Feb. 26, 2019, 3:38 PM GMT
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election isn’t about clearing the president.
For our country to heal from the deep divisions spurred by that campaign and Donald Trump’s election to the highest office in the land, we all deserve to know what happened — regardless of whether the president is (miraculously) entirely innocent, or whether he is a compromised actor of Vladimir Putin himself.
It is time for us to rip the Band-Aid off the wounds of that campaign, so that we can understand exactly what happened in 2016. The conclusions Mueller is widely expected to draw could expose that a foreign power undeniably undertook to undermine our democratic institutions. And if so, from there, we must chart a way forward to make sure that it never happens again.
Since his appointment in May 2017, following Trump’s dismissal of then-FBI Director James Comey, the eyes of Americans have been trained on Mueller and his team of prosecutors as they sought to determine whether there were “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” or anything that “may arise directly from the investigation.”
We all need and deserve to know the full measure of how much the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and whether was there any coordination between our adversary and people working for the Trump campaign.
But for two years, we have woken up nearly every day to distractive cries of foul play and that the investigation is a “Witch Hunt!”
Still, Trump’s campaign manager, senior advisor, national security chairman, personal lawyer and 12 Russian intelligence agents have all either pleaded guilty or been indicted on various charges related to, among other things, lying to the FBI and Congress about their interactions with Russia, money laundering and hacking. We now know that there were ongoing discussions of a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign. We also know that the president’s campaign manager gave their most sensitive internal polling data to an alleged Russian spy. There was a meeting ostensibly to get dirt from the Russians about Hillary Clinton at which Trump’s son and Russian representatives discussed dropping sanctions on Russia implemented as part of the Magnitsky Act in Trump Tower in New York.
There is, to say the least, an extremely suspicious amount of interaction between the Russians and the people within the Trump orbit, and the Mueller report hasn’t even yet been filed.
And, since the election, the Russians have used social media and acts of cyber warfare to pit us against each other. The Russian Internet Research Agency, the official troll farm of the Russian government, launched a massive cyber operation exploiting America’s dark history of racism, targeting white nationalists by promoting the organization of the deadly march Charlottesville and attempted to suppress the vote of African-Americans through usage of online propaganda. They successfully identified our Achilles heel as a nation in 2016 and have, nearly every day since, used our weaknesses to rip us further apart from one another.
The Mueller report could finally start to change all of that — if we ever get to see it.
According to recent reports, Mueller is preparing to submit his report to the brand-new attorney general, William Barr, in the coming weeks. But what is concerning is that, despite Mueller clearly planning to write and submit his report to Barr, it might never see the light of day.
During his confirmation hearing, Barr suggested that he will only release a summary of Mueller’s report to Congress, not the full report with the appropriate redactions for national security reasons. He also suggested that any conduct uncovered by the Mueller investigation that did not warrant an indictment, even if it was unethical or connected to the Russian interference in our elections, could be kept confidential from Congress and every American.
So If Mueller decides that the president should not be indicted, any interaction — whether constituting an indictable criminal conspiracy or not — could be entirely redacted from whatever portion of the report gets released.
We are never going to find solace unless we are given answers about what really happened in 2016. The Mueller report must be made public: No summaries, no omissions and only the necessary national security redactions.
The American people overwhelmingly support this: According to a poll by CNN, nearly nine in 10 Americans want Mueller’s findings to be made public.
The president himself has repeatedly insisted over the last 21 months that there is nothing to find, that there is no collusion and that any fair investigation would show that he won in 2016, fair and square. A majority of Americans trust Mueller to be fair, which leads to only one logical conclusion: There should be a full release of Mueller’s report.
Nothing short of that will be sufficient.