The conclusion of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting MORE’s work has turned Congress into a roiling cauldron of satisfaction, disappointment and confusion. Apparently, the president’s deference to Vladimir Putin, his many associates going to jail for lying about Russian contacts, and the welcome he and his family gave to Russian assistance do not rise to the level of criminal conspiracy. His supporters are entitled to the most muted of celebrations: The president did not engage in indictable treason with Russia. And there’s some question over whether he obstructed justice. Yay.

Of course, the president is overplaying his hand. Mueller’s report, when it sees the light of day, will not be “total exoneration.” If it were, it would have been released two milliseconds after it arrived at the White House. And there was plenty of evidence of possible collusion and obstruction in plain sight, starting with outreach by Russians to Carter Page and George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFlynn spurs questions of who Trump might pardon next Not treason, not a crime — but definitely a gross abuse of power Tale of two FBI cases: Clinton got warned, Trump got investigated MORE, father and son’s explicit invitations of Russian help and the firing of Jim Comey.


There is a difference between no evidence and evidence which does not reach a prosecutable standard. Given the established facts, it would have been wildly irresponsible for the FBI and Congress not to investigate. The Mueller investigation looked at far more evidence than the ten Benghazi investigations ever did.

For years, I told my constituents not to expect a blockbuster ending to the collusion investigation. Secret agreements, suitcases full of cash and videotapes taped to trees are the stuff of Hollywood, not the Kremlin. The truth is that the Russians didn’t need Donald Trump’s explicit cooperation to assist in his election or to stoke the fractured politics and chaos that the president encourages and reflects. When the time came to reject Russian outreach and inform the FBI, the Trump campaign punted. The Russians got exactly what they wanted without the risk of a formal conspiracy.

For those feeling disappointment, I’d urge the longer view: the finding that an American president did not conspire with a hostile foreign power is cause for celebration, not disappointment. Hoping for the reverse is the definition of putting partisan interest before country. More cynically, it is not clear to me that a finding of collusion would have persuaded congressional Republicans to break with the president. I don’t like thinking about where that would leave us.

If your disappointment comes from a desire to accumulate ugly facts with which to damage or defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE, don’t worry, that shelf is far from bare. The president regularly lies. He puts his own interest before the national interest every day. He is unconcerned with the advice of the professionals around him or the constraints of law. Those actions will run afoul of any number of U.S. Attorneys, congressional oversight, and eventually, American public sentiment.

At this point, there are several things that should happen.

Congress needs to stick to its nearly unanimous demand that the Mueller report be made public. This is essential for political closure, especially now that Robert Mueller’s favorability has skyrocketed with Republicans (imagine that?!?) and held strong with Democrats.

The president, now freed from the demons of indictment or impeachment for conspiring with the Russians, must at long last forcefully name and shame the Russian attack on the election of 2016. Unless he does so, preparations at the Kremlin will continue for a 2020 attack.

Democrats, even as we zealously pursue the investigations and oversight that this president so richly deserves, should not fetishize Russian collusion in the way that Republicans have turned Benghazi, Uranium One and “But her emails” into catechism. Let’s instead remember the wage, retirement and health care anxieties of American families sitting around the kitchen table.

Finally, let’s feel some relief, even joy, in the resilience of the institutions which underpin our democracy. Whatever you think of the special counsel’s split-decision verdict, Mueller and his team withstood two years of withering assault by a Twitter-mad president, his congressional enablers, and the right-wing fever swamp. In the face of unrelenting and deeply personal attacks, the special counsel completed the people’s work with dignity and competence. For the moment, our institutions are holding firm.

Himes represents Connecticut’s 4th District and is a senior member of the Intelligence Committee.