Americans must see the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller so they can decide for themselves how to judge President Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 election.
Trump made this abundantly clear Sunday by spinning the report’s findings in a misleading way.
When Attorney General William Barr released his summary, Trump tweeted “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION,” even though Barr explicitly said Trump was not fully exonerated by Mueller. The special counsel left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.
“The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’ ” Barr wrote.
While Barr vowed to disclose as much of the report as possible, the public is right to be concerned about what the recent Trump appointee may filter. Congress must have full access and speak to the principals to clear skepticism, assure the public that it’s fully informed about Russia’s attack on our democracy and prevent endless doubt and conspiracy theorizing.
Transparency is also needed to keep Mueller’s crucial work in perspective. While it provides Trump a major victory by clearing him of conspiring with Russia in the 2016 election, the cancer remains. Mueller affirmed the election was tainted by Russian efforts to manipulate and deceive voters in ways supporting Trump and opposing Hillary Clinton.
This attack was publicly detailed by Mueller last year, when he indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers and 13 Russian nationals, concluding that they interfered with the election and political process.
As we await Mueller’s final report, his February 2018 indictment offered a preview. It may shed light on Mueller’s thinking in declining to allege Trump colluded: Defendants didn’t reveal their Russian association and “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities,” Mueller wrote.
Mueller also exposed how Trump’s inner circle included liars and crooks with links to Russia. Trump’s former campaign chair is now jailed for tax fraud and failing to register to represent foreign interests. Trump’s personal lawyer is convicted of cover-ups benefiting Trump and his campaign, including lying to Congress about a Russian real estate deal and a porn star. Trump’s former national security adviser also pleaded guilty to lying about meetings with Russians during the postelection transition period.
Russia’s attack and efforts to destabilize the Western order remain a grave concern, especially with indications that interference may continue in the 2020 election. Mueller’s report must be promptly disclosed to provide clarity about these threats, prevent future attacks and build trust in the system.
Americans also need the unfiltered report to make their own assessment. While Trump is exonerated of collusion, Mueller’s overall inquiry and Trump’s belittling of it raise serious questions about the president’s judgment and commitment to defend the nation from a major threat.
These are questions for voters to decide, and they have a different standard than federal prosecutors.