Ever since the announcement for his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has managed to create a great deal of controversy. Yet, perhaps no greater source of controversy has surrounded him in recent years than that of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. There was a media field day about the subject, as well as countless stories about it, and even the firing of the FBI director, over the matter. It’s left the American citizens demanding answers about the very complicated and distressing subject matter. As such, the Mueller report has done a complete investigation in the hopes of achieving some sort of conclusion to the entire matter. However, after well over 400 pages of information in the first volume alone, as well as a great deal of redacted information, the Mueller report has instead only delivered a concise report on all that is public knowledge and left the American people no less fulfilled on the subject matter than they were before.
“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities” (Page 1).
After so much controversy and many accusations, this is the ultimate result of what was discovered. It’s important to note how the Mueller report goes into extensive detail on how at various points, Russia’s interference into the 2016 presidential election is well documented and clearly an effective interference. However, it does not conclude that there is a firm connection between both groups. But, it doesn’t deny it’s possible existence either, as it states that “Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated-including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records”(Page 10).
This is only the start of information that appears to be worrisome. Throughout the report, there were several instances in which the “relationship” that exists between Trump and Russia is mentioned. The report goes into extensive detail about various connections that exist between IRA, the Internet Research Agency, which was a Russia sponsored organization, and how it interfered at various points with the Donald Trump campaign. These most notably include the communications they made with one another in the attempt to exchange dirt that existed on Hillary Clinton, but also included more subtle manipulations that existed throughout various social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. The report shows how the IRA planned out when to release information with certain outlets every time there was something negative released about Donald Trump. At this point, it was clear that Russia was going to do whatever it took to ensure that Donald Trump would win the election, whether it would be through manipulation or releasing anything to make the other opponents in the campaign look bad.
In addition, it goes to lengths about the connections that Donald Trump may not even know. Allegedly. It does mention, the now infamous Trump Tower meetings that occurred between a Russian lobbyist and other members of the Donald Trump campaign, which included Donald Trump Jr. In the first one, on June 9, 2016, it makes a note of how the groups met with the goal of exchanging “dirt” that existed, however, the investigation concluded that this meeting, in particular did not result in Donald Trump being informed, as no evidence was discovered.
Further details are brought up showing how Donald Trump, as president, took several steps in attempting to cover up various details on the relationship with Russia, including the firing of the FBI director, his attempts to manipulate the Attorney General, and his other manipulations to control the investigations and reports that would follow out.
Ultimately, upon reading the entire report one finds themselves left with a lot more questions that the report sought out to answer. It’s very clear that Russia played a role in the influence of the election, specifically in swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania, which were noted specifically in the report (Page 43). It’s very important to note that despite the conclusion that was achieved in the report, it doesn’t fully clear Trump of the charges that surround him, rather there is not enough evidence present that is able to create a scenario which is beyond a reasonable doubt.
What is laid out in the report are links that exist between groups, as both saw the strengths the other could provide. Yet the words “conspiracy, coordination, and collusion” come up only a few scattered times in the report. While the given evidence shows that there is a connection between the two groups, the laws that exist within America don’t necessarily provide enough room for the law to take effect. As noted in the report, “Collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law. For those reasons, the Office’s focus in analyzing questions of joint criminal liability was on a conspiracy as defined in federal law.” (Page 2) In addition to this, coordination, as defined in the report, is “More than two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests…. Require an agreement-tacit or express” (Page 2)
So, ultimately, we’re left viewing this as a conspiracy in U.S. law, which is defined as “An agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act, along with an intent to achieve the agreement’s goal.” This is ultimately how the entire investigation was viewed from the get-go as the other two terms have more shaky definitions within U.S. law, and evidence that gathered from the entire report did not generate the evidence that was required for criminal charges, nor did it fully manage to establish a firm connection that would be required for conspiracy charges in the first place. While links are still present between the two groups, they simply aren’t enough to warrant criminal charges against the president.
After looking at all of this, I do, to an extent, understand why the conclusion of the report was what it was. The idea of backroom deals to control the presidential election is something that one would typically expect to see in a “House of Cards” episode, which embodies the worst fears that people have about the presidency: that the “democracy” that we live in is in fact controlled by insiders and other countries, and whatever control we think we have is virtually nonexistent. It’s ironic in this sense, that Donald Trump’s goal was to “drain the swamp” within Washington D.C. to get rid of the corruption and roadblocks that exist. Yet, because of Russia’s interference and the links that exist between that and Trump’s campaign, one can easily accuse him of being just as corrupt as the swamp itself.
Yet, it’s important to reaffirm that no solid connection was confirmed between both groups, at least not enough to warrant conspiracy charges. I generally think that, despite the connections that are laid out, he is guilty in the court of public opinion, at least in those that don’t support him or were on the fence.
I also think that his role as President itself did create a problem. I highly doubt anyone would charge the President of the United States with criminal charges unless they were 100% certain the charges would pan out, or that they could potentially lead to the impeachment of the president. The Mueller report wouldn’t lead to anything of this, unless more evidence comes to light that showcases a conspiracy that occurred that Donald Trump was a full part of.
I’m left with only a handful of words after all of this. I find myself thinking about the Watergate scandal that nearly resulted in impeachment and resignation, all because a sitting president wanted to ensure he would be elected again. Yet, in this case, the scandal came before he took charge in the oval office. Where does it leave the presidency if these scandals built to this conclusion? I do not know. All I know is that, at this point, the swamp is going to be thicker and deeper than ever.