The Mueller Report
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
One of the longest-awaited events of 2019 was the release of the Mueller Report. On March 23, some of the highly-anticipated information was released in a short summary by the US Attorney General William Barr. Though the full report has not been released to the public, multiple statements and requests have been made by members of the Congress this year to release it. What is the report, and why is it so crucial to democracy, the President, and national security? Why do so many people want to see the report?
The Mueller Report is a report made by the Special Counsel led by Robert Mueller. The Special Counsel is a title given to an external actor from the US government to investigate certain events. The Special Counsel is picked by the Attorney General or Congress, historically and legally. In the case of the Mueller Probe, the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself—which is to excuse himself from the duty because of potential bias, due to his former work on Trump's campaign—and the act fell to the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. On May 17, 2017, Rosenstein chose Robert Mueller: the ex-director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mueller's responsibility was to investigate any potential ties between President Trump and malicious Russian collusion, as well as efforts to impede the ongoing investigation (later into the probe, on June 14), also concerning the 2016 elections.
Many people regard the investigation as a means to achieve some sort of agenda. Those who want substantiated evidence that Trump colluded with Russia see the investigation as a way to see if so, and how much. Others see the investigation as a “witch hunt”: an operation meant to place President Trump under further pressure, and acting on motivations fueled by partisan hate. Others still see the investigation as a strategic move in the world of partisan politics, with Democrats and Republicans being very divided by the issue surrounding the investigation. What the report holds could be valuable ammunition for either side: not just as information, but as evidence to tarnish or raise up a political party in the minds of Americans, and bias that could set the tone of the next presidential election.
Whatever the content of the report—a summary of the findings and specific actions Mueller and his associates took to conduct the investigation—one thing remains for sure as hints behind the investigation: legal actions. During the course of the probe, thirty seven confirmed indictments—accusations—have taken place.
George Papadopoulos, Trump’s former foreign policy campaign advisor, was first to be sentenced in October of 2017 for making false statements to the FBI. Paul Manafort—former Trump campaign chairman—received seven and a half years in prison on March 13, 2018, after striking a deal with Mueller to avert his second trial, breaking the promise by lying, and being convicted of his crimes. Rick Gates, former Trump business partner and campaign aide, was charged with one conspiracy charge and one false statements charge. Michael Flynn, former presidential national security advisor, pleaded guilty for his false statements charge. Thirteen Russian individuals and three Russian companies were charged after their actions concerning internet propaganda during the 2016 presidential campaign were discovered. Richard Pinedo was charged with identity theft concerning the Russia probe, Alex van der Zwaan in London pleaded guilty to making false statements, and twelve Russian GRU officers were charged with hacking Democrat party emails in the 2016 election. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, was charged with tax, finance, and campaign money crimes, and it was discovered he paid hush money to numerous women who had alleged affairs with Trump. He also lied to Congress about Trump’s plans to construct a tower in Moscow. Currently, there is new information being exposed as Cohen discovered fourteen million files to be given to the federal government, and he also claims he has information directly against Trump that specifically evinces Trump’s collusion with the Russian government. Ex-Trump advisor Roger Stone has been indicted this January for tampering with witnesses and lying about his connections with WikiLeaks.
Since Mueller released his report to Barr, Barr’s summary of his analysis of the report has not revealed much about the legality of Trump’s actions. Since Barr is the standing Attorney General, he makes the decision on whether or not Trump’s actions were actually illegal—a decision that Mueller cannot make. Mueller can recommend a course of action, but he does not prosecute directly. Concerning Russian cooperation, Barr says there was no one associated with the Trump campaign found to collude with Russians. There are vague statements by Barr that the document gives insufficient evidence indict President Trump, but at the same time, “does not exonerate him”; this is as close the public gets to knowing the extent of Donald Trump’s status at the moment.
Members of the American public want to read the report that details insights on the investigation, and so do members of Congress. But the release of the full report is unlikely at the current time. The reason why the report cannot be released immediately in its current form is due to secrecy laws: the report must be confidential, or at least to a certain extent. Attorney-General Barr (who replaced Sessions after Sessions left his post) has to decide whether or not the report is impactful to the interest of the country. And to Congress, Barr is only required to provide minimal information. Senator Dianne Feinstein has called—among numerous other Congressmen—for the release, claiming that Special Counsel regulations do not prohibit Barr from releasing the report to Congress. The House of Representatives, in a historic unanimous vote, voted to release the Mueller Report publicly on March 14. This put additional pressure on Barr to make his decision about the release. Democrats had set an April 2 deadline for the report’s release, and Barr’s team was in the process of redacting the document (which is hinted to be upwards of 300 pages long).
Newest updates reveal that the report will be made available to the public and Congress on Thursday, April 18. On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced a press conference the morning of the release, at 9:30 am, Eastern Time, with Barr and Rosenstein. Representative Jerry Nadler claims that the report will only be released after the Barr conference, which makes some people concerned about bias. To many, the release of the report only after Barr sets the tone will let him dictate feelings on the report. Some claim they will not have the time to properly process the findings of the conference before the release of the document—rumored to be approximately at 11:00 or 12:00 am.
The document will be released in two versions: a less-redacted version going to select members of Congress, because the document may contain information about Roger Stone. His case is currently ongoing, so much of his information is being kept locked down to keep his jury unbiased.
Some members of the Justice Department have seen the document, and have discussed Mueller’s findings with members of the Executive Department. The White House has been able to prepare rebuttals for the onslaught of press in advanced, due to the decision of the Justice Department. This decision may hint towards the backlash that Trump may be facing when the results of the document are released—and the extent that Trump may have potentially obstructed justice.
Despite its controversy, and given its potential impact on the status quo, the Mueller Special Counsel report is a document of great historical significance. Its impact on the public additionally is worth a note. In a political climate of partisan turmoil, this document, release or not, made a mark on the dynamics of US government.