PD Editorial: Mueller is done, now let the voters decide
Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, delivered a mixed verdict - making it all the more important that the American public gets an opportunity to fully evaluate his findings.
Mueller, whose principal conclusions were made public on Sunday by Attorney General William Barr, determined that neither President Donald Trump nor any of his campaign advisers conspired or coordinated with the Russian effort to sabotage the U.S. election.
However, Mueller reached no conclusion about whether Trump was guilty of obstructing justice. American voters will have to decide for themselves.
That is no small matter, especially if, as expected, Trump seeks re-election next year.
Voters can make a complete assessment only if they have access to the full report - all of the evidence gathered by Mueller and his team of 19 lawyers and 40 FBI agents during a 22-month investigation of the president and his associates.
Trump immediately claimed that he was exonerated.
That's not entirely true. Neither is it entirely false.
As Barr said, citing Mueller's words, in his letter to congressional leaders: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The Justice Department usually is reluctant to reveal details from investigations that don't result in criminal charges. And for good reason: That protects the reputations of people who aren't accused and won't have a chance to defend themselves in open court.
But this isn't a typical investigation. Mueller's inquiry grew out of attempts by a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of a presidential election. It was an attack on our democracy - and that's of paramount concern for all Americans.
Barr also needs to explain his conclusion, also announced Sunday, that there isn't sufficient evidence to prove that Trump obstructed justice. Neither Mueller nor Barr questioned the president about his actions, including the firing of FBI director James Comey.
It has long been the position of the Justice Department that a sitting president cannot be indicted, so the Mueller report never was going to result in criminal charges against Trump. Congress is responsible for oversight of the president, and the next phase of this inquiry should take place in congressional committees.
That's most likely to occur in the House, where Democrats hold a majority. Congressional leaders should press for release of Mueller's report, not only to investigative committees but to the American public.
Finally, a word about the investigation. It has been a tribute to the rule of law. For two years, Trump played the victim, insisting he was the target of a partisan witch hunt. But Mueller's investigation affirmed the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community - denied repeatedly by the president - that the Russian government meddled with the 2016 election.
Mueller exposed contacts between Russian intermediaries and the Trump campaign. Everyone should be pleased those contacts fell short of collusion. But working quietly and avoiding the media spotlight, Mueller delivered 37 indictments, including charges against top campaign officials. He found no collusion, but he didn't vindicate Trump, either.
The Mueller report should be made public, so voters can draw their own conclusions.
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