By Miriam Raftery
March 29, 2019 (Washington D.C.)—Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long awaiting report has been submitted to the Justice Department. A summary written by newly appointed Attorney General William Barr has been made public, but thus far, Congress and the media have not seen the full report.
According to Barr’s summary, Mueller’s two-year investigation did not find evidence of a conspiracy involving President Donald Trump and Russia to tamper with the 2016 election despite “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign. But as for whether Trump committed the crime of obstructing justice, Barr states that while Mueller’s report does not recommend prosecution of Trump for obstruction of justice, “it also does not exonerate him.”
Trump called the report “a complete and total exoneration” based on Barr’s summary.
But that’s not fully accurate. The Justice Department has long held that it does not have the power to indict a sitting president, deferring investigation of presidential actions to Congress, which has the power to impeach under the Constitution. Without reading Mueller’s full report it is difficult to speculate on the Special Counsel’s intent, but Mueller could have intended for Congress to weigh any evidence his investigators found with regard to obstruction of justice.
Prior to Mueller submitting his still-confidential report to Barr, Congressional members in the House of Representatives voted unanimously 420 to 0 in favor of a non-binding resolution calling for Mueller’s full report to be released and made public, in a bipartisan voice vote. But Senate leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has blocked efforts for the Senate to vote on the matter.
Democratic leaders in Congress have demanded that the full report be provided to them by next week.
Barr has indicated he will consider making the report available to Congress and the public,after reviewing and redacting anything that might compromise national security or the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.
Critics note that a year ago, Barr made unsolicited statements indicating that he did not believe the Justice Department could charge a president with obstruction of justice. Trump’s recent appointment of Barr as Attorney General raised concerns at the time that the fix could be in to protect Trump, and now Barr has determined 48 hours after receiving the report which is thousands of pages long that there is no basis for prosecuting Trump.
Multiple House committee chairs have indicated plans to subpoena Barr to appear and testify. It is also possible that Mueller could be subpoenaed.
Additionally, the New York Attorney General’s office is known to be conducting its own investigations related to numerous aspects of Trump’s business ventures and campaign violations. Some experts suggest Mueller could have passed along materials to bolster prosecutors of Trump’s family members, inner circle, or even the President himself to New York state prosecutors. Such a move would avoid the potential for Trump to pardon anyone charged with federal crimes, since a president has no power to issue pardons for state crimes.
California Senator Kamala Harris, also a Democratic presidential candidate, has called for release of the report in the interest of transparency. “A short letter from Trump’s hand-picked attorney general is not sufficient,” she states.
Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) agrees. “Considering the Attorney General’s bias toward the Special Counsel’s investigation, the American people deserve to see for themselves what’s in the report,” she posted on Twitter.
But San Diego County Republican Party Chairman backs Trump and says now that Barr’s summary indicates Trump “did not conspire with Russia” regarding his campaign, “Will anyone be held accountable for the nearly two-year farce America just went through?”
Jamie Reno, past national correspondent for Newsweek and other publications, observed in a blog post that while Mueller has a strong track record convicting organized crime figures, he has also avoided prosecuting prominent figures in past political scandals including Iran-Contra.
Mueller, the former FBI director, did however obtain convictions or guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies including top advisors to President Trump – notably Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security director Michael Flynn. The convictions and guilty pleas also included numerous Russian spies and hackers tied to the Kremlin on charges including interfering with the 2016 election, hacking Democratic party emails, lying to federal investigators and witness tampering. Mueller’s probe has recovered funds from those convicted or who pled guilty in an amount larger than the cost of his team’s investigation.
The sources below provide more details, including the publicly-known facts regarding actions that may constitute obstruction of justice, such as firing FBI Direcctor James Comey over the Russia probe and accusing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions of "betrayal" for recusing himself from oversight of the Trump-Russia probe. These sources also detail the known involvement of Trump campaign and family members in communications and meetings with Russia regarding the presidential campaign, and provide analysis by major news outlets on the Mueller findings as described by Barr and potential ramifcations:
- Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy, but Stops Short of Exonerating President on Obstruction (New York Times)
- Barr’s Declaration on Trump Puts Justice Dept. Back in Political Crucible (New York Times)
- Democrats demand Mueller’s full report by next week (Politico)
- Here Are All of the Indictments, Guilty Pleas and Convictions From Robert Mueller's Investigation (Time Magazine)
- Robert Mueller once again failed as federal prosecutor (Reno Dispatch)