In the weeks leading up to the release of the highly-anticipated Mueller Report, a comprehensive conclusion on the guilty or non-guilty nature of Donald Trump’s role in the allegations of collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, there were essentially two possible outcomes under two umbrellas of allegations. Robert Mueller, former FBI Director, could conclude that Donald Trump had in fact, colluded with Russia during the election to benefit his own campaign, or that there was no such crime committed. In addition to collusion, Mueller also held the responsibility to conclude whether the President is guilty of obstruction of justice. This second conclusion is in part based on the first, since he arguably could not be guilty of obstruction of justice if the initial crime, collusion, was never committed.
Robert Mueller concluded that the President was innocent in the terms of collusion, or simply that there was not sufficient evidence of this crime to bring charges against him, we are unsure which. However, Mueller failed to make a determination on the second allegation, obstruction of justice. Instead, he made no conclusion and passed the fate of this decision off to a political appointee, Bill Barr. In my eyes, this action completely defeated the purpose of choosing Mueller, an apolitical prosecutor, to make a decision on these allegations. Was the purpose not to select an unbiased appointee who would come to a lawful conclusion that is both uninfluenced by third parties and accurate of the events that took place? Does passing this off to Bill Barr, who was in a sense, damned if he determined that Trump obstructed justice due to this position seeming political, or damned if he didn’t and forced the democratically dominated House to make a decision as this seeming even more political, defeat the initial purpose of the Mueller Report? This is a legitimate question that we’re facing. So, why did Bill Barr receive the authority to make this decision in the first place?
This question has been constantly on my mind since the release of the Mueller (Barr) Report. There was never a question in my mind of whether or not Mueller would make a decision, but simply what decision he would make, until it actually happened. The report by Mueller and Barr is 400 pages long, but is yet to be made public to either the public or to Congress. The report that we are currently collecting all of our information from is a four page summary written by Barr, which I believe is the first red flag. In the words of Nancy Pelosi, “no thank you, Mr. Attorney General, we do not need your interpretation, show us the report and we can draw our own conclusions.” Other than for the purpose to concisely and conveniently portray the verdict of Barr’s conclusion on the second portion of the report, what was the purpose of not providing the public and arguably more impactful, Congress with the full report when they will be those interpreting and conveying viewpoints in the House?
Back in 2018, Bill Barr was semi-retired from working as former Attorney General under president George H.W. Bush. He voluntarily wrote a memo expressing his views of the very high bar that needs to be reached in order to charge the President with obstruction of justice, which the Trump legal team ended up utilizing. In this memo, Barr spoke to the viewpoint that in order for obstruction of justice to hold up as a legitimate allegation against the President, you must first prove the underlying crime that is being obstructed, or covered up, indefinitely. In this case, that crime was collusion. The Trump administration knew that Barr held this position on the issue of obstruction of justice before he was passed the ball on the Mueller Report, which already feels quite political. I’m not saying that Barr is wrong and that this wasn’t the right decision to make, but this pre-conceived rationale that he had on the issue a year prior raises the question of if a more neutral legal authority would have had a clearer mind in the determining of obstruction of justice.
The central reason of why exactly Robert Mueller decided not to complete the second half of the report and pass it off to Barr remains unclear, and possibly always will be. I can’t help but ponder over what may have happened if Mueller kept the report within his control, instead of passing it over to the Attorney General, who may have already had his mind made up before having the report cross his desk. Why was this risk taken?