You might have heard of the Mueller report, but what is it? The report documents the findings of a two-year investigation into two matters: First, the possibility that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Second, whether or not President Trump committed obstruction of justice by trying to stymie said investigation.
The report’s investigation began in 2017, when (as of May 11) former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, a former head of the FBI, to oversee it. Over the course of the probe, Mr. Mueller indicted 37 people, including several former advisers and officials for the Trump campaign and more than two dozen agents of the Russian government.
So, what did the report find? The answer to the investigation’s first question regarding potential Russia-Trump collusion is the clearer of the two. Mr. Mueller’s team found no evidence of collusion, neither expressed nor tacit. However, the report notes that the investigation’s view may have been incomplete. The special counsel characterizes the President’s written responses to the investigations as inadequate and observes that some evidence it sought was seemingly lost, destroyed, or in the hands of foreign governments with an aversion to sharing.
The second matter covered in the report, whether the President obstructed justice, is murkier. The special counsel declined to recommend prosecuting the President for his efforts to stymie the investigation, but also made a point to specify that the report’s findings did not exonerate the President or his actions.
Republicans have largely responded to the report in two ways: First, many criticize it for being what they believe is an attempt to undermine the Trump administration. This group sees it as the creation of non-elected bureaucrats who are biased against the President, and therefore largely invalid. Second, others see it as evidence that President Trump did not commit any crimes due to the special counsel’s decision not to recommend indicting him. Attorney General William Barr falls into this group.
Meanwhile, Democrats largely see the report as implied proof that President Trump obstructed justice, and as insufficient evidence to completely disprove collaboration with Russia during the elections. They claim that the only reason Mr. Mueller did not recommend indicting Mr. Trump for obstruction was a justice department policy against indicting a sitting President, and they’re suspicious about possible missing, ruined, or unobtainable evidence. Currently, congressional Democrats are calling for the release of a completely unredacted version of the report to access its underlying evidence. One faction considers it grounds to begin pushing for President Trump’s impeachment, and the other, lead by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prefers to exercise more caution.
On the whole, no matter your political affiliation or beliefs, the Mueller report matters. Its findings and the reactions to them will likely shape U.S. politics until the 2020 election, if not beyond.