For those who were expecting fireworks, the long-awaited Mueller report, released on March 22, landed with a thud.
Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, spent the weekend preparing a four-page summary of the report, released last Sunday, in which he declared: “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 U.S. presidential election.”
But he also noted clearly, “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’ ”
Still, there appears to be no smoking gun. And those who insisted that the release of the report would guarantee Trump’s impeachment are now having to eat crow.
Trump reacted, as he often does, with a tweet:
“The Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE. For two years they pushed the Russian Collusion Delusion when they always knew there was No Collusion. They truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!”
But not a word of that is true.
Here’s the real situation:
Russia meddled in the 2016 election, with fake news stories from internet troll farms, in hopes of helping to elect Trump. After the election, members of Trump’s campaign and his administration lied to Congress about their contacts with Russian agents and officials.
Trump’s reluctance to call out Russia exacerbated the situation. During a summit in Helsinki, Trump stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he believed Putin’s claim of innocence over his own intelligence agencies’ assessment. That sort of thing is guaranteed to raise eyebrows.
Investigations began and news agencies spent the next two years reporting on what was happening.
If any president in any administration were in that situation, an investigation — or 10 — would not only be appropriate, but necessary. And any decent media organization with the resources to report on the investigation would have a responsibility to do so.
In the end, Mueller’s team indicted 34 people and three companies. They included former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who lied about his Russian contacts to the FBI. Also included were 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies that attempted to interfere with the 2016 campaign. Those indictments have led to seven guilty pleas and four prison sentences.
In the wake of Barr’s conclusion, CNN commentator Anderson Cooper said that “it’s a great thing for the country” if the Mueller report concluded that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. We agree.
But questions will remain until the full report is released.
In the meantime, Russia will try again to tamper with the 2020 election in an effort to divide Americans. We must resist its efforts.
State and local officials have been allocating resources to shore up vulnerabilities that were exploited in 2016. Our federal officials should devote all necessary resources to the effort. Information contained in the Mueller report could help and, for that reason alone, the report should be released to Congress, as well as to the American people. We must demand that all of our elected officials take the proper steps to defend our elections and our democracy.
— Winston-Salem Journal