Trump has not been exonerated


Photo Courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo

President Donald J. Trump delivers his presidential inaugural address during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2017. More than 5,000 military members from across all branches of the armed forces of the United States, including Reserve and National Guard components, provided ceremonial support and Defense Support of Civil Authorities during the inaugural period.

By Agastya Bhatia, Columnist

Two years into his role as a special counsel to the Department of Justice, Robert Mueller has finally released his much-awaited report on the Trump campaign. Vaguely summarized by Attorney General William Barr, the document exonerated the president of allegations of collusion with Russia. Barr’s proclamation of the president’s innocence was hailed as a high point of the Trump administration — a telling standard for a less-than-flawless presidential track record.

Regardless of what the president’s Twitter account might suggest, however, the report has not cleared him of all wrongdoing. Whether or not President Trump could be guilty of obstructing justice is a question that remains largely unanswered, as Barr’s conclusion on the matter appears to be based on nebulous language used in the Mueller report.

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A former head of the FBI, Mueller was brought in as a special counsel in 2017 to investigate two main points of interest: the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia and the president’s engagement in obstructing justice. It is important to note links between Trump and Russia were already being investigated by then-FBI Director James Comey for a year, until the president asked for his resignation.

Mueller’s report was supposed to be a confidential document meant for the attorney general, who has promised to eventually release it to the public, unlike the public document Kenneth Starr put together regarding President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

However, the legitimacy of Barr’s impartiality is easy to question. A Trump nominee, Barr was originally tapped to be President Trump’s defense lawyer against the special counsel investigation. Furthermore, Barr has been publicly critical of the Mueller investigation, doubting its bipartisan nature and denouncing the need to explore Trump-Russia connections at all.

While Barr has always been a well-respected figure on both sides of the political aisle in Washington, his historical support for President Trump might indicate the need to take his conclusions drawn from the Mueller report with caution — specifically those regarding obstruction of justice.

In a strongly worded memo sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in 2018, Barr decried the obstruction allegations as “fatally misconceived” and “potentially disastrous” for the administration. Clearly, Barr had well-defined opinions on the matter far before Mueller was able to submit all the facts to him, pointing toward a suspicious lack of fairness in his summary.

According to Barr’s summary, Mueller writes, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Within reasonable doubt, it seems as though Mueller is not coming to an exact conclusion. While it wasn’t outside of Barr’s purview to make a decision regarding this for Mueller, his credibility should be called into question.

This blatant disregard for the pursuit of justice and truth points toward an overarching problem with the Trump administration: a flagrant disrespect for democracy itself. Not being explicitly guilty of interfering with the American electoral system, the global standard for democracy, is not a “win” but the bare minimum expected of the leader of the free world.

Of course, for those who blindly follow Trump’s populist messages of imaginary economic gains and an immigrant-free America, he can do no wrong. For all the deception, attacks on the press and disrespect toward anyone who doesn’t look and think like him, they will still have him sign their bibles and cheer while he straddles their flag.

For those who have retained critical thought, it is important to remember the president is likely not guilt-free, and while calls to justice are imperative, political action is equally essential. The only way to reverse the dishonesty he has brought to the White House is through democratic elections: those which are fair and free.

As potentially one of the most pivotal presidential elections in recent history approaches us next year, Americans must choose which side of history they want to be on and not repeat the mistakes that led us here in the first place. 

Agastya is a sophomore in Engineering.

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