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

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers 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 PapadopoulosPoll: Nearly half of Republicans say no one on Trump campaign committed a crime George Papadopoulos urges Barr to investigate examples of 'spying' while he was campaign aide Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators MORE, were charged with process crimes or felonies unrelated to the main case, as in Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortPoll: Nearly half of Republicans say no one on Trump campaign committed a crime It is wrong to say 'no collusion' The Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table? 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 Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani 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 ClintonFive town hall takeaways: Warren shines, Sanders gives ammo to critics Heavy lapses in judgment are politicizing the justice system Bernie Sanders claims his Sister Souljah moment 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 McCabeThe Mueller report concludes it was not needed Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators Electronic surveillance isn't spying — it's much more powerful 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 SchiffOn The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report Pelosi, Dems struggle to find unity in Mueller response MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill MORE (D-Va.), and former members of the intelligence community, such as John BrennanJohn Owen Brennan10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators Overnight Defense: House votes to end US support for Yemen war | Vote expected to force Trump's second veto of presidency | More Russian troops may head to Venezuela | First 'Space Force' hearing set for next week MORE and James ClapperJames Robert Clapper10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Ten post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators Trump campaign falsely claims Barr revealed 'unlawful spying' in email to supporters MORE, along with several major news organizations, spun tall stories of a Watergate-sized criminal conspiracy between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

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.