HOWEY: The Mueller report and what we don't know

In this March 24, 2019 photo, Special Counsel Robert Mueller walks past the White House, after attending St. John's Episcopal Church for morning services, in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Brian Howey

NASHVILLE, Ind. (Howey Politics) – President Donald Trump hasn't read the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Neither has Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, nor anyone in the Indiana congressional delegation, or Congress for that matter.

No one on “Fox & Friends,” “Morning Joe,” Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity, the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post or any member of the vast right/left wing conspiracies have read the report.

We don’t know if Mueller’s report is 50 pages or a thousand-plus (the New York Times and NBC News cited the Justice Department saying it's more than 300 pages; Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News it’s more than 700 pages). We don't know the thrust of what Mueller gleaned from the materials which includes, according to Wired: a team of 19 lawyers; 40 FBI agents, analysts, forensic accountants and other staff; more than 2,800 subpoenas; nearly 500 search warrants; 230 sets of communication records; details from nearly 50 pen registers used to track telephone calls; 13 requests of foreign governments and law enforcement agencies for additional evidence and interviews; along with around 500 witnesses.

Beyond Mueller’s team and Attorney General Robert Barr, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and DOJ staffers, no one knows what’s in the report, beyond Barr’s four-page memo released on Sunday.

What we do know is that Mueller determined that President Trump, his family and the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia to impact the 2016 presidential election. For this snippet of knowledge, all Americans should be grateful.

Had Mueller discovered that the president was a knowing asset of any government, let alone the Russians, and charged him, it would have been the crime of the century, if not the millennium. The fact that anyone would ever have to entertain such a dire thought is a sad chapter in our republic’s history.

But declarations of “exoneration” by President Trump and his team and supporters, and the hand-wringing of Trump enemies are all premature. The cliché here would be the notion that the “devil is in the details.”

Barr’s memo did touch on the obstruction issue, with Mueller saying his “report does not conclude that the President committed a crime” but that “it also does not exonerate him.”

What does this mean?

New York attorney George Conway III (husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway and a frequent Trump critic) notes in a Washington Post op-ed, "That’s a stunning thing for a prosecutor to say. Mueller didn’t have to say that. If his report doesn’t exonerate the president, there must be something pretty damning in it about him, even if it might not suffice to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Once again, more speculation emanating from the tip of this legal iceberg.

“In the 700 page summary of the 2 million pages of raw evidence there is undoubtedly some evidence of a conspiracy and some evidence of obstruction of justice,” Napolitano told Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto. “Just not enough evidence.”

Here’s what we do know, which was succinctly stated by Columbia University Prof. David J. Rothkopf: “Trump publicly welcomed the support of an enemy, one with whom he had hidden financial ties, that enemy worked to help get him elected and he rewarded them with a defense of their attacks on our democracy and with policy benefits no U.S. president had offered before.”

Everything in that statement we know to be true, from nominee Trump’s “Russia, if you're listening” press conference in Florida back in July 2016, to the determination of U.S. intelligence agencies that the Kremlin assaulted our election process, to Trump’s assertions in Helsinki that he believed President Putin over authorities such as National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, the now-revealed Trump quest to build a tower in Moscow while seeking the presidency which he had repeatedly denied during the campaign, to Trump’s unprecedented antagonistic behavior toward NATO, the European Union and our traditional best friends, Germany and the United Kingdom, all beyond Vladimir Putin’s wildest outcome dreams.

On Monday, Sen. Todd Young released a statement saying, “I have always said that Robert Mueller’s investigation should run its course. With the investigation now complete, it’s time to accept his findings and move on.” The problem there is we don’t know what we are “moving on” from.

Young adds, “There has clearly been Russian interference in our democratic process, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its work to better understand these threats.” That sentence presents a vivid contrast with President Trump, who has downplayed Russian interference and has taken virtually no steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

In an inert and gridlocked Washington, that really should be the top priority between now and November 2020.

So Americans now await the report, with Attorney General Barr saying it will be submitted to Congress and the public within “weeks.”

Every American patriot should yearn for this report to see the light of day. Like our understanding of the universe, God and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the facts and analysis of what we don’t know are vastly greater than what we do know. Once we have a much greater understanding of what happened in 2016 and 2017, the better prepared we will be to act to ensure it doesn’t repeat.

Simply “moving on” without much greater knowledge would be reckless and irresponsible.

The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter.