are growing tired and impatient with all of this. Democrats are playing a risky political game by not being more forceful to get what they need to complete their investigations of this president’s obstruction of justice and other impeachable offenses. Pelosi says they could fine people for ignoring a subpoena instead of saying they will be fining them.
It’s time to get tough and move this to a conclusion instead of Democrats putting all their hopes into defeating Trump in 2020. Democracy and what the presidency will look like after the next election is at stake. They need to make the right choice for America’s future.
Link to the Full Mueller Report
Still want to know more? Click the link below to access the complete 448-page report. Note: the link may be slow as it goes directly to the pdf file.