The 448-page Mueller report released this month tells us many things. It is important we take time to review the hard lessons learned over a two-year period that cost millions of dollars and thousands of man hours. But the report is a beginning, not an ending.
First, we must continue to let the political process play out. Congress will convene its hearings and should certainly call Robert Mueller himself to testify to provide additional context and clarity to the report. A showdown regarding Congressional oversight powers is likely coming over the White House’s refusal to comply with subpoenas and a House representative Friday threatening aides who don’t comply with jail time.
The reason there are such strong political ramifications based on the Mueller report is that, despite what many of President Trump’s allies and supporters would claim — and what we certainly would have preferred in order to put a firm rest to the issue — questions still remain about the president’s actions and it is in no way a “full exoneration.” While the report, thankfully, was able to dismiss concerns the Trump campaign and Russia were actively working together to allow a foreign government to influence America’s election, much of the report points to obstruction of justice — and in some instances it would clearly have been carried out had aides followed the president’s orders. As Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1999, obstruction of justice can occur even if a crime had not been committed.
Mueller says he could not clear President Trump of obstruction, but citing a Department of Justice ruling that a sitting president cannot be indicted, left it up to Congress — the political process — to decide what action to take on the potential case he laid out. Deciding how to proceed is a challenge for the House, and one the American people need more information on, hence the need for further hearings. That being said, the issue must not become all-consuming for Congress, the American people need to see the lawmakers they swept into office last November actually try to govern and not just investigate.
Second, the lessons of the Mueller report go far beyond the president. More concerning is the clear evidence that Russia worked hard to influence the election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion.” That threat is often lost in the political tensions over President Trump, but it should be a grave concern that unites the country. While our government needs to do more to combat the cyberthreat of Russian hacking and social media campaigns and bots, the problem is, as individuals, we have chosen to make ourselves vulnerable to such tactics.
Instead of seeking out a wide variety of reliable news and opinion sources, too many people retreat to their social media bubbles and dismiss stories they don’t like as “fake news.” It is why many people believe the Mueller report either fully exonerates the president or flat out proves he is guilty, when the truth is somewhere in between.
The Mueller report gives us a chance to analyze the weaknesses our enemies have exploited and try to course correct. But in order to do that we need to emerge from our political corners. It is not too late, but it also seems unlikely based on where we stand today. However, only the people have the power to inoculate the nation from the influence of a foreign government that would love nothing more than to see America tear itself apart and hasten its own decline from the inside.