Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation and submitted his report to Attorney General (AG) William Barr. The Mueller Investigation was thorough and professional. Thank you to Mr. Mueller and his team for staying focused and steadfast despite the ongoing attacks at subterfuge by President Trump and his Russia Caucus in Congress. The nation should accept Mueller’s findings that there was not evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 Presidential Election and that while there was evidence of Trump’s highly inappropriate conduct during the investigation, there was not sufficient admissible evidence to support an indictment for obstruction of justice. That said, there are remaining critical questions.
The report did not exonerate Trump on obstruction, but merely concluded that the team did not feel they had sufficient admissible evidence to prove obstruction beyond a reasonable doubt. They did not feel there was enough evidence to support an indictment, even if AG Barr would allow it. They left that decision open and deferred action to Barr. Barr and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein decided against proceeding on obstruction. However, it is not for the AG to make this call. Previously (Nixon and Clinton) it fell to Congress, not the AG, to determine whether to move forward on obstruction of justice. Congress should now determine what, if any, action to pursue against Trump in this matter. The standard of proof for impeachment is by no means the same as to prove a criminal case. However, it behooves Congress to acknowledge the evidentiary requirements and challenges with such a case and proceed with caution.
This investigation began as a critical counter-intelligence investigation. Our intelligence and national security agencies discovered Russian interference in the 2016 election. Although there may not have been a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, there is indisputable proof Russia interfered in the election. The nation must hold Russia accountable, dissuade further such acts, and ensure the sanctity of all future elections through improved infrastructure, counter intelligence, etc. Thus far, the Trump administration has been unwilling to make the necessary improvements to safeguard our elections and it is paramount that this occur immediately. Russia continues to meddle in our elections as well as our allies’ elections threatening the outcome, the voice of the people, and the future of our democracies.
Mueller’s charter was focused on Russian interference and whether there was any connection to the Trump campaign. There are open investigations and pending cases in U.S. Attorney’s offices in New York, Virginia, and Washington, DC, not to mention state cases. Thus, it is not over. The country may still learn about corruption, money laundering, improper financial dealings, etc. Accepting Mueller’s findings, there was no collusion between Trump and Russia, but there remains an imperative counter-intelligence matter. The question remains as to why Russia favored Trump in 2016 and more importantly why Trump favors Putin and Russia, denigrates our steadfast NATO allies, weakens the alliance, and why he seems to repeatedly act in Russia’s strategic interests and against our own national security and strategic interests. There are significant concerns that Russia exerts improper influence over Trump because of a history of money laundering, questionable financial dealings with oligarchs and criminal enterprises, or other compromising information they can hold over his head. Arguably collusion would have been the simpler answer.
The crucial immediate question is for Congress, specifically the House of Representatives. The House must receive a complete copy of the Mueller investigation in order to perform its Constitutionally mandated duty of oversight. I agree with Trump attorney Jay Sekulow on this one point – there is no reason for Congress to duplicate the extensive, comprehensive efforts of the Mueller team. There were 2800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 500 witnesses, 37 indictments on 199 charges, not to mention the convictions of several Trump senior campaign officials. Trump claims he was vindicated, and this proves he was subject to a “witch hunt.” Regardless of the findings with respect to Trump himself, this was a major counter-intelligence investigation into irrefutable evidence of foreign interference in our elections systems and social media communications by an adversary, if not enemy power. The indictments and counter-intelligence findings are in no way a witch hunt, unless of course you support Putin and Russia over the U.S.
Congress should be able to utilize the evidence from the Mueller investigation to efficiently conduct and conclude its own required oversight rather than squander millions of dollars and countless hours recreating what is otherwise readily and rightfully available to them. We have heard multiple members of Congress state they can “walk and chew gum at the same time,” meaning they can conduct their oversight responsibilities while simultaneously working on legislation. For the good of the country I hope this proves to be true. Unlike the rest of us, when Congress is in session, they work an average of 3 days per week. The other days they spend traveling to and from their home districts and Washington, DC, meeting with constituents, lobbyists, donors, and attending events. In the limited time they have in session, Congress must address the national debt, comprehensive immigration reform, the environment, and national security challenges around the world to name just some of the pressing business. If Congress errs on the side of too much investigation, it will hurt them in upcoming elections unless the investigations produce clear and important results.
Democratic leaders have rightfully and logically determined that impeachment should only take place upon strong evidence of significant violations and in a bipartisan manner. Republicans suffered electoral setbacks after the Clinton impeachment process. Although by no means identical situations, the lesson is nonetheless valid. If Democrats are seen as overreaching, especially if the Senate fails to conduct a hearing or take action, they will suffer intense blowback in upcoming elections. The Senate will not even conduct a hearing let alone vote to remove the President (requires 67 votes) unless there is an overwhelming case that even Mitch McConnell cannot overlook. Thus far President Trump’s deficiencies have been more along the lines of leadership, moral, policy, and performance failures. He is unfit to serve as President for many reasons. This is important but would not suffice as a basis to impeach Trump under the current climate. In fact, Trump stands a decent chance to win reelection in 2020 if Democrats do not handle these matters correctly in the eyes of the American people.
The President and his allies can take their victory lap, spike the football, claim vindication, etc., but that is foolish and unprofessional. There remain critical questions about Russian influence, the President’s performance in office, his promotion of hate, division, and violence, and his incessant campaign of dishonesty. This is the most corrupt administration in history. More officials from the Trump administration have been indicted (Mueller Investigation) or forced to resign due to rampant corruption than any other. We the people must accept the results from Mueller and move forward but remain ever vigilant in the continuing investigations. Our national security and future of our democracy is at risk if we become complacent and succumb to investigation fatigue. I do not relish the prospect of any President committing crimes and being tried or impeached for those crimes. I want all our leaders to succeed for the good of the nation. But when the evidence is there, we must put politics aside and does what needs to be done to address their transgressions.