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Opinion
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
 

In Our View: Release Mueller report to Congress, public

The Columbian
Published: March 26, 2019, 6:03am

President Donald Trump and his supporters are understandably celebrating following Attorney General William Barr’s summary of an investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

That should be a relief to all Americans — regardless of their feelings about Trump. While you can disagree with the president’s policies or his methods, collaboration with a foreign power to influence an election would have created an unprecedented crisis and would have thrown the United States’ constitutional system into chaos.

But the summary from the attorney general does not provide the “total exoneration” the administration has claimed. Mueller’s team did not reach a determination on whether the president obstructed justice during the nearly two-year investigation. Barr wrote that Mueller “did not reach a conclusion — one way or the other — as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.” Barr’s four-page letter to Congress quoted Mueller’s report: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

While The Columbian editorially often disagrees with how Trump carries out his duties as president, we also hope he eventually is exonerated; the cloud that has hovered over his presidency has prevented the nation from moving forward — often because of Trump’s own strident outbursts. But getting to complete exoneration requires several additional steps.

First of all, Barr must make Mueller’s entire report available to Congress. With questions lingering about possible obstruction on the part of the president, Congress must continue to investigate Trump’s actions during the campaign and beyond.

Those investigations should include Trump’s insistence on hiding his tax returns; his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, which was followed by an admission that the decision was related to the Russia investigation; and the manner in which he has used his office to buoy his family’s finances through Mar-a-Lago and the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Secondly, Barr must release the report to the public, with as few redactions as possible. A short summary from a Trump appointee regarding a 22-month investigation is not adequate to reassure the public that the president has been acting within the law and for the benefit of the American people.

Failing to release the report would provide fuel for critics who suggest that Barr’s summary is part of a larger cover-up. The nation deserves an opportunity to move on and allow Trump to do his job without the distraction of speculation.

The Mueller investigation has been an extraordinary part of American history. Contrary to Trump’s frequent protestations that it was a “witch hunt,” it has been a necessary exercise in democracy to answer legitimate questions about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. It also has resulted in 34 indictments, six guilty pleas and one conviction at trial, undermining candidate Trump’s boast that he would surround himself “only with the best and most serious people.”

And now the investigation is complete. By all accounts it has been carried out in a professional, sober manner that has reinforced our faith in the American systems of government and justice, but suspicions will linger until the full report is made available. Ending a contentious period rife with questions about the legitimacy of the presidency will allow us all to celebrate.

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