After nearly two years of investigating, the report compiled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller regarding any potential collusion between President Donald Trump and the Russian initiative that aimed to see him elected has been released to the public. While pundits, journalists, and social media commenters alike have already begun drawing attention to specific portions of the report, the 448-page document will likely be a matter of ongoing discussion for weeks to come.
While it has already been widely reported that the investigation cleared the president of any collusion with Russian government officials, it did not paint Trump in a particularly positive light. The report indicates that members of the Trump campaign were in contact with Russians with ties to the election interference efforts, and perhaps more importantly, that the Trump campaign was well aware of Russia’s ongoing efforts. Those contacts, however, never crossed over the line into illegal activity, despite seeming clearly unethical.
Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The report further indicates that the president has not been cleared of obstruction charges, pointing out that the way these laws pertain to the executive branch are complex. Instead, it points out that the president is not immune to obstruction of justice charges, going on to state specifically that the report does not conclude that a crime was committed, nor does it exonerate the president of any potential obstruction charges.
If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. … Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
In fact, the president was so concerned when he learned of Mueller’s appointment that he was quoted in the report as saying, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”
While the report will certainly be poured over for some time, it seems likely that Democrats will seize on the possibility of pursuing obstruction of justice charges against the president based on details found within the report. Mueller did acknowledge himself that because his investigation showed that the Trump campaign made no agreements with Russian officials, there was no formal collusion, and as such, no underlying crime behind the obstruction of justice investigation. He goes on, however, to point out that obstruction of justice is still a crime, even in the absence of underlying charges.
Ultimately, the Mueller Report does not paint a particularly rosy picture of the Trump campaign and subsequent administration, but there are distinct differences between the moral or ethical issues seemingly at play and the legality of pursuing impeachment. While Democrats may take issue with elements of Attorney General William Barr’s interpretation of the report, it offers no smoking gun and only the promise of continued political combat between the nation’s two parties well into the foreseeable future.
You can read the full 448-page report at this link.