After Thursday’s release of findings from a wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Wyoming’s delegation in Washington — among the three most powerful Republicans in Congress — had one message for the American people: It’s time to move on.
With nearly two years passed since the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to lead an investigation into whether President Donald Trump and his campaign were involved in Russian electioneering efforts, Rep. Liz Cheney, Sen. Mike Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso each expressed satisfaction Thursday that the ensuing report sufficiently clears the president of any wrongdoing and should be sufficient to end the politicization of the principle conclusion of the investigation: that Russia had successfully interfered in American elections.
After nearly two years of partisan division and hundreds of hours of cable news coverage, the Wyoming delegation said it’s time for Congress to focus their efforts on something else: legislating.
“During a divided Congress, I believe it is vital that we not focus our energy on political exercises, but instead find ways of working together on the key issues that need real solutions,” Sen. Mike Enzi said in a statement. “I have spent my time in Washington focused on working for the people of Wyoming and I look forward to putting my energy into legislative work on issues such as budget reform, energy development, health care and drug pricing solutions, education, and trade.”
The wide-ranging and heavily redacted report — which examines Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election between Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton — has been eagerly anticipated by the American public since Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation nearly two years ago.
While the objective was to investigate Russian interference in the election — which the report found to be prevalent — opponents of the president speculated the report would draw necessary links to prove the president himself had colluded with Russian agents in his effort to get elected, a potentially impeachable offense.
Thursday’s report, however, asserted in clear terms that there was insufficient evidence to assert these claims, something Cheney made sure to point out.
“As (Attorney General William Barr’s) letter revealed a month ago, the release of this report confirms that Democrats have perpetuated a fraud on the American people for the last two years. There was no collusion,” Cheney said in a statement. “The Attorney General deserves praise for putting politics aside and focusing on the facts in this investigation. I was proud to join with my colleagues in voting to have the report publicly disclosed and am glad that this important step has been taken.”
“I hope our Democratic colleagues will finally stop their politically motivated assault on the President and join us in getting real work done for the American people,” she added.
Questions but no collusion
Though no direct cooperation between the president, his campaign and the Russian government was found, the report establishes a number of significant connections between the two entities, many of which have gradually come to light over the past two years.
Trump’s allies, in the days after the release of a summary memo by Barr exonerating the president a month ago, have echoed claims the president was free of the accusations of collusion that have dogged him throughout his term.
“While I look forward to fully reviewing the report, the key conclusion that President Trump’s campaign did not coordinate with the Russian government should weigh heavily on those who would look to politicize the findings,” Enzi said.
However, a cursory review of the Mueller report raises significant questions about the president’s role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, as well as alleged attempts to obstruct the investigation — another potentially impeachable offense — though direct conclusions were never drawn.
One section of the 400-page report, for instance, found that the president’s lawyers had helped to coach Trump’s onetime attorney, Michael Cohen, ahead of a hearing where he was later found to have provided false testimony to Congress. However, it was difficult to establish whether the president was actually aware this was happening, thereby making any claims he had participated in the obstruction of justice unprovable. Another section shows that while the president — at several points — attempted to sabotage the investigation against him, his aides defied him, thereby averting direct interference.
With similarly circumstantial evidence informing the report, the Mueller team — focusing on the legal definition of “conspiracy” and not the general concept of “collusion” — could not legally establish any coordinated effort between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to the report.
However, while they “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election activities,” they did discover ample proof that numerous members of the campaign — many of whom had ties to the Russian government — had participated in activities related to efforts by the Russian government to aid Trump and hurt Clinton.
Throughout the 674-day investigation, among the longest in United States history, 34 individuals associated with the Trump campaign had either been indicted or charged for offenses ranging from direct interference in the 2016 election to lying to members of Congress.
However, Congress’ full conclusions from the report — and whether it chooses to investigate Trump — should only become more clear once members have actually had the opportunity to read it, likely over the weekend.
“From the start, Attorney General Barr made clear his commitment to making public as much of the special counsel’s report as possible,” Barrasso said in a statement. “After announcing the special counsel’s finding that there was no collusion, the attorney general has worked quickly to prepare this report for the American people to see. I look forward to reviewing it.”