On March 22nd, US Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his approximately two-year-long investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 US Presidential campaign.
He also investigated whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow. Investigated was also whether the current POTUS Donald Trump unlawfully attempted to obstruct the investigation.
In short, no proof of any collusion or Russian meddling was found, but that still led to the numerous indictments, guilty pleas and sentences.
Expectedly, Donald Trump was glad to announce that there was no collusion.
“It’s a shame that our country had to go through this.”
“To be honest it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this – before I even got elected it began. It began illegally and hopefully, someone is going to look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed.”
“So it’s complete exoneration, no collusion, no obstruction.”
No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2019
Mueller also “didn’t recommend” further indictments in the Russian investigation, according to an anonymous Justice Department official, cited by Al Jazeera.
Special Counsel Mueller handed in his report to Attorney General William Barr.
Barr submitted a letter to the US Congress on March 24th, summarizing the findings of the investigation.
“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,” Barr said. “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The special counsel did not reach a conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice during the investigation but Barr’s letter reaches a finding that, without evidence of an underlying conspiracy, the legal threshold for obstruction would not be met.
The lack of a finding of obstruction was based on the recognition that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference”, the letter said.
Mueller’s investigation included 19 lawyers and a team of 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants and professional staff. The team interviewed 500 witnesses, executed more than 500 search warrants, 13 requests to foreign governments, issued 2,800 subpoenas and 50 wiretaps in the investigation, according to Barr. The entire investigation cost between $31 and $35 million.
To compare: The investigation into President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2002 cost approximately $69 million, and the investigation into Iran-Contra cost approximately $47 million, not adjusted for inflation.
Attorney General Barr’s summary also left some questions unanswered.
It shed no light on how detailed Mueller’s report was.
It made no mention of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting allegedly between Donald Jr. and Russian representatives (one of which a political figure).
No mention of Mueller’s findings (if any) in the obstruction of justice case against Trump was made.
Despite Trump’s claims, legal experts are skeptical that Mueller’s report means “total exoneration” for Donald Trump, Barr’s report didn’t clarify the situation.
Finally, and probably the most important question: Will the Mueller report ever be made public in its entirety?
The Department of Justice on its part said it expected a summary of Mueller’s findings “within the hour,” according to two anonymous sources cited by Associated Press.
Republican Jim Jordan hadn’t seen the report as of the evening of March 24th, but he said he wanted to see all of it.
He insisted that it showed no evidence of “coordination, collusion, conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.” He said that “everyone in town” was confident Robert Mueller would be thorough in his investigation.
Jordan said Mueller is seen as “right next to Jesus; he can almost walk on water” and that “he will have the definitive statement on that fundamental question.”
Meanwhile, in the same episode of ABC’s This Week that Jim Jordan spoke, Democrat and House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff called for the entire Mueller investigation report to be released to the public.
“I suspect that we’ll find those words of transparency to prove hollow, that in fact, they will fight to make sure that Congress doesn’t get this underlying evidence,” he said.
Schiff’s plan is to ask for information and if that’s denied, subpoena. “If subpoenas are denied, we will haul people before Congress. And yes, we will prosecute in court as necessary to get this information.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said that he and the panel’s top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, will be briefed “in the coming days” about Mueller’s report.
In summary, the 22-month long investigation brought charges against 34 people, including Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
The following is a list of those convicted, recused or granted immunity:
- Paul Manafort, Trump’s former Campaign Manager – found guilty on 8 charges, 10 charges resulted in mistrial; Paul Manafort also tried to plead guilty and not be found guilty, but he was denied. Most likely because Mueller & Co already knew what he wanted to tell them;
- Alex van der Zwann, worked with Rick Gates and Paul Manafort – found guilty on 1 charge;
- Michel Flynn, former National Security Advisor – plead guilty on 1 charge;
- Rick Gates, a Trump political consultant – plead guilty on 2 charges;
- Michael Cohen, Trump’s Personal Attorney/RNC Deputy Finance Chair – plead guilty on 8 charges, sentenced to 3 years in prison; He said he suspected Trump “colluded” with Russia, but had no proof;
- George Papadopoulos, a Member of the Foreign Policy Advisory Panel – plead guilty on 1 charge;
- Samuel Patten, Associate of Paul Manafort and Cambridge Analytica – plead guilty on 1 charge;
- Jeff Sessions, Former Attorney General was recused;
- David Pecker, CEO of National Enquirer and Trump’s friend – Pecker claimed there is a safe of decades of damaging stories of Trump. Rachel Maddow touched on how the National Enquirer repeatedly put out anti Hillary cover stories. “Control the medium, control the message.” – Pecker was granted immunity;
- Allen Weisselberg, CFO of Trump Organization – granted immunity;
- Andrew Miller, Roger Stone’s aide – granted immunity;
- Donna Duggan, Conor O’Brien, Cindy Laporta, James Brennan, Dennis Raico – all of them were granted immunity in the Manafort trial;
Indicted was also an alleged Russian troll factory in St. Petersburg, in addition to numerous Russian individuals.
What all of these listed above individuals have is that in none of their sentencing was there even a mention of Russian collusion or meddling.
So, as a result the Mueller investigation was a success, but not in discovering any ties to Russia or anything of the sort. It was a successful witch hunt, which uncovered political corruption. In Paul Manafort’s case – the corruption was criminal, and he was sentenced for it. In the case of Donald Trump – the corruption didn’t break the law.
As Michael Kinsley famously said, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal; the scandal is what’s legal.” Lying to the electorate, adjusting foreign policy for the sake of personal lucre, and undermining an investigation are what Democrats and Trump opponents are calling reasons for impeachment. Despite that, all of these alleged actions are technically legal and are not in breach of any laws.