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

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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 TrumpIran convicts American businessman on spying charge: report DC, state capitals see few issues, heavy security amid protest worries Pardon-seekers have paid Trump allies tens of thousands to lobby president: NYT 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 PapadopoulosTrump supporters show up to DC for election protest Trump pardons draw criticism for benefiting political allies Klobuchar: Trump 'trying to burn this country down on his way out' MORE, were charged with process crimes or felonies unrelated to the main case, as in Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNo pardon for Trump Michael Cohen predicts people Trump pardoned may testify against him Roger Stone thanked Trump for pardon during exchange at West Palm Beach club 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 SekulowTrump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates Dershowitz says he'd defend Trump again in impeachment trial Trump attorney Jay Sekulow refutes claims of Pence authority over electors MORE and Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiOfficials brace for second Trump impeachment trial Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration Rove: Chances of conviction rise if Giuliani represents Trump in Senate impeachment trial 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 ClintonThe challenge of Biden's first days: staying focused and on message Why the Senate should not rush an impeachment trial Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices 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 McCabeCarter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe McCabe defends investigation of Trump before Senate committee: We had 'many reasons' The Hill's 12:30 Report: What to know about the Pfizer vaccine announcement 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 SchiffAngus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information Schiff says 'massive intelligence and security failure' led to Capitol breach Sunday shows - Capital locked down ahead of Biden's inauguration MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSocial media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed MORE (D-Va.), and former members of the intelligence community, such as John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanThe biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community Sunday shows: Health officials anticipate vaccine distribution, warn of worsening pandemic MORE and James ClapperJames Robert ClapperThe biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community The new marshmallow media in the Biden era MORE, along with several major news organizations, spun tall stories of a Watergate-sized criminal conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIncoming national security adviser calls for immediate release of Kremlin critic Navalny Kremlin critic Navalny detained in Moscow upon return to Russia Navalny planning return to Russia on Sunday 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.