The wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE did the job he was asked to do, seemingly unfazed by the mindless babble of speculating reporters or the panicked political arrows fired his way from all sides in Washington over nearly two breathless years.

On Friday, he completed that work and delivered a final report in the same understated style with which he accepted the job in May 2017. In between, he was as invisible and mythical as the Wizard of Oz, as he conducted a methodical investigation.

Let the record reflect these four instant takeaways:

  1. President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE was not indicted, nor did Mueller recommend an indictment against him for collusion or obstruction.
  1. There were no major disagreements between Mueller and his managers at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
  1. The Russians who tried to interfere in the 2016 election were exposed and charged — but no American was charged with any effort to conspire with Moscow and hijack the election.
  1. While nearly three dozen people were charged, including a few close to the president or who worked for his campaign, no one in proximity to the president was formally charged with colluding with Russia. Most, such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn or campaign adviser George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosFree Roger Stone A tale of two lies: Stone, McCabe and the danger of a double standard for justice California Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat MORE, were charged with process crimes or felonies unrelated to the main case, as in Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortJuan Williams: Mueller, one year on Juan Williams: Will the GOP ever curb Trump? Nadler seeks interviews with DOJ prosecutors that left Stone case MORE’s secretive, multimillion-dollar foreign lobbying spree through Ukraine.
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There still are other legal threats out there for Trump and his team, such as cases winding through the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. And there will be days and weeks of debate about what’s in, and not in, the Mueller report.

What likely won’t get much debate, but unquestionably played an essential role in the history of the case and the outcome of the report, was the firm decision by Trump attorneys Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowMeadows joins White House in crisis mode What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment MORE and Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGoogle to spend .5 million in fight against coronavirus misinformation Hillicon Valley: FCC chief proposes 0M telehealth program | Twitter takes down posts promoting anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus| Whole Foods workers plan Tuesday strike 12 things to know today about coronavirus MORE to not let their client testify.

That’s not to say the president didn’t cooperate. His organization, campaign, inaugural committee and White House produced millions of pages of documents, and he submitted written answers to prosecutors about his conduct prior to Election Day. Nearly all key events were illuminated by this cooperation.

Such disclosure likely was enough to satisfy Mueller, since we know the prosecutor in the end didn’t force the president to testify by subpoena.

But the Trump legal team’s decision to steadfastly restrain their client from testifying — a client whose natural tendency is to fight when accused, tweet when challenged, and debate his detractors — almost certainly kept him from the sort of perjury traps that felled other figures in the case, such as Flynn and Papadopoulos, or that two decades earlier beguiled Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonClintons send pizza to NY hospital staff treating coronavirus Budowsky: President Trump, meet with all former living presidents Why Klobuchar should be Biden's vice presidential pick MORE as president. (Remember the Paula Jones deposition perjury?)

The public wants and deserves more transparency going forward. But while jeopardy lurked with an open criminal case, the president’s lawyers took a wise course that was in his personal legal interest. And that is what lawyers are supposed to do.

Now, Mueller’s investigations leave one major mission unfinished: meting out justice to the intelligence, congressional, FBI and DOJ officials who appear to have used a political dirty trick to falsely weave an unproven narrative of Russia collusion.

Unverified political opposition research never should be treated as actionable intelligence or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) evidence, as it was in this case.

Just hours before Mueller’s report arrived, new evidence emerged of just how egregious the FBI acted in the early days of the Russia probe.

Fox News’s brilliant reporter Catherine Herridge obtained new text messages Friday showing Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeTrump shakes up Justice Department, intelligence community Trump allies assembled lists of officials considered disloyal to president: report Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn MORE and his chief lawyer, Lisa Page, were discussing credibility issues and “bias” about a key human source whose work was to support the FISA warrant used to first spy on the Trump campaign in October 2016.

Those credibility issues likely were hidden from the judges who approved the warrant of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page (no relation to Lisa Page). As I have reported, the FBI also possesses emails showing concerns with the evidence it was going to use to support the FISA warrant.

Likewise the bureau didn’t disclose to the court that:

Such omissions are so glaring as to constitute defrauding a federal court. And each and every participant to those omissions needs to be brought to justice.

An upcoming DOJ inspector general’s report should trigger the beginning of that accountability in a court of law, and President Trump can assist the effort by declassifying all evidence of wrongdoing by FBI, CIA and DOJ officials. 

Accountability also must be handed out in the court of public opinion, where senior members of Congress, such as Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffPelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response 5 reasons Democrats fear Trump's coronavirus briefings Democrats introduce bill to set up commission to review coronavirus response MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHackers target health care AI amid coronavirus pandemic Hillicon Valley: Coronavirus deal includes funds for mail-in voting | Twitter pulled into fight over virus disinformation | State AGs target price gouging | Apple to donate 10M masks Senator sounds alarm on cyber threats to internet connectivity during coronavirus crisis MORE (D-Va.), and former members of the intelligence community, such as John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanFormer intelligence chiefs slam Trump for removing officials Ex-CIA chief calls Trump intel shakeup a 'virtual decapitation' of the intelligence community DOJ attorney looking into whether CIA withheld info during start of Russia probe: NYT MORE and James ClapperJames Robert ClapperFormer intelligence chiefs slam Trump for removing officials Think this coronavirus crisis is bad? The next could be worse — if we don't act now Was President Trump spied on as part of Carter Page wiretapping? MORE, along with several major news organizations, spun tall stories of a Watergate-sized criminal conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHow oil tariffs can unite strange political bedfellows Overnight Energy: Trump says global oil production could be cut by 15M barrels | Trump to rent storage space to oil producers | EPA defends move to suspend pollution monitoring Putin tells Russians to stay home all month amid coronavirus threat MORE.

Mueller’s anticlimactic finish to the special counsel’s probe on Friday made clear no such Trump-Putin criminal conspiracy existed. If it did, it would have been charged.

Trump can help the American public reconcile these issues, too, by declassifying all briefings to Congress’s “Gang of Eight” leadership, so that the public can see what our leaders were being told behind closed doors and what they were claiming on the public airwaves.

This accountability is essential to ensuring the nation never endures another travesty like the Russia collusion narrative.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He serves as an investigative columnist and executive vice president for video at The Hill.