By MARY ANN MARSH
Special to USAfricaonline.com
Politics abhors a vacuum and U.S Attorney General Bill Barr filled it on Sunday [March 24, 2019] when he tried to exonerate President Donald Trump using the “Mueller report” as a fig leaf.
Barr acted as judge and jury in a three page letter deeming Trump’s innocence without any evidence, explanation, or even the Mueller report itself
First, let me start with a fact. We have not seen the Mueller report. Let me repeat that…We have not seen the Mueller report. Not one page. Not one paragraph. Not one period. Nothing. So, we have no idea what is in it, what Mueller did, what Mueller said, and what, if anything, Barr used from it to make his decisions.
Speaking of decisions, if Barr is to be believed – and that’s a big if – then Mueller wrote a report that didn’t make one decision regarding any crimes he examined. Is this possible? It is hard to believe and highly unusual, if true.
The only reason Mueller would take this approach is to adhere to the Department of Justice policy, not a law, that a sitting president cannot be indicted. If that’s the case then it is possible Mueller wrote a report that laid out evidence about his examination of the Russian interference into the 2016 election and Trump’s role in it, which was his charge, and the evidence that he uncovered was provided as a road map for Congress to review these matters and take action.
High crimes and misdemeanor versus a legal standard that, even if it was met, couldn’t be used to indict a president. That was the choice in that situation. It is the only explanation for Mueller’s actions if indeed that is what he did. If so, despite his intentions, then Mueller’s decision to play by the rules, even the 21st-century version of them, with people who don’t believe in rules, like Trump and Barr, was a miscalculation of epic proportions. Mueller likely thought Congress would get the report and act on it. That is not what happened Sunday. Instead, Barr used the opportunity to give Trump a temporary public relations advantage that isn’t based on the Mueller report.
Given the long-standing concerns about Trump and Russia, many of them in plain sight, it is even more puzzling that Mueller didn’t find some evidence of conspiracy or obstruction as Barr claims.
Most Americans saw Trump appeal to Russia to find Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails during the campaign, on national TV no less, and then, lo and behold, they watched as WikiLeaks released troves of emails.
Most Americans saw Trump repeatedly deny having any business interest in Russia during the campaign, yet he signed a letter of intent for a Trump Tower Moscow during the primary campaign in 2015.
Most Americans saw Trump fire Comey, who was leading an investigation into him, and admit in a national interview that he did so because of the “Russia thing.” Trump then bragged to Russian officials, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavarov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in the Oval Office that his Russia problems were over now because he fired Comey…and shared highly classified information with them too.
Most Americans have seen all the meetings between Trump and Putin, official and unofficial, defending Russia but not the United States. In almost every economic and foreign policy matter that involves Russia, Trump takes Putin’s side, as in his desire to end NATO. Now, why would he do that?
The only way to answer these questions, and more, is to make the Mueller report public. All of it. All the evidence. Every document, every interview, every transcript, every tape, everything should be provided.
That shouldn’t be a problem. After all, Donald Trump said he wanted the Mueller report to be made public. At CPAC, Donald Trump, Jr., stated that he wanted all of the Mueller report to be public, without redactions.
Most Republicans want the report to be public too. Representative Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has been adamant about it. So too has Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, former chair of the House Intelligence Committee. After all, we might finally find out why Nunes went running to the White House in the middle of the night after reviewing some surveillance files about the matter. Surely Nunes still wants the Mueller report to be made public.
In fact, Congress voted 420-0 to make the Mueller report public. Naming a post office doesn’t get a vote like that one.
Most importantly, 92 percent of the American people want the Mueller report to be made public. With that kind of bipartisan support, the Mueller report should be made public this week.
After all, Barr somehow went through the work of 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 interviews, 500 search warrants, 230 orders for communication records, 50 orders authorizing the use of pen registers, and 13 requests to foreign governments, in only two days – what took Mueller two years to produce – to make his decision to exonerate Trump on Sunday. In that light, surely Barr could make the Mueller report public Monday.
With the Mueller report submitted, we are not in the court of law, for the moment, but the court of public opinion. And that is clearly why Barr decided to play politics Sunday. It was the only way he could try to exonerate Trump without the actual report.
Given the reason for the Mueller investigation, the public deserves to know exactly what Russia did to interfere in our election, what Trump knows about it, what Trump did about it, and how Trump benefitted from it.
Barr didn’t answer any of those questions Sunday, and we don’t know if the Mueller report answered them, either. That’s why the public must demand the Mueller report be released. Congress must demand it. The media must demand it.
Barr’s actions to try to exonerate Trump in this manner, without facts or evidence, is a disservice to our country, our democracy, and the American people. It is time for Congress to do its job and get to the bottom of what happened in the 2016 election and the role played by Trump and Russia.
The Mueller report should be released and Mueller should testify under oath before Congress about it. That is how our democracy works even when people like Barr try to play politics with it. •Marsh, public policy analyst, business counselor and political strategist, is a principal at Dewey Square Group in Boston, Massachusetts