John Podesta, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, served as counselor to President Barack Obama and chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
The long-awaited Mueller report still remains under lock and key at the Justice Department, but the few summary conclusions transmitted by Attorney General William P. Barr to Capitol Hill on Sunday afternoon caused the president to gleefully claim “a complete exoneration” on Twitter.
Beyond the president’s well-practiced braggadocio, what have we actually learned from Robert S. Mueller III’s 674-day investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and the president’s conduct and approach to national security once in office?
Well, we know that Russia’s campaign to help elect Donald Trump was a multimillion-dollar sophisticated campaign directed by the Kremlin and carried out by, among others, senior members of Russian military intelligence. Mueller indicted 26 Russian nationals and three Russian entities in that effort.
We know that the Trump campaign and transition team were in contact with Russia-linked operatives more than 100 times and had at least 28 meetings.
We know that in July 2016, candidate Trump called on the Russians to continue to break U.S. law and, as uncovered by Mueller, we now know that they promptly did. Notwithstanding those facts, Mueller concluded that he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Trump campaign and the Russians engaged in a criminal conspiracy. The public must await the release of the full report to understand Mueller’s reasoning on why the many contacts and the encouragement still fell short of criminal conspiracy.
We also know that the president’s national security adviser, campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, personal lawyer and foreign policy adviser were convicted or pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes, including lying to Congress and federal investigators and obstructing justice to cover up their actions. Roger Stone, one ofTrump’s longest-serving and most trusted political advisers, awaits trial in U.S. court on similar charges.
It remains unclear why Mueller did not demand that Trump testify under oath; perhaps we will learn his reasoning when the report is released in full.
Finally, we learned from Barr’s summary something of what Mueller thought about Trump’s constant attempts to undermine the investigation, denigrate the prosecutors, excuse Russia’s active measures to attack our democracy and side with Russian President Vladimir Putin on key foreign policy issues. Mueller’s take, according to Barr: “While the report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.” If that constitutes “total exoneration” in Trump’s words, March Madness must have made its way to Mar-a-Lago.
Congress will and should take the time to chew over Mueller’s findings and the facts he uncovered/ And investigations continue by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and by state attorneys general.
Still, the biggest immediate lesson people can take away from this investigation is about the character of the two protagonists. Mueller conducted his service to the American public with the highest level of nonpartisan professionalism, integrity, respect for the rule of law and concern for our country’s national security. And then there is Trump. The American people would do well to remember the difference if Trump’s name is on the ballot in 2020.