Mueller report appears likely to validate Trump claim of 'no collusion' with Russia to win election

While we don’t know yet what’s in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, many news organizations have reported on what’s not in the report – any recommendation by Mueller for further indictments.

This is very good news for President Trump and people in the Trump orbit.

Not a single one of the nearly three dozen criminal indictments Mueller has obtained in his nearly two years of investigation deal with collusion between the Trump campaign or Trump himself and Russia to win the presidential race against Hillary Clinton.

CONFIDENT TRUMP AND ANXIOUS WASHINGTON WAIT FOR AG BARR'S REPORT ON MUELLER'S KEY FINDINGS

If there are no more indictments that’s a strong indication that – to use one of the president’s favorite phrases – “there was no collusion.” Or, at minimum, it means the Mueller team found no evidence of collusion by Russia to put its supposedly favored candidate in the Oval Office.

Here are some key facts to keep in perspective as we watch what happens over the next few days.

From the very beginning, Democrats and others who oppose the president politically had already decided that Donald Trump was guilty of collusion with the Russians. They came to that conclusion based largely on a highly questionable dossier prepared as opposition research by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In addition, they had a predisposition to think the worst of Trump, whom many demonized.

From the very beginning, Democrats and others who oppose the president politically had already decided that Donald Trump was guilty of collusion with the Russians.

But after two years and hundreds of interviews, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were unable to find any credible evidence of collusion. Their reports were largely ignored by most of the media.

As required under Justice Department regulations, Mueller has provided the attorney general with a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.” “Declination” refers to decisions to decline to prosecute someone under investigation.

As soon as he received the Mueller report Friday afternoon, Barr – also as required under the regulations – notified the chair and ranking minority members of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that the special counsel had finished his job.

Barr added that the regulation required him to provide Congress with a description of any instances in which he or any of his predecessors “concluded that a proposed action by (the) Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” Barr said that there “were no such instances during” the Mueller investigation.

So much for the concern – and some hyperbolic statements expressed by some Trump critics – that the president or his Justice Department would try to interfere with Mueller’s investigation.

Keep in mind that the special counsel’s report is a confidential law enforcement document similar to any internal reports prepared by prosecutors concerning a federal criminal investigation.

These are privileged documents. Under Justice Department regulations, it is up to the attorney general to decide to what extent release of the Mueller report or any parts of the report is in the public interest or can be released without compromising national security or violating executive privilege.

Those clamoring for Barr to release the entire Mueller report should remember the prior criticism of then-FBI Director James Comey for wrongly engaging in that exact type of misbehavior – for which he was fired as the head of the FBI.

In the letter he sent Friday to the Senate and House committee leaders, Barr said he would be consulting with both Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to determine what information from the Mueller report could be released “consistent with the law” including the Justice Department’s “long-standing practices and policies.” Barr added that he remained committed to being as transparent as possible.

One of those policies Barr is committed to following is that the Justice Department does not release reports that make unproven allegations against the targets of a criminal investigation.

If a prosecutor decides there is insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution, the case is closed.

The prosecutor does not issue a public report saying that although the Justice Department is not prosecuting an individual, the prosecutor has a low opinion about the character or behavior of that person.

To release such derogatory information without levying formal charges would be fundamentally unfair, since it would besmirch the reputation of individuals who do not have the opportunity to contest the prosecutor’s assertions in a court of law as they do in a prosecution.

Those clamoring for Barr to release the entire Mueller report should remember the prior criticism of then-FBI Director James Comey for wrongly engaging in that exact type of misbehavior – for which he was fired as the head of the FBI.

After announcing that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified material in her emails and home computer, Comey criticized her behavior.

As Rod Rosenstein said in his May 9, 2017 memo to the attorney general about FBI Director Comey’s improper actions: “The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do."

I have no doubt that Attorney General Barr is considering these important factors as he reviews the special counsel’s report. If the report concludes that no collusion occurred, as seems highly likely, then that should clearly be released.

But in accordance with long-standing Justice Department protocols, it would not be in the public interest to release any allegations or speculation contained in the report that are unproven and insufficient to warrant criminal prosecution.

As Rosenstein said in his earlier memo regarding Comey’s comments on Hillary Clinton, there should be no release of “derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”

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After almost two long years, it’s time we put the Mueller investigation behind us if the special counsel’s report reveals no evidence of wrongdoing by the president. Our elected officials should finally get back to trying to solve the substantive domestic and foreign policy challenges we face as a nation.

The American people did not elect members of Congress to make their central focus investigation after investigation after investigation of the duly elected president of the United States.

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