This was the most highly-anticipated moment we’ve had in the nearly two years it took Special Counsel Robert Mueller to complete the probe. Democrats, especially those on the 2020 campaign trail, have been hanging on to the possibility of a smoking gun from the investigation.
Instead, Mueller’s report did not find that President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election. We know this through a four-page summary released Sunday by Attorney General William Barr, closing the door on that part of the investigation and representing a victory for the president who tweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.”
Except, it’s not entirely because the Mueller report didn’t reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. That’s the real gray area. Barr’s summary says in black and white, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
So where does that leave us? With the door wide open for a new set of legal and political fighting over the president’s judgment. Not surprisingly, all of New Jersey’s Democratic Congressional leaders have called for the release of the full report, adding that without it they’re left with more questions than answers.
On Monday, Sen. Bob Menendez echoed other national Democrats questioning the attorney general’s interpretation of the report.
“The attorney general was nominated and appointed by President Trump, so I think the fairness requires, the transparency requires the full report be made public so we can all decide whether the facts that Mr. Mueller put forth after nearly two years and hundreds of witnesses can come to the same conclusion,” he said.
New Jersey’s sole Republican congress member, Chris Smith, called it vindication, as did Doug Steinhardt, chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
“I’d say it’s a good day for the president. I see it as a good day for the American people. We need to move on. For the last two years this has kind of been the Democratic narrative, and that narrative is now gone. And I hope for the sake of the American people that we do have an opportunity to move past it. I think originally, you know, it was the intention of the narrative to try to undermine this president. You worry that it has the residual impact of undermining the executive office altogether, or quite frankly the democratic process. And I hope for the sake of the country we need to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Steinhardt said.
But you should still expect Democrats to find plenty to dig into, if and when the report becomes public. Remember, there are a number of ancillary investigations taking place because Mueller’s probe found over 17 members in Trump’s campaign that had over 100 contacts with Russians leading up to the election. Thirty-four people were indicted or plead guilty, six of whom were Trump advisers. Don’t expect this story line to end here.