With the public release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, the subject is now for Congress to review.
The report was released following a press conference from Attorney General William Barr and his summary of the report, which stated there was no collusion from the president with Russian interference of the 2016 election. The report also states that there was not enough evidence to indicate the president was involved in a crime.
According to Department of Justice veteran John Walsh, the 10 actions of possible collusion detailed in the report beg further inquiry, though.
“I’ve seen indictments that presented evidence less damning than the portions of the report that related to obstruction of justice,” Walsh said. Walsh was one of the longest-serving U.S. Attorneys in Colorado and served as special counsel to the U.S. Attorney General in the investigation of former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington. He also announced the start of his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat earlier this week.
Walsh said although the message Thursday morning — when Attorney General William Barr gave a press conference prior to the report’s release — focused on the finding that there was no collusion from the president or any other American, that was a sidestep to other aspects.
Walsh said he’s heard some “on one side of the partisan divide” saying there is no obstruction. “That’s not right. That’s not what the report does,” he said. He said the report should be read as Robert Mueller presenting facts and deferring to Congress.
Despite the objective purpose of the report, he said he didn’t believe Barr fulfilled the attorney general’s role of independently upholding the law.
“The summary seemed designed to cast a light to protect the president rather than dispassionately presenting evidence,” he said. At times, it sounded like more of a defense of President Donald Trump and didn’t come across as an independent and neutral presentation of the report, he said. “That undercuts the credibility of the attorney general.”
Walsh said he believes the most important part of the report was that Mueller indicated his team couldn’t make a conclusion about whether the president should or shouldn’t be indicted for obstruction of justice. In light of the fact that DOJ policy prohibits indictment of a sitting president, Mueller is not drawing an ultimate conclusion on obstruction of justice charges, Walsh said. Instead, he lays out the evidence in painstaking detail and effectively defers to Congress for its constitutional review and judgment.
Legal challenges for the unredacted version of the report are likely, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler has called on Mueller to testify before Congress as soon as possible.
“Because Mueller deferred the ultimate judgment on legal ramifications of the obstruction section, public hearings in front of Congress are crucial,” Walsh said. “There needs to be an open review of the facts. It’s crucial we do that to uphold the congressional responsibility of oversight of the executive function.”Colorado’s congress people have so far held off on making statements about their conclusions of the report, but they have taken similar positions regarding Barr’s statements.
“The Attorney General’s summary of the Special Counsel’s Report was misleading and offered nothing but a partisan defense of the president,” said Rep. Joe Neguse. “The Judiciary Committee must hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller.”
Rep. Diana DeGette also called for a review of the complete version of the report. “The report released today paints a very different picture than what the president and attorney general had hoped the American people would see,” she said in a prepared statement. “And it’s now more important than ever that Congress be granted access to the full unredacted report immediately.”
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, however, indicated that he was satisfied with the investigation and that his focus is on Russian interference rather than the possibility of obstruction of justice charges for the president. “I look forward to reviewing the report and hearing answers from the appropriate personnel regarding the process and contents of the report,” he said. “Now that the report is public, it’s time for Congress to move forward and get to work on behalf of the American people. The report also confirms what we already know, Russia interfered in our election. I will keep up the pressure on the Putin regime and pursue additional sanctions — they cannot go unpunished.”