Mueller’s speech touched on public misconceptions about the details outlined in the Mueller Report and acknowledged that the most understated thing about the report is the obvious Russian interference in the 2016 United States Presidential Election.
This morning brought forth more controversy concerning the Mueller Report as Robert Mueller himself spoke in public for the first time in two years. He spoke at 11 am, appearing calm. The speech lasted nine minutes and twenty-one seconds. During the speech, Mueller commented the only thing that he could confirm as a result of the investigation, that Russia interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential Election. He also commented that the Special Counsel was given authority to investigate any attempts to obstruct the investigation of possible cases of Russian interference in the election. Mueller remarked that the President, however, cannot be indicted while in office, though this is not an undebatable topic. Therefore, the Special Counsel cannot release an indictment nor can they conclude that he committed a crime in any part of the report. They cannot indict him publicly or privately because that would be “unconstitutional.” This is why the Special Counsel did not attempt to do so. Mueller closed his statement by thanking all of those involved in the Special Counsel for their efforts, also stating that what is being understated about the entire report was the Russian interference. He stated that the allegations of Russian interference need to be “taken seriously by every American.”
Questions of Obstruction
The White House received a report of Mueller’s public appearance late last night and appeared unphased by the news. Donald Trump tweeted at eight thirty-seven am, before Mueller’s speech, that “nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.” However, this a huge mischaracterization of what Mueller said. Being constitutionally bound to not charge someone with a crime may remove that someone of criminal status, but it does not mean that this someone, as a citizen of the United States, is innocent. Constitutionally, it is a tricky situation because under the United States Constitution Mueller simply cannot say anything about the President’s guilt let alone imply it. However, according to Michael Wolff’s new book, Seige: Trump Under Fire, Robert Mueller did write up three counts of obstruction of justice against the President. The Special Counsel and Robert Mueller himself deny the existence of these documents. The unredacted report has yet to be released and there is still the question of whether or not, or when, that will be.
The Threat to Democracy from Election Interference
The public focus of the Mueller investigation is largely on Trump’s impeachable offenses. House Democrats and Justin Amash use the report as evidence for impeachment proceedings. As Mueller said, “as set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.” However, what is much understated is the threat to democracy in the United States at the hands of the Russians. This seems like a tale as old as time, or since the Cold War.
It is still not clear what the Russian’s had to gain from Trump’s presidency or if they simply had a lot to lose from Hillary Clinton’s. Cases of interference listed in the report are fake online accounts, disinformation, Russia’s use of WikiLeaks, and spies. The report did detail that there was no broader conspiracy within the Trump campaign and that Trump did not work with the Russians directly, but they did stand to benefit from his presidency.
There are multiple cases of meetings between Russians and people in the Trump administration, but nothing that can definitely state that Trump actively worked with the Russians. Whether or not those in the Trump administration sought to actively benefit from Russian interference or were simply ignorant, the threat to the democracy of the United States cannot be understated.
As Mueller warns, the threat to democracy is a very real one and one that needs the awareness and serious attention of every United States citizen. There are already suggestions that the upcoming 2020 election will face interference from the Russians if action is not taken to stop them. Simply put, there cannot be a democracy within a country if there is a constant threat or act of interference. However, Russia is not the only country to have a stake in the United States’ election and the United States itself often interferes in elections abroad. Any country will work its agenda internationally given the chance. While these actions by foreign governments will perhaps never cease, it does make the question of national and international sovereignty and security an interesting one. It goes without saying that the United States’ history of election interference, especially in regard to Central and South America, is not one that is looked on fondly. Interference in the governing of any country can result in undesirable outcomes for the country who experiences interference. Foreign governments do not constantly engage in election interference when they have much to worry about in their own countries, however, the threat to democracy that comes as a result of this interference deserves more recognition and cannot be understated. It is as Mueller said, except it is not just the United States who should be concerned, it is the world.