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Posted by on Mar 24, 2019 in Law, Politics | 0 comments

Mueller: No Trump-Russia Conspiracy but Stops Short of Exonerating President on Obstruction

Details of the two-year investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller have been released: Mueller found no evidence of Trump-Russia conspiracy but stopped short of exonerating Trump on obstruction allegations. Trump has now called it a complete and total vindication.

The New York Times:

The investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III found that neither President Trump nor any of his aides conspired or coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference, according to a summary of the special counsel’s key findings made public on Sunday by Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Barr also said that Mr. Mueller’s team drew no conclusions about whether Mr. Trump illegally obstructed justice. Mr. Barr and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, determined that the special counsel’s investigators lacked sufficient evidence to establish that Mr. Trump committed that offense, but added that Mr. Mueller’s team stopped short of exonerating Mr. Trump.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mr. Barr quoted Mr. Mueller as writing.

The findings delivered a significant political victory for the president, one he almost immediately began to trumpet.

“It was a complete and total exoneration,” Mr. Trump told reporters in Florida before boarding Air Force One. “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.”

He added, “This was an illegal takedown that failed.”

Mr. Barr delivered the summary of the special counsel’s finding to Congress on Sunday afternoon, just days after the conclusion of a sprawling investigation into Russia’s attempts to sabotage the 2016 election and whether President Trump or any of his associates conspired with Moscow’s interference.

Here is the Justice Department’s summary of Mueller’s report.

The Atlantic’s David Frum:

Good news, America. Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help, the president did not conspire or collude with his helpers. He was the beneficiary of a foreign intelligence operation, but not an active participant in that operation. He received the stolen goods, but he did not conspire with the thieves in advance.

This is what Donald Trump’s administration and its enablers in Congress and the media are already calling exoneration. But it offers no reassurance to Americans who cherish the independence and integrity of their political process.

The question unanswered by the attorney general’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is: Why? Russian President Vladimir Putin took an extreme risk by interfering in the 2016 election as he did. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency—the most likely outcome—Russia would have been exposed to fierce retaliation by a powerful adversary. The prize of a Trump presidency must have glittered alluringly, indeed, to Putin and his associates. Why?

Did they admire Trump’s anti-NATO, anti–European Union, anti-ally, pro–Bashar al-Assad, pro-Putin ideology?

Were they attracted by his contempt for the rule of law and dislike of democracy?

Did they hold compromising information about him, financial or otherwise?

Were there business dealings in the past, present, or future?

Or were they simply attracted by Trump’s general ignorance and incompetence, seeing him as a kind of wrecking ball to be smashed into the U.S. government and U.S. foreign policy?

Many public-spirited people have counted on Mueller to investigate these questions, too, along with the narrowly criminal questions in his assignment. Perhaps he did, perhaps he did not; we will know soon, either way. But those questions have always been the important topics.

The Trump presidency from the start has presented a national-security challenge first, a challenge to U.S. public integrity next. But in this hyper-legalistic society, those vital inquiries got diverted early into a law-enforcement matter. That was always a mistake, as I’ve been arguing for two years.

Now the job returns to the place it has always belonged and never should have left: Congress.

And the likelihood of Congress getting more facts or acting in unison, regardless of what the facts show?

Former President Clinton pollster Douglas E. Schoen writes in The Hill that this could be a politically perilous moment for the Democrats, who could wind up helping Trump win re-election:

…if House Democrats somehow feel emboldened to take up new investigations now that the Mueller probe is complete, there is real concern that their continual pursuit of the president will look like overreach to many Americans.

To be sure, this would be viewed negatively by the many moderate and suburban voters who swung the House to the Democrats in November’s midterm elections.

A useful example to consider would be how the Republicans overreached and persistently pursued investigations of former President Clinton in 1998, after the Starr report had been completed.

The zealous Republican overreach at that time, continuing to pursue a president who already had been acquitted in congressional impeachment proceedings, led to remarkable Democratic victories in the subsequent 1998 midterms.

In fact, because of the Republicans’ partisan agenda against Clinton in 1998, that year’s midterms became the second time in U.S. history, since the Civil War, that a president’s party actually gained seats in a midterm election and actually disrupted the historic trend of voters getting a “six-year itch” against a sitting two-term president.

Today’s Democrats must take note that, throughout the two-year Mueller probe, the Department of Justice did not find any instances in which the investigation “was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.”

Put another way, Mueller was given all of the latitude he needed to complete a thorough and comprehensive report that answered all questions of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Despite the obvious temptation to continue investigating Trump, based on political differences and an intense dislike of him as an individual, the Democrats must put this issue to bed. The Mueller investigation is over, and the president will not be indicted.

If Democrats continue to look backward at the 2016 election and cry foul, it will seriously hurt their electability in 2020 and create the conditions for Trump’s reelection.

A cross-section of Twitter: