Mueller's 'March madness' creates some mysteries — but some points are perfectly clear

Attorney General William Barr’s release of a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report has generated the centrifugal spin of an amusement park tilt-a-whirl. We gyrate from left to right; pundits froth; we listen to breathless moans and delighted squeals.

But somewhere in all this, the whole truth remains elusive. And an attack on our democracy is lost in the thunder of pundits and partisans.

We still don’t know the details of the actual Mueller report. We have only a summary of an investigation that was, by definition, limited in scope; and we have a curious pronouncement that “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

In other words, the summary has not given Democrats a thread to pull on but, instead, a rope.

The Democrats are correct to seek answers on possible obstruction of justice. The attorney general acknowledges that Mueller “finds evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what Special Counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact.”

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Shouldn’t those “difficult questions” of law in fact be determined in a court? Instead, Mr. Barr has unilaterally decided to set them aside. Of course, he may argue that it is his prerogative as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer to decide which cases to bring. Fair enough: It also is the constitutional responsibility of Congress to determine what inquiries to pursue.

For as long as the full report is the subject of a summary interpretation by the attorney general, it will be clouded in mystery. For the good of the American people there is simply no reason to continue to prolong this mystery. I’ve always said, if the Mueller investigation found no wrongdoing, “let the chips fall where they may.” But let me see the chips, not a political appointee’s interpretation of them.

I suspect that partisans on the right will disagree and clamor that we simply move on. And I suspect that partisans on the left will demand that we impeach.

But if there is one damning conclusion of the Mueller report that ought to unite the left and the right it is this:

Russia meddled in our democracy.

The summary by President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE’s own appointed attorney general reflects that the Mueller investigation has laid-out a clear and comprehensive case of such Russian meddling. That case has been backed up by multiple indictments.

President Trump has said that “it is a shame that our country had to go through this. It’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.”

No, Mr. President. The Mueller investigation revealed that a strong adversary opposed to our strength and influence in the world did, in fact, embark on a massive effort to sway our presidential election. 

The job of a president is to protect and defend the Constitution, not to complain about the inconvenience of it all.

And for everyone else, allowing partisan talking points to eclipse the core issue — Russia’s attempted subversion of our democracy — could allow them to steal our next election right in front of our own two eyes, right and left.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.