The Mueller Report: Questions, Answered and Unanswered

The Mueller Report: Questions, Answered and Unanswered

The release of the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's confidential "Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election," has addressed important questions and left others unanswered. (A public version of the report can be seen here).

Here's our take on where this story is headed:


Are there revelations in the report that enough people might consider evidence of "high crimes and misdemeanors" to add political pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move toward impeachment?

Possibly.

The Mueller report asserts that the special counsel's team did not find evidence that President Trump or anyone associated with his campaign helped the Russians interfere in the election, and Attorney General William Barr has ruled that Trump will not be prosecuted for obstruction of Mueller's investigation.

But impeachment is a political, not a legal, process.

In fact, on the question of the Trump campaign's coordination with Russia, Mueller wrote the investigation was "materially impaired" by witnesses who lied, refused to testify, deleted emails, or used encrypted apps to communicate. As a result, Mueller added this crucial comment: "The Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report."

On the question of obstruction of justice, Mueller notes on page 182 of the report that "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state… We are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Further, the report states that "we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice." Many Democratic lawmakers will view that as an invitation, maybe an exhortation, to act.

Pelosi has worked hard in recent weeks to beat back pressure from Democrats to push for impeachment because she believes such a move would damage her party politically. But there are many details in the Mueller report that will make that more difficult.

Where is Robert Mueller?

During his press conference before the report's release, Barr said, "I have no objection to Bob Mueller personally testifying" before Congress. House Democrats will subpoena his testimony, so it appears the world will finally hear directly from the Mueller report's lead author.

Does the report include specifics of Russian interference in the 2016 US election that can help the US (and other countries) safeguard the integrity of future elections?

More important than the fate of any particular president is the integrity of the elections that elevate them.

The Mueller report asserts that the Russian government interfered "in sweeping and systematic fashion" with the 2016 US presidential election. It details efforts by organizations affiliated with the Russian government and military to create discord inside the United States by using the Internet and social media to inject disinformation into the American political bloodstream. It also describes how they stole documents and emails and used both Russian outlets and the transparency website Wikileaks to publish them on the Internet.

Attorney General Barr said on Thursday that a select bipartisan group of US lawmakers will have access to a version of the report in which counterintelligence-related redactions have been removed. The details of Russian interference will allow lawmakers to address future threats and to pressure the Trump administration to help.

But Russia is not the only actor using these tools, and the US is far from the only target. All elections are increasingly vulnerable to disinformation campaigns that originate outside their borders—and, increasingly, from inside them, as well. We can't know how many specifics of these findings US intelligence agencies will share with their counterparts in other countries.

The Test for Rule of Law

The broader unanswered question is how well American political institutions will respond to the series of noisy political and legal confrontations we can expect in coming months. Democrats will file suit to ask courts to order the release of all sorts of documents related to Donald Trump—on the Mueller report as well as other investigations of the president, his election campaign, his businesses, and his White House. Trump will do all he can to thwart these efforts.

Will most Americans accept that courts have based their rulings on the law rather than on perceived political motivations? Will the president and his opponents accept the legitimacy of these rulings and comply with them? Public polarization intensified by the 2020 election campaign won't help.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truckloads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

More Show less

500: Fuel shortages in conflict-ridden Haiti are putting many hospital patients at risk. If fuel isn't delivered ASAP, UNICEF says around 500 people – including children and COVID patients – are at very high risk of deterioration. Supplies and deliveries have been disrupted for weeks because of heightened gang activity in the country.

More Show less

Sort of, but governments haven't lost all control yet. On the one hand, The Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson says that governments can still push tech companies for transparency in their algorithms, while Microsoft has partnered with the US government to together fight hackers "so the company is seen as a champion for freedom and democracy." On the other, over time Thompson expects tech firms in the US and China to gradually become more powerful as the state becomes less powerful toward them. Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

As COP26 nears, the need for real climate action has never been more urgent. There are reasons for hope, but many scientists believe the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is unattainable without immediate and significant change. Governments, financial institutions, and private sector companies alike have all recognized the need for a multistakeholder approach to solving this crisis of a lifetime.

Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

More Show less

Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the continent's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

More Show less

ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal