Today’s redacted Mueller report answers a number of questions about the Trump-Russia scandal, while raising some new questions. One of the biggest ongoing mysteries has been why, after two years of media reports about Donald Trump’s family members having committed various apparent crimes, Mueller didn’t bring charges against any of them.
The Mueller report provides at least a partial answer, by confirming various media reports. Donald Trump Jr did meet with Russian government representatives, and he was expecting to receive dirt about Hillary Clinton as a result of that meeting. Jared Kushner did meet with the Russian Ambassador and seek to set up a secure backchannel. Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump were in a staff meeting in which Don Jr revealed he was about to hold his infamous Trump Tower meeting. Mueller also points to Don Jr’s meeting as a violation of campaign finance laws. But Mueller essentially concludes that Trump’s family members were too clueless about the law, or too clueless in general, for prosecutors to have obtained a conviction based on criminal intent.
While this is good news for Trump’s family in the sense that they will not be charged on a federal level for conspiring with Russia, they would have to bend over awfully far backward to try to spin this as an exoneration or vindication. Instead, this is a vindication for the media, which correctly reported that these meetings happened, and what took place during them. In addition, Mueller’s conclusions make clear that the media was correct to have focused on these matters to begin with.
For that matter, Trump’s family isn’t necessarily off the hook for these Russia meetings. When Letitia James became the New York Attorney General a few months ago, according to NBC News, she stated that her office would investigate numerous Trump related matters, including the Trump Tower meeting. James will have to make her own decisions as to whether she thinks criminal intent was involved. If so, she can bring state level charges on anything that falls under New York State jurisdiction.
The Mueller report reveals that Robert Mueller has spun off fourteen ongoing investigations to various federal prosecutors, and at least some of them are focused on unknown subjects and targets. In one known instance, Mueller probed Michael Cohen in the Trump-Russia scandal, and didn’t charge him, but in the process did find evidence that Cohen committed other unrelated crimes – including hush money payoffs. Mueller referred that to the SDNY, and now Cohen is going to prison for it.
The same would apply to everyone probed by Robert Mueller, if he found evidence that they committed crimes that were unrelated to the Trump-Russia scandal. Of all the numerous Trump-related people who were probed by Mueller, the only ones who can now consider themselves “off the hook” are those who haven’t committed any crimes at all. With fourteen ongoing federal probes, the Mueller-spawned prosecutions and indictments may just be getting started, even without Robert Mueller’s continued involvement.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report