Five things you should know about the release of the Mueller Report
The expected publication of the Mueller Report by the Department of Justice has left plenty of open questions. Between the alleged "exoneration" of the president and the information gaps, this is what we know so far.
"There was no collusion." That is what Attorney General William Barr highlighted at the time of giving statements to the media about the findings of a special investigation carried out by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during the last two years.
Barr has announced that Justice Department attorneys have read, evaluated and redacted the more than 300 pages of the report in which investigators considered the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the presumed obstruction of justice by president Donald Trump.
Since announcing the end of the investigation, the new Attorney General anticipated that he would release what he "considered" to be in the public interest and what would interfere with ongoing investigations by the intelligence community.
To the surprise of many, this made it clear that Barr would use his power to restrict information and would model the perspective of the investigation according to his criteria.
The public then recalled that, before being named Attorney General, Barr sent a memorandum to the Department of Justice issuing his opinion as a civilian and former Attorney General during the Bush administration, in which he declared that "Trump's interactions with the former director of the FBI, James Comey, did not classify as an obstruction of justice," CNN reported.
During his statements to the media Thursday, Barr made it clear that his predisposition against the concept of obstruction of justice remained intact.
"After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” William P. Barr on the Mueller report.
However, Barr wrote in his previous letters that "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Similarly, and after the criticism received for his handling of the report, the Attorney General chose this time to share responsibility both with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and with the lawyers of the Department of Justice, especially concerning the information that will not be shared with the public.
"These redactions were applied by Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, as well as with the intelligence community, and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases," Barr said to reporters. "The redactions are their work product."
During his tenure as head of the Legal Department's Office of the Department of Justice in 1989, Barr was involved in the political and legislative maneuvers of the government of George H.W. Bush for the invasion of Panama.
According to the editor-in-chief of Just Security, and former Special Advisor to the Department of Defense, Ryan Goodman, Barr would have issued in "unusual secrecy" a legal note that concluded: "the FBI could forcibly abduct people in other countries without the consent of the foreign state.”
Faced with the severe connotations of the measure, Congress asked to see the full legal opinion to which Barr refused, saying that "he would provide a summary with the main conclusions," as he did again 30 years later.
According to Goodman, at that time, the document that Barr kept "omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions of the actual opinion. And there was evidently no justifiable reason for having withheld those parts.”
According to the report, a large number of advisers and members of the Trump campaign took the risk and went to the extremes of lying to investigators about their relationship with Russian officials during and after the election.
From Paul Manafort to Roger Stone, many people in the investigation have been found guilty, among other things, for having kept, misrepresented or diverted information on more than ten contacts with Russian agents.
In his report, Mueller explains that the office learned that some of the investigated people "deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records.”
The question that remains is: if there was nothing illegal in the matter, why lie?
One of the most critical issues in the Mueller investigation was the communication between national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the possible lifting of sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration in retaliation against Russian cyber attacks in 2016.
According to what Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News research correspondent, and David Corn, head of the Washington office of Mother Jones write in their book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, intelligence agencies were aware long before the elections of the beginning of a Russian cyber attack against the Democratic National Committee.
Despite several warnings and threats exchanged between Washington and Moscow, Obama's national security adviser told the National Security Council (NSC) to "stand down.”
Although the reasons are still a matter of debate, the question remains more valid than ever.
Legal specialists, and especially a large part of the Democratic representatives, have declared to be more interested in the evidence of presumed obstruction of justice by President Trump than in the matter of collusion.
John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, explained to the Washington Post: that "the most important consequence of the report is no longer whether the evidence on obstruction would support a criminal charge," but rather whether the report provides "sufficient evidence for the House to bring impeachment charges."
"The standard for impeachment is not solely that the President committed a crime," Yoo explains. "It could include matters of bad character or judgment, as well as a disastrous policy."
On page 182 of Volume II of the report, Mueller writes: "If we had confidence, after a thorough investigation of the facts, that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state."
However, after two years of investigation and 400 pages of evidence, the Special Counsel cannot determine it.
Despite the Attorney General's willingness to "exonerate" the president from charges of obstruction of justice, the report "notes that Congress is empowered to step in to stop the corrupt use of presidential power," explains Sharon LaFraniere in the New York Times. "Democrats in Congress will surely seize on that language as justification for their burgeoning investigations."