After nearly two years of investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 United States’ Presidential election the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report were made public Thursday morning to Congress and the general public. As Attorney General Bill Barr declared last month, its results show that investigators did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
Ahead of the report’s release, President Donald Trump posted a tweet and graphic inspired by Game of Thrones that read “No collusion, no obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats...GAME OVER.” Earlier in the day, he declared the probe to be “The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!”
During a press conference ahead of the report's release, Attorney General William Barr told reporters that the Mueller team found no evidence of collusion. "So that is the bottom line," Attorney General Barr said, "After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes."
The report had looked at ten episodes related to the allegations of obstruction of justice, including: “The campaign's response to reports about Russian support for Trump; Conduct involving FBI Director Comey and Michael Flynn; The President's reaction to the continuing Russia investigation; The President's termination of Comey; The appointment of a Special Counsel and efforts to remove him; Efforts to Curtail the Special Counsel's investigation; Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence; Further efforts to have the Attorney General take control of the investigation; and Conduct toward Flynn, Manafort, [REDACTED]; conduct involving Michael Cohen.”
The Justice Department’s public version of the 48-page report included redactions consistent with Attorney General Barr’s plan to black out portions of the document, including grand jury material, information the intelligence community believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods, any material that could interfere with ongoing prosecutions, and information that could implicate the privacy or reputational interests of “peripheral players.” The redactions in the report were color-coded, labeled with the reasoning behind each redaction, with categories including "grand jury material," "personal privacy," "investigative technique," and "harm to ongoing matter."
Although Attorney General Barr's Department of Justice determined they did not have evidence to pursue an obstruction case, the Democrats' demanded to see the unredacted report and have Mr. Mueller testify, citing the section that reads, "[W]hile this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted, "This is exactly why we need to hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller and receive the full, unredacted report with the underlying evidence."
The Justice Department appointed Mr. Mueller on May 17, 2017 for the investigation that took 675 days, or 22 months, concluding on March 22, 2019. There were 13 Democrats on the Mueller team. Mr. Mueller ultimately indicted, convicted, or got guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies.
The total cost of the investigation is still unknown. So far, Mr. Mueller’s office has released three expenditures statements. Direct and indirect costs totaled USD $25.2 million from May 17, 2017 through September 30, 2018. Mr. Mueller turned in a proposed budget to the Department of Justice in July 2017, but officials declined to make it public, instead committing to releasing reports of the team’s expenditures every six months.
The report said, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” while also saying there were "links" between the two. “While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal,” the Special Counsel report stated.
Ultimately, the report shows Russian social media interference was limited and not pervasive. The St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which is financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, purchased 3,500 Facebook ads. The expenditure cost the IRA USD $100,000, according to the report. On Twitter, the IRA was responsible for 3,814 accounts, which were responsible for posting about 175,993 tweets before the start of the election. Approximately 84 percent of those tweets were election related. Twitter said it contacted about 1.4 million people who it believed were in contact with the IRA-controlled accounts.
The New Investigations
Former FBI Assistant Director Mark Morgan said he believes the investigation by the Inspector General into the origins of the Russia probe will uncover the motives from past high ranking members of the bureau and it’s something that every American citizen should want to see as well. Mr. Morgan worked in the Bureau for more than 20 years, including a 3-year stint as the Assistant Director to the FBI’s training division. On Thursday, he said that part of the FBI re-building its reputation after the last two years requires going back to see if past leaders had an agenda against President Trump. “We need to look at how this started. We need to look at the actions of these top leaders,” he said, “We need to look at the adequacy of the predication – the motives behind the actors. I mean, we are talking about high powers of position.”
From President Trump’s standpoint, the FBI Director and Deputy Director had mishandled the Hillary Clinton email investigation and he saw the same people wasting taxpayer money on a politically-motivated investigation into a baseless conspiracy theory. The report’s findings clarified that Mr. Mueller knew very early on in his investigation that there was no collusion. The remainder of the investigation was essentially spent trying to find a way to frame President Trump’s legitimate outrage over this attempt to nullify his election victory as “obstruction of justice.”
The Democrats who supported the investigation – and continue to press for the unredacted version and testimony from Mr. Mueller – are undermining the legitimacy of American democracy and the public’s faith in democratic institutions. To them, the motivation is not about achieving justice for now-disproven Russian election interference or obstruction of justice, but to politically weaken a democratically elected President by all means necessary.
Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey said “delusion” has taken hold of his party and he called the process of crime convictions that arose from the Mr. Mueller probe “tainted,” asserting that the people convicted of those crimes deserve to be pardoned. He further chastised Adam Schiff for politicizing the House Intelligence Committee to keep the hoax going.
Attorney General Barr will now proceed with new investigations behind the Mueller investigation. He will explore the numerous ways that career lawyers at the FBI and Department of Justice, including an interconnected network of external actors, aimed to remove a candidate and sitting President to gain political power.