The Mueller Report is finished and it has been given to the Attorney General. We now begin what I suspect will be a nasty, extended fight over whether and/or when it should be released to the public.
I’m struggling to think of a single reason why it should not be released, in full, to the public. While there may be some security concerns around the edges of the thing they can be dealt with easily via redaction of names and the like. All other objections to releasing it would seem to be political in nature.
Republicans will not want it released because it will, in all likelihood, serve to make some Republicans look bad. Either because they were involved in the underlying matters (a small number of them to be sure) or because they have said and done things in the past two years which will prove to be embarrassing or stupid in light of what the report has to say (a great many of them, particularly Members of Congress).
I’d like to say I’ll be surprised when Republicans object to the report’s release but, sadly, I will not be. These are people who argue, with a straight face, that it’s good to make it hard for people to vote, after all. Fighting against transparency and sunlight won’t trouble them a lick.
As for the substance: I’ve been far less caught up in the Mueller Report hype than most of my friends on the political left. While I think the investigation was and is important, the idea that Mueller would indict multiple figures in the administration, let alone anyone close to Trump personally, has always seemed like fantasy to me, both for legal and practical reasons (more on that below). Mueller is no avenging angel and possesses no magic bullets which will end the nightmare of the past two years and change. The only thing that will effectively deal with that are effective oversight and pushback from Congress, political action, and elections. Mueller ain’t no Jesus gonna come from the sky, even if he found out something big.
Which is not to say that what’s in the report is not important. There are many things Mueller has already uncovered for which a full explanation and accounting must be made and a lot of questions about Trump, his campaign and his administration which must be answered, whether or not any indictable criminal activity was found. A non-exhaustive list:
- It has already been established that the Russian government engaged in broad-based attack on the 2016 election. Intelligence agencies have concluded that these efforts were calculated to help Trump. Multiple Russians have been indicted for acts in furtherance of this scheme. We are entitled to a full accounting and Mueller’s assessment of these efforts;
- Senior members of the Trump campaign and members of his own family met with Russians promising to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign and aid Trump’s. We are entitled to a full accounting of these meetings and Mueller’s assessment regarding the extent to which such meetings were part and parcel of the Russian government’s scheme;
- Multiple Trump advisors and/or members of Trump’s campaign lied to investigators about the nature of their relationships with foreign powers. We are entitled to a full accounting of these lies and Mueller’s assessment of their purpose;
- There is considerable evidence that Trump attempted to impede scrutiny and investigation of his campaign and his administration vis-a-vis the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 campaign. This includes firing James Comey and multiple Department of Justice officials, applying pressure to the previous Attorney General and selection of his successors which appeared to be calculated to thwart Mueller’s investigation, his many public statements which were obviously calculated to undermine the investigation and, possibly, behind-the-scenes conversations between Trump and/or his surrogates with subjects and targets of the investigation which could have involved the discussion of pardons. We are entitled to a full accounting of these efforts and Mueller’s assessment of them, including whether or not, in his view, they constitute obstruction of justice, whether or not charges are ever filed.
It should finally be noted that, even if Mueller has not sought any further indictments, that does not mean that he has not found potentially criminal conduct on the part of either Trump or high-ranking campaign or administrative officials. There is a well-established — and well-founded — hesitance on the part of prosecutors to seek criminal charges against a sitting president and a strong belief among legal scholars that doing so is impermissible under the law. Rather, the notion is that Congress, a co-equal branch of government, is the primary means of sanctioning criminal conduct on the part of the executive. As such, it quite possible that Mueller has uncovered acts which are, in fact, criminal, but which are not appropriate for indictment given the figures involved or, possibly, are simply not appropriate for indictment at this time.
More likely, it is possible that the facts and conclusions presented by Mueller constitute a basis for Congress to act in some way, shape or form, be it action taken directly against the administration or legislation aimed at ameliorating what has happened or preventing it from happening again. We are entitled to know what Congress knows regarding all of this, both because Congress is the surrogate for the people, and because we are entitled to know the basis on which Congress acts in our name and in our stead.
The Mueller Report, in its entirety, must be released. Anyone who stands against its full release — anyone who stands for anything less than full and total transparency regarding the important effort which has been undertaken these past two years — stands against democracy.