No collusion! Exoneration! Vindication! Take that, Libs!
Trump World has been in victory-lap mode since Sunday, after Attorney General William Barr notified Congress of the broad-brush conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.
And I don’t blame them. President Donald Trump has been so dogged by the Russia scandal that there were times over the past two years, when his close advisers were being dragged into court facing serious prison time, that it looked like his entire presidency might be imperiled.
Even if the Barr memo was not the exoneration and vindication the president contends it is, it had to be an enormous relief for conservatives. Now the president and the White House are using Barr’s synopsis to sharpen knives and settle festering grudges with liberal media pundits and political foes.
Others, like Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, called the report “good news” and said now it’s time for the country to “move forward.”
And in a sense, Romney is right. It appears talk of indicting or impeaching the president can be set aside and, frankly, the turmoil of an impeachment war would have driven this country even further apart.
But it would be premature to simply take Barr at his word and move on before we see the full Mueller report.
To their credit, all of Utah’s members of Congress have called for its release, with, as Sen. Mike Lee said, “appropriate redactions” for national security.
In doing so, they for once are agreeing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and polling that shows between 80 and 87 percent of Americans want the full report. There are good reasons for making it public.
Perhaps most obviously, we paid for it.
Beyond that, Barr’s Cliff Notes rendition is remarkably murky. While it is more conclusive on one point — that nobody on the Trump campaign conspired with Russians to interfere with the 2016 election — it hedges on whether the president obstructed the investigation.
Mueller didn’t make a determination on obstruction and Barr’s memo notes that the investigation did not exonerate the president, even if Trump tweeted it had. It was Barr’s determination that charges were not warranted and we should see the evidence that led to that conclusion.
Also, no matter how many times the president called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” — 183 and counting, for those scoring at home — what we already know from the probe about the illegal activities of those in Trump’s orbit is jaw-dropping. Here’s a quick list:
• It validated what pretty much everyone knew all along, that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election.
• It documented contacts between agents and Trump advisor George Papadopolous.
• It is going to mean years in prison for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who laundered tens of millions of dollars and lied about work done for pro-Russian factions in Ukraine.
• Manafort’s long-time business associate Rick Gates was charged with money laundering and conspiracy and pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
• Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian officials.
• Then there’s Michael Cohen, who lied to Congress, he says at the president’s bidding, to cover up his payments to porn star Stormy Daniels with whom Trump allegedly had an affair.
• And court records allege that long-time Trump advisor Roger Stone communicated through a go-between with Wikileaks about releases of the Russian-hacked documents.
As astonishing as the run-down is, those disclosures were never the real purpose of the Mueller probe.
You might remember a few years back when we had the scandal involving Utah Attorney General John Swallow. I do. I got to help my former colleague Tom Harvey shine the light on parts of that malfeasance. But it took months of investigation by professionals with subpoena power from the state House and a price tag of several million bucks to produce a thorough report that allowed all Utahns to see the entire saga.
Swallow was charged with crimes including obstruction and later acquitted, claiming exoneration. A parallel remains between the Swallow and Mueller probes.
The aim of these kinds of investigations is not to bring down an elected official or lock people up. They’re really about an independent and objective inquiry, to weed out corruption if it exists, to protect our democratic institutions and provide a level of confidence in our government. They’re about the truth.
The Mueller investigation was thorough — 2,800 subpoenas and nearly 500 search warrants executed and some 500 witnesses interviewed (although Trump was not among them). Now, before we close the book and move on, the American people deserve to read the final chapters — we need to see the full report.