By Richard E. Bleil
Yes, I know…another blogger writing about the Mueller report.
I have no intention of speculating on the findings, but I have been hearing from those who dislike the current president complaining that there have been no charges on the president, or that he has not been impeached, and from those who like the president claiming victory and saying no collusion has been found. Basically though, everybody just needs to take a moment to breathe.
It does not concern me that Mueller has not charged the president with any crimes. No, I don’t know what was found in the report. Maybe there is evidence of collusion, or tampering with evidence or some other crime, and maybe there isn’t. But regardless of the findings, I never expected charges against the president himself from Mueller or his team simply because I doubt that he ever had the authority to do so, and it certainly was not within the scope of the investigation. All along, I’ve assumed that the investigation was meant to be a fact-finding mission, and that there have been so many indictments is a major victory already. But notice that most of the charges have not been in regard to work done directly for the president.
Many of the indictments were related to the investigation itself; charges of making false statements to the FBI (Popodapolous, Manafort for violation of a plea agreement, Flynn, van der Zwaan) and conspiracy to interfere with the investigation (Gates, Kilimnik, Cohen, Stone). Additional charges were international in nature (Russian nationals and companies and Russian GRU officers relating to interfering with the election and hacking of the DNC emails). Beyond that were indictments of finance violations and events prior to the election.
This does not mean that Mueller and his team did not find anything; it only means that issuing subpoenas for election and administrative violations are beyond the purview of the investigation. At this point, you’ll hear supporters claiming that the investigation yielded no proof of collusion or wrongdoings by the president himself, while detractors will cry foul and forward conjecture on what is being withheld.
And the conjecture, by the way, is well-founded. Whether you believe the president is guilty of any crimes or not, it is very clear that he has surrounded himself with people who have and are willing to “bend the law”. With 37 indictments, including personal lawyers and reaching into the president’s cabinet itself with twenty-three convictions or guilty pleas to date, it certainly doesn’t look good. What’s more, conspiracy to obstruct justice, perjury and the refusal of the president to cooperate with the investigation in the past raises questions of what, exactly, these people were trying to cover up.
The question now becomes what happens next. First, we know that a lot of people and groups will be pushing their agenda with conjecture. That there has been no indictments of the president and no announcements of wrong-doing (so far) will be touted as “no collusion” claims that the investigation was a witch hunt. Those who want to see charges and impeachment will argue of the indictments and subpoenas to date claiming this is proof that there was wrongdoing. Both arguments, though, are based on conjecture and inappropriate extrapolation.
The Justice Department (under the head of a presidential appointee, by the way) and Congress are the next serious actions to be watched. The question becomes if our representatives will hold true to the concept of transparency or not. There may well be items in the report that cannot be made public for purposes of national security (including, but not limited to, names of operatives or methods of investigation), so a redacted report is the best we can hope for. However, certain groups should be given full access to the non-redacted report for oversight purposes. It must be remembered that redaction for “national security” can be neglected, and it may be deemed “national security” to protect the president even from proof of impeachable offenses. I truly hope that representatives of both parties (and other appropriate groups) will be given full access to the non-redacted report with the authority to act based on the findings and if the redaction process is deemed inappropriate.
Finally, just because the Mueller team has completed their investigation does not mean all investigations are over. Currently there are multiple investigations that “dovetail” the Mueller investigation, as well as investigations that can be seen as extensions of the investigation. If there are to be criminal charges, or impeachment, these are the groups that will bring them. The Mueller Report will provide background, and may well provide proof to either pursue charges or “close the books” on them, but it is not the end of the story.