Reacting To the Mueller Report: Beyond Partisan Bickering, America Needs To Safeguard Democracy From All Election Hacking
The so-called Mueller Report was submitted to Attorney General William Barr on March 22, 2019. A significantly redacted version of the report compiled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team was released to the public on April 18, 2019. The 448-page document, released as volume one and volume two, was supposed to establish whether or not members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with agents of Russia to manipulate the 2016 US Presidential Election. It was supposed to shine a light on a political dark area. It was supposed to satisfy the outrage of those who want to see Trump impeached and those who see the investigation as nothing more than a witch-hunt. Instead of offering Americans the satisfaction of impartial judgment, the report has become just another source of partisan bickering. Trump supporters interpret the lack of evidence for criminal wrongdoing as a sign of Trump’s innocence. Trump critics interpret the lack of charges amid evidence of Russian interference and connections between the Trump campaign and Russia as a sign of a conspiracy to protect the US President.
Although the Mueller investigation did little to actually incriminate or absolve the US President and his top campaign staff, it delivered on a number of significant areas. First of all, it resulted in several prosecutions, which undercut the sense of immunity shared by many political operatives. Second, it established then detailed the links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. It also detailed Russia’s hacking and data dumping operations while laying out Russia’s “Active Measures” social media campaign. In doing so, the Mueller Report helped provide a basic level of accountability. Not only did the Mueller Report demonstrate the ability and willingness of American investigators to probe the interactions of political campaign staff members with foreign agents, but it showed those who work in the political industry they need to consider how their actions will be interpreted, if their interactions come to light. Unfortunately, the President’s resistance to fully accept the notion of Russian meddling in the 2016 Election has blunted the ability of US National Security officials to take action and discourage election interference, which is only the start of how politicized the Mueller investigation has become.
The primary reason President Trump will not embrace the reality that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 US Presidential Election is that he fears to do so will undermine his legitimacy, i.e. his election victory. He also fears his acceptance of the notion implies some sort of admission that he and his associates were, at least, guilty of legal wrongdoing. The Mueller Report did, after all, remind the American People that Trump and his associates openly invited outside help in their quest to derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. All of that and much of Mueller’s conclusions were, of course, already known. In many respects, the Mueller Report simply rehashed history under a legal framework. The Mueller Report is, in essence, the official record on the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 Election. At the very least, it serves as a precedent that should encourage further investigation into Russian meddling in future US elections and other foreign elections as well as interfere in foreign elections by other governments. US elections are certainly not the only targets of Russian election hacking efforts while Russia is certainly not the only country to undertake election hacking initiatives.
In truth, Russia’s efforts probably did very little to determine the outcome of the 2016 US President Election. The Mueller Report could not, of course, make that conclusion, because it was never the mission of the Special Counsel. Robert Mueller’s job was to establish whether or not Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election. He was then tasked to determine whether or not interactions between Trump campaign officials and agents of Russia rose to the level of criminal wrongdoing. Given the complexity of politics and the business of politics, it was unlikely that Mueller would actually find definitive evidence of successful Russian interference. It was unlikely that Mueller would even find definitive evidence that Americans engaged in criminal wrongdoing by speaking to Russian operatives. Nonetheless, the Mueller report did demonstrate the fact that Russia mounted a massive, multi-pronged campaign against the American political system. Most importantly, it detailed how Russia did it. Quite frankly, that needs to be the focal point of the discussion surrounding the Mueller Report.
The Trump Administration will be out of Office and power by 2021 or 2025. Consequently, Mueller’s finding against the President’s associates will become increasingly irrelevant in terms of politics. History will look at the deficit of criminal charges as a question of whether or not justice was served. The political bickering over the Mueller Report is simply that. Those who want President Trump impeached and/or his Administration paralyzed will continue to bicker about the Mueller Report and its finding. For these people, it was never an issue of safeguarding America’s democracy or delivering wrongdoers to justice. It was about winning a never-ending political war. For those who want to safeguard the President from political backlash and legal exposure, the same is true. As for the rest of America, the Mueller Report needs to serve as a wake-up call. Interference in the democratic process needs to be addressed. Undue influence by the Russians, other foreign actors, and powerful special interest groups needs to be addressed. Further investigations into Russia’s global election hacking initiatives need to be showcased. Investigations into the election hacking activities of nations and special interest groups need to be publicly detailed. Potential solutions need to be discussed, developed, and implemented.
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