After 22 months and endless speculation, special counsel Robert Mueller has delivered his breathlessly awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Justice Department.
Now Attorney General William Barr, facing a series of decisions that will determine his legacy, needs to release the report to the public — promptly, and apart from any redactions needed to protect national security or grand jury secrecy, in full. A synopsis will not do, nor will a heavily redacted version.
The American people have a right to know the degree to which Russia conspired to help Donald Trump win the election, as well as the degree to which Trump or his advisers did or did not conspire in this effort.
In a letter Friday, Barr said that he “remains committed to as much transparency as possible,” and the report’s principal conclusions may be released as early as this weekend. That’s a good start toward transparency, but not sufficient.
Far from being a “witch hunt,” as Trump calls it, the Mueller inquiry has been a vital law enforcement action needed to ensure people’s faith in their democracy. Mueller has indicted or elicited guilty pleas from 34 individuals and three companies. These include six former Trump aides and 26 Russian nationals. His one case that went to trial — against former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort — resulted in conviction.
What Mueller has revealed so far in his indictments and plea agreements has been deeply disturbing. Manafort and Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, are among a string of people who lied to law enforcement officers. Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, lied to Congress. (Most of Cohen’s case is apparently unrelated to Russia and is being handled by separate prosecutors in New York.)
The report lands as the normal limits on presidential excesses — the checks and balances of the Constitution and the rules and customs that have built up from a quarter millennium of democratic governance — are showing signs of fraying. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are so afraid of Trump and his base that they fail to serve as any kind of counterweight.
If there was no collusion, as the president insists, then why did all these people around him lie under oath about their dealings with Russians? The sooner the nation has answers to this and other crucial questions, the better.
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