By Christianna Silva
The investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that has cast a dark shadow over the majority of Donald Trump’s first term as President has concluded. On Friday, March 22, Mueller submitted his long-awaited investigation into whether President Trump and the Trump for President election campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election and whether Trump obstructed Mueller's investigation at any point. While the entire report isn’t public, Attorney General William Barr released a summary of Mueller’s key findings on Sunday, March 24.
During the investigation, Mueller issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed about 500 witnesses, according to Barr’s memo to “thoroughly [investigate] allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
The fact that Barr issued a summary of the report rather than a full publication of it is directly counter to the sweeping bipartisan vote by the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 14, which called for a public release of the report upon its completion. But Barr doesn’t have to follow-through with Congress’s vote since it isn’t legally binding, NPR reported. As such, the four-page summary — which didn’t even include one full sentence quoting Mueller — has led some journalists, politicians, and activists to question what we think we know about the report or Barr’s intentions.
Barr says that his “goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies,” but added that the report is ripe with material that he says can’t be disclosed. Most of the information is already public, Barr argued, saying that all of the indictments in connection with the investigation were already disclosed and that Mueller didn’t “obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.”
The main information in the Mueller report that will not be made public, according to Barr’s memo, is some ongoing legal issues the special counsel “referred… to other offices for further action.”
Barr has only been in his current position as Attorney General since November 2018, when Trump nominated him to permanently lead the Justice Department after the president fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had previously recused himself from the investigation. This also isn’t the first time Barr has issued a memo telling lawmakers he didn’t believe Trump committed obstruction of justice; nearly a year ago, long before Mueller’s investigation was complete, Barr told Justice Department officials that the entire investigation was “fatally misconceived.” At the time, Barr, who previously worked as President George H. W. Bush’s attorney general, was acting as a private citizen.
Here’s what Barr’s memo says, but take all this information with a grain of salt: We haven’t seen Mueller’s full report yet.
- Mueller “did not find” that the Trump Campaign colluded with Russia, according to Barr’s memoMueller’s investigation found no evidence that President Trump or any of his aides coordinated with the Russian government’s election interference “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” Barr wrote in a letter addressed to Judiciary Committee leaders. “The Special Counsel’s investigation 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,” Barr wrote in his memo.
- Mueller didn’t decide if Trump obstructed justice — so Barr made the decision himself“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller says in his report, according to Barr’s memo. The Attorney General added that Mueller made a “thorough factual investigation” into multiple actions by the President that could potentially be considered obstruction of justice, but could not come to a conclusion about obstruction. Since Mueller's team couldn’t decide if Trump illegally obstructed justice due to “‘difficult issues’ of law and fact,” Barr made a decision with his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, about Trump’s “corrupt intent” when he took steps to impede the investigation — from firing FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to refusing to interview for the special counsel in-person to calling the investigation a “witch hunt.” Subsequently, Barr and Rosenstein decided that Mueller provided insufficient evidence to prove Trump obstructed justice.
- Trump and Republicans consider this “good news”President Trump promptly tweeted about the investigation by mischaracterizing the report. “It was a complete and total exoneration,” he told reporters in Florida before boarding Air Force One, according to the New York Times, despite the report not exonerating him of obstruction of justice. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.”
Other Republican leaders have joined Trump’s celebration and are calling out Democrats for pushing for the investigation to begin with.
“For years, high-ranking Democrats in leadership positions in Congress claimed the special counsel's report would provide definitive proof of collusion, and today's report has proven that to be an outright lie once and for all,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said, echoing responses from his Republican colleagues.
- The political fight is far from overDemocrats are raising questions about Barr’s decision on obstruction of justice and are calling on the attorney general to release the full report. “I don’t want a summary of the Mueller report. I want the whole damn report,” Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote in a tweet, echoing similar calls from his Democratic colleagues Sen. Dianne Feinstein, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and many more.House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler went one step further, saying he plans to call on the Attorney General to testify “in the near future.”“In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before @HouseJudiciary in the near future,” he tweeted on Sunday.This call will inevitably end in a lengthy constitutional battle between Democratic members of Congress and the Justice Department in a tug-of-war over whether Mueller’s full report will be made public, the New York Times reported.
It’s unclear what exactly will come next with the investigation, but one thing is certain: The conclusion of the Mueller investigation is only the beginning of another long battle ahead.