On March 24, Attorney General William Barr’s review of a more than 300 page Mueller Report was released to the public. The report by special counsel Robert Mueller has spanned two years, indicted many, and caused heated national debate about the validity of Trump’s presidency. The big question? Did Russia interfere with the 2016 presidential elections with Trump’s knowledge, permission, and aide?
Let’s start off with why President Trump is being investigated. Even before Trump was elected, suspicions of Russian interference were suspected. In July, Russian hackers released private DNC (Democratic National Committee) emails to the public. Among those, were emails sent by Hillary Clinton on an unsecured server. So, it’s no secret that Russia did not favor Hillary as a potential president. In January of 2017, the (now former) Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, made claims that Russia had influenced the election by order of Russian president, Vladimir Putin. On May 17 of that year, the Department of Justice elected Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to head an extensive investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 elections.
In June of 2017, the investigation really gets going. The last few months of the year sees Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Advisor, and Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official, indicted on multiple charges including conspiracy, fraud, and lying to the FBI. These people are close to Trump, and were closely involved in how his campaign was run. They clearly were involved in something, but was the (now) president aware of the situation? This was the question the nation wanted to find out.
The next year things picked up. In February of 2018, sixteen Russians were charged with interfering in the 2016 elections. In April, the first sentencing of the Mueller investigation was handed down to Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who was indicted on charges of lying to the FBI about his communications with Rick Gates. He was given 30 days and $20,000 fine, setting a precedent for how others indicted might be sentenced.
In April, former lawyer and personal counsel to Trump, Michael Cohen, had his house, hotel room, and office raided by the FBI. They took countless business documents and emails, and the President later ranted the situation was “disgraceful” and a “witch hunt.” Suspicious, is it not?
In June, more charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice were handed down to the former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. It’s really not looking good for him. In August he was found guilty on eight counts of fraud. In September, he would plead guilty to more charges. Michael Cohen, one of the men of the hour, also pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax fraud and campaign finance violations in August. In November, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. This brought Trump’s businesses into question because Cohen’s blatant shady behavior and proximity to the financials of everything has to mean something, right?
Do you remember Michael Flynn? Trump’s former National Security Advisor? Because of his cooperation in the investigation, Mueller wrote him a nice recommendation that no prison time be given. He did not do the same for Cohen, and the man was sentenced to three years in prison. Mueller also revealed documents that prove Paul Manafort lied to the FBI about contacts with administration and Russian political consultants, and a wire transfer. Mueller’s team recommended a 19.5 to 24.5 sentence for his crimes in early 2019. However, this was not meant to be, and Manafort ended up with a seven and a half year sentence. For a man of sixty-nine, that’s a lot of time to be wasting in prison.
So, that’s the tea. But what about the Barr’s review of the report? In short, he concluded that, while the report showed the Russian government attempted to interfere, Trump and his campaign associates did nothing to provoke, aide, or cooperate with these efforts. It was also decided by Barr there is no evidence to conclude Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice, and therefore he will not be charged with it. However, Mueller stated, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” This difference makes the release of the full, redacted Mueller report highly anticipated by the public and by representatives in Congress. For now, though, it looks as if the President is off the hook.