Editorial: Mueller report needs full public disclosure

  • Members of the protest group Herndon Reston Indivisible and Kremlin Annex hold signs saying “Full Report,” outside the White House in Washington, Monday. ap photo

Published: 3/28/2019 9:06:14 AM

Let’s focus on the positive for a moment as we assess Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the long-awaited Mueller report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

We should be thankful that the machinery of our democracy, despite being battered by President Trump and partisan politics for two years, has been allowed to grind through this high-stakes investigation and crank out a report. We’re sure that any president would have been tempted to or attempted to derail such a probe. And, although we have only seen a summary of Mueller’s report, we should be thankful that Mueller didn’t find that our democracy has sunk to the point that a presidential campaign or candidate actively pre-planned and coordinated with Russia to subvert our election.

While much discussion and Democratic teeth-gnashing is focused on whether or not Barr’s four-page Cliffs Notes of the Mueller report is sufficient public disclosure, we’d like to focus first on the unequivocal finding that a foreign adversary, Russia, did hack our election to the benefit of Donald Trump. The president may not like that conclusion and hasn’t talked about it publicly, because it casts doubt on the legitimacy of his win. He may prefer to believe Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denial, but the Russians did work hard to tilt the election in his favor, according to the very person who says there was no collusion. Even Barr, Trump’s hand-picked AG, says Mueller found “the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts.”

We want to see Congress come together to address this violation of our sovereignty — and protect us against another likely assault in 2020. Rather than seek payback for two years of investigation, the president should show real leadership and head a bipartisan effort in Congress to mobilize the forces of federal and state governments now, if we care about fair and free elections — and not just those potentially corrupted elections that help “our guy.”

Meanwhile, the president says he has no problem with the release of the full Mueller report, and we will take him at his word — although it’s hard to know when he’s telling the truth. The House has already voted unanimously to urge release of the report. This is the people’s business, it’s our democracy at stake, and we have a right to know the underlying facts that led to Barr’s summary.

Call it backseat driving, if you want, but Barr’s Cliffs Notes carry the appearance of being tainted: He’s a Trump appointee who before he was appointed wrote an unsolicited memo to Justice Department insiders arguing that a sitting president can’t commit obstruction of justice and was generally critical of the Mueller probe. And it was left to this man to decide whether to pursue an obstruction of justice case against his boss when Mueller could not see through a thicket of “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.

A different AG may have reached a different conclusion, given the same facts. So we should be able to see all the underlying facts, ourselves.

Maybe Trump and his family and closest advisers were simply over-eager to accept the help of Russian operatives, from the agents of a foreign adversary; and maybe they never directly colluded, but they sure acted guilty when caught lying about their many meetings and connections with Russians. So, what does that tell you? Maybe there wasn’t evidence enough for conviction of crimes narrowly defined in a court of law, but Trump and his campaign allies were sure acting like they had something to be ashamed of.

If Barr in his summary concludes there wasn’t evidence to get a conviction on conspiracy as strictly defined by federal law, the public has a right to see the evidence, so we can judge  for ourselves in a court of public opinion.

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