Trump’s relationship with Russia – Unpicking the Mueller Report

After two years of inquiries and investigations, Special Investigator Robert Mueller submitted his final report on President Trump’s relationship with Russia during the 2016 Presidential election to the Justice Department on Friday, 23 March. After spending the weekend dissecting the findings, United States Attorney General William Barr sent a four-page letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee with his summary of Mueller’s findings. Barr concluded that the Mueller Investigation found insufficient evidence that Trump, or any of his aides, coordinated with the Russian government during the 2016 Presidential election. While Trump tweets emphatically that this demonstrates there was “no collusion”, many Democrats are saying “this isn’t over yet”. So who is correct?

Mueller ultimately only looked at a very narrow view of collusion – of whether Trump and his aides had worked directly with Russia to influence the 2016 Election. He did not look at the wider areas of possible collusion, for instance whether Trump provided Russia with information, against the sanctions imposed by the US. Congressional investigations into these areas continue.

So Mueller reporting that he was not able to find sufficient evidence to charge the President within his narrow scope does not in fact clear the President overall on those allegations. He also stated that he was not exonerating Trump, and did not reach a decision on whether or not the President obstructed justice, stating “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

Since Mueller wasn’t able to reach a decision on obstruction, Barr decided to help him out. In his letter to Congress, the Attorney General decided that there was not enough evidence to prove that Trump illegally obstructed justice. But Barr had already reached this decision long prior to the Mueller report landing on his desk.

Before being selected to fill the role as Attorney General for the United States, Barr had sent documents to Trump allies that clearly laid out his view on the Mueller Investigation: The President cannot be charged with Obstruction of Justice. This view is what ultimately led to Barr becoming the the Attorney General.

While this letter may look like the end of the Mueller investigation, it provides fuel for the other numerous investigations into Trump. Pointing to what they perceive to be Barr’s bias, many Democrats are calling for him to release the full report so that they can determine an opinion on the results of the investigation. And, since the Obstruction charge was not made by Mueller and was actually made by Barr, it now falls to the House Judiciary to review the report, if Barr decides to give it to them, and determine if it is appropriate to initiate impeachment hearings.

While the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump and the 2016 Presidential election may have finally come to a close, its implications and findings will continue to cause a stir for years to come, especially in the midst of the 2020 Presidential election. As Trump plays another round of golf at Mar-a-Largo to celebrate what he sees as his first political “win” two years into his presidency, it now goes to Congress to demand the full Mueller report from Barr and determine why Mueller wasn’t able to say with certainty that the President did not commit any crimes, and whether these issues are grounds for impeachment.

Then there are the numerous other investigations that are ongoing into the President

Despite Trump’s claims of victory and exoneration, then, this story has several chapters still to run.

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