Barr’s summary of the Mueller report left a lot to be desired. Trumps allies have claimed it as a complete victory, while his opponents are wringing their hands in disappointment and concern. Regardless of your personal feelings, let us please all acknowledge this simple truth: the idea that the Mueller report exonerates Trump is a laughable exaggeration.
We know from Barr’s statement that Trump did not collude with Russia, and Mueller’s team is one that should be trusted with that assessment. While this is good news, it still is a fairly low bar to set — a president not conspiring with foreign actors should be a standard assumption, and the fact that it took nearly two years to come to that conclusion should still be cause for concern.
On top of that, we also know that many, many people surrounding Trump did collude with Russia, or are under active investigation for colluding with Russia as we speak. Robert Mueller’s investigation resulted in indictments or guilty pleas from thirty four people.
The fact that Trump can’t be tied to any of it could mean:
1. Trump’s top advisors deliberately kept information from him during the campaign.
2. No one was keeping information from him, and he was just blissfully ignorant of what was going on in his campaign.
3. Trump knew about all of it and didn’t do or say anything.
None of these options imply great things about the President, and this behavior is still going on. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and primary foreign policy advisor, has been caught using a private server to email foreign leaders, and omitted meetings with foreign leaders to gain his security clearance. We know that Trump pushed for this security clearance despite objections — so again, he was either sheltered from information about this untoward behavior, completely unobservant, or he knows about it and doesn’t care. This is not the character we should accept from the highest office in the land.
What we don’t know from Barr’s summary is far more telling.
To quote Dan Rather:
“Almost everything else is at this point up for interpretation. Were there other nefarious connections with Russian businessmen and the Trump family and organization? Perhaps. Others are investigating. Was there obstruction of justice? Hidden or in plain sight? Matters of interpretation up until now, but the report may contain much more information.”
We have no idea what Mueller uncovered. All we know is that Barr’s summary declares it should be left to the attorney general (himself) “whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.” This means Mueller described conduct that is very possibly criminal conduct — very likely criminal conduct. If it was clear and obvious that Trump did not commit any crimes, Barr would have said so.
Mueller didn’t recommend an indictment, not because he didn’t find anything wrong, but because he felt it was the Attorney General’s place to decide whether an indictment was necessary. Given Barr’s lack of clarity during his conformation hearings about the ethics of investigating/indicting a sitting president, Mueller’s decision to put him in power of such a monumental decision is certainly concerning — but we won’t know how concerning until we see Mueller’s complete report.
Trump is still facing investigations. The House Intelligence Committee has made over 80 inquiries of information. Barr’s summary indicated that Mueller’s report did not exonerate him from obstruction of justice.
The headlines will ebb and flow, and you’ll hear a lot of things, but the reality is that this isn’t over. It’s far from over.