At long last, the core findings of Robert Mueller's lengthy investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election were revealed on Sunday afternoon. The outcome can only be described as a broad vindication of President Trump, who has correctly insisted for more than two years that there was 'NO COLLUSION' with the Russian government on the part of his campaign. Despite endless and often hyperbolic speculation to the contrary from Trump's political and media opponents, the central and most explosive charge against Trump has been found to be baseless -- this, after intense, sustained, exhaustive scrutiny from a team seasoned attorneys, led by a man of impeccable character and integrity. This is the most important quote in Attorney General William Barr's letter to Congress:
“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.”— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 24, 2019
- Barr letter on Mueller findings
"Despite multiple offers:"
AG Barr summary:— LIVE Breaking News (@NewsBreaking) March 24, 2019
"Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign." (NBC News)
Mueller's report, quoted by Barr, says the exact same thing. It's over. The president and his campaign did not collude with Russia to 'steal' or interfere with the 2016 election. As we mentioned on Friday, not one single American has been charged by Mueller on this front. Zero. And there are no indictments pending. Think of all the theories about blackmail, secrets and compromising information -- some breathlessly repeated in the press -- that just evaporated. On the second portion of the probe, the Special Counsel could not establish that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice, while also not "exonerating" him on this matter. Mueller declined to offer a prosecutorial judgment on obstruction, handing the ball off to AG Barr, who has articulated his decision not to seek any related prosecution. Note that this legal call was not made in light of previous DOJ guidance that a sitting president cannot be indicted:
AG Barr says that he and Deputy AG Rosenstein "concluded that the evidence developed...is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense." Notes that this conclusion had nothing to do with DOJ guidelines re: indicting sitting president— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 24, 2019
Barr's reasoning not to pursue any charges, which makes absolutely perfect sense to me, is that due to the lack of any underlying crime, malfeasance, or conspiracy to cover up, there's no way to prove intent to obstruct justice. That's the right decision, and it was agreed to by Rod Rosenstein, as well. That matters. Yes, Trump took a number of foolish, impulsive and suspicious-looking actions along the way, but looking at them through the now-substantiated lens of 'no collusion,' they can easily be viewed as manifestations of extreme frustration over the amount of attention being paid to a scandal for which there was no basis. This is especially true of the event that triggered the Special Counsel's appointment: The firing of James Comey. This act was fully within Trump's authority, but the question was whether he did it in order to disrupt the investigation into Russian meddling. Well, the investigation continued and was never interfered with or limited, as confirmed by Barr. It makes more sense than ever that Trump canned Comey after growing understandably furious after the ex-FBI chief privately told him on three occasions that he wasn't the subject of an investigation, yet refused to say so publicly.
What comes next? Following a careful vetting process, Barr will almost certainly release Mueller's partially-redacted report, rightfully protecting certain sensitive information and other material covered by various legal protections. He should also publish as many of the supporting documents as possible. And as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy writes, the same standard should now apply to the nebulous and opaque legal justifications for the launch of this entire probe in the first place:
If we’re going to have disclosure, fine. But let’s have full disclosure: Mueller’s report in addition to the FISA applications; the memoranda pertinent to the opening and continuation of the investigation; the testimony in secret hearings; the scope memorandum Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued on August 2, 2017, after failing to cite a crime when he appointed Mueller — let’s have all of it.
Agreed. If abuses occurred, we deserve to know, especially after the feds chased a 'collusion' phantom for years, casting a cloud over an entire presidency. There should also be an accounting for those in the media and public office who acted irresponsibly, in pursuit of an anti-Trump narrative they desperately wanted to be true, but was not. Those who were emotionally or ideologically invested in that storyline will now vent anger and frustration, but most Americans should be extremely relieved: The President of the United States did not team up with a hostile government to swing an election and weaken our foreign policy. That's unambiguously excellent news. Those who don't treat it as such are showing their blindingly partisan true colors. Make mental notes accordingly.
I'll leave you with three thoughts: First, the deification and demonization of Robert Mueller was always absurd and overwrought -- and many hacks will suddenly find themselves switching sides. This was never a "witch hunt;" such expeditions do not clear accused witches, which Mueller has effectively done. Second, there may be some rough seas ahead for Trump on other legal matters, but on the central issue that has dogged his tenure in office, he is not guilty. That matters immensely, particularly coming via a man who Trump's many critics have lavishly praised as the gold standard in investigatory prowess. And finally, speaking of vindication, I believe my approach to this entire matter has been fair-minded throughout. This may seem self-indulgent, but in the world of commentary and analysis, credibility and intellectual honesty are coins of the realm:
My stance from day one: (1) Mueller’s a respected pro who must be allowed to conduct a thorough & interference-free probe. (2) Trashing or worshiping him is shortsighted. Wait for conclusions. (3) Dubious of collusion, but open to evidence.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 24, 2019
Feeling pretty good today.
Before you go, be sure to read this devastating critique of the media's Russiagate coverage, scathingly penned by a very liberal writer who believes his colleagues have crushed public trust. It's long, but it's definitely worth the read.
UPDATE: A note to those complaining that Barr's summary may not be accurately reflective of Mueller's report, which we'll likely see soon anyway:
The desperate "this is Barr, not Mueller!" cries are amusing. Remember this: Mueller publicly & quickly corrected a piece of a Buzzfeed story that he thought was unfair/inaccurate. We'd sure as hell know if he thought Barr was distorting the central pillars of his conclusions.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 24, 2019