Mueller’s work is done, but Democrats’ work is just beginning

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was transmitted to Attorney General William Barr this weekend, and Americans have their first indication of what it contains. 

According to Barr’s summary letter to Congress, the special counsel concluded that Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 campaign but neither President Trump nor anyone in his campaign knowingly conspired to help the Russians.

{mosads}The Barr letter also said, “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

As could be expected, the spin has begun, and it is dizzying. As such, it is helpful to keep a few things in focus.

The first one is that there is still much to learn. The report needs to be made public to the fullest extent it can be so that Americans can have a more robust picture of what evidence Muller had and the context of it.  

Second, while Trump and Republicans are gloating, they need to be careful as this is not the end. There are many additional investigations initiated by Mueller referrals, including the Southern District of New York, the District of Columbia’s U.S. attorney and others; much may still come from those.

Congress also will follow up on many of the leads it already has and more that will emerge from the Mueller report.

Third, my fellow Democrats need to accept that the Mueller report concluded that there was neither conspiracy nor collusion, at least in the narrow scope of what Mueller investigated in terms of 2016 election interference.

In fact, we should be relieved that a president of the United States did not knowingly work with an adversary to thwart the outcome of a presidential election.

However, there is still much to learn about how much Trump and his associates knew about Russian interference and, if they did, when they knew about it.

There is way too much evidence about Russian connections, meetings, exchanges of data and offers of damaging information and how Trump officials and people close to him covered those up for this to be the end of the story. The plot continues on this.  

Trump should now publicly accept that Russia attacked our elections and vow that he will ensure that a foreign adversary is never able to do so again.

Fourth, the clear line in the Mueller report on which Democrats will focus — as they should — is that this was not an exoneration of Donald Trump on the obstruction of justice accusation.

I do find it curious that, while Mueller intentionally did not draw a conclusion on this, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein apparently did. They should not have done so in such a conclusive way. This is an area Democrats will continue to explore.

Fifth, Democrats now have subpoena power, and they will use it. They have been and will continue to exercise their constitutional responsibility of oversight of this president and his practices, policies and rantings.

Do Democrats need to be vigilant not to overreach? Absolutely. But they can be disciplined, as they proved by winning 40 House seats in November — many of those in Trump districts — by focusing on the issues voters care about, such as health care, jobs and protecting our elections. The 2020 candidates need to to the same.

Sixth, while Mueller found no evidence of collusion with Russia, I have always believed — and said many times publicly — that the real revelations will come when we are able to uncover Trump’s tax returns and investigate his business dealings with Russia and other foreign governments. Members of Congress, U.S. attorneys and their investigators need to follow the money trail.

The real danger lies in just how beholden Trump is to Russians, how much he is indebted to them (or to other foreign governments, for that matter). A president who can be blackmailed or who cares more about his own businesses than the country he is governing, has always been the biggest danger of all.

The Mueller report, in no way, proves Trump innocent of financial shenanigans — that was not Mueller’s purview — or free of anything the Russians can hold over him. Did Trump or anyone associated with him promise Russian President Vladimir Putin any favorable policies if he did get elected? We don’t know.

The full report needs to be made public, and now. The conclusions that Attorney General Barr and Rosenstein reached about Trump not being guilty of obstruction of justice were their own — not Mueller’s, not a court’s or other unbiased investigative body’s.

Americans deserve a full accounting of the report, the evidence behind it and as much transparency as possible.  

{mossecondads}Lastly, as disappointed as Democrats may be that Mueller did not find more, it was always going to be better for the country, in the absence of any additional evidence against the president, to get rid of him by beating him in 2020.  

Impeachment — besides being impossible while Trump holds the GOP hostage to all of his behavior — would have created a political martyr who would have further weaponized any and all investigations against him and continued to erode confidence in our democracy and in our democratic institutions.

Mueller’s work is done. But while other investigations continue, our work is only beginning. In 2020, let’s vote Donald Trump out.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump election meddling Robert Mueller Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein Rod Rosenstein Russia Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections Special counsel Vladimir Putin William Barr

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