Once Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report was released with redactions to the public Thursday, everyone from Capitol Hill to College Hill began sifting through the 448-page document, ready to respond to its revelations.
Members of Brown Democrats and Brown Republicans struggled to understand the full contents of the report and its implications for President Trump.
“The initial conclusion that (Attorney General William Barr) came to — which is that this shows, beyond any real doubt, that (the report) exonerated the president and his administration — at the very least is deserving of more scrutiny,” said John Metz ’20, vice president of Brown Democrats.
From the perspective of Co-President of Brown Republicans Nicholas Guarino ’20, the report did not exonerate President Trump like Barr had suggested, but it also did not contradict all of Barrs’s previous statements like some have claimed.
“I don’t think this is going to sway people one way or the other, but I think it’s a little too soon to tell,” Guarino said.
Metz was similarly skeptical of the report’s threat to the president. “Ultimately while both sides are going to spin this as a huge victory, I don’t think it moves the barometer that much.”
While students digested the news, Visiting Professor of the Practice of Political Science Richard Arenberg discussed the report’s implications. Arenberg was especially disturbed by Barr’s role in interpreting the report. In particular, he criticized Barr’s press conference Thursday, where he introduced the report and repeated his view of the president’s innocence. “I thought that the efforts of Attorney General Barr, his press conference and the effort to stem the results of the Mueller Report were really over the line for an attorney general. I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said.
Arenberg also broke down the concept of an “obstruction of justice,” which is one of Congressional Democrats’ main allegations against Trump. While the crime of obstruction of justice requires a prosecutor to prove corrupt intent, the burden of proof is different for Congress in an impeachment proceeding. For example, the trials of President Nixon and President Clinton rested upon Congressional delegations that were willing to allege obstructions of justice without a criminal charge to back them up; however, it remains to be seen whether today’s Congress would make the same call.
“I’m not suggesting that there is necessarily going to be impeachment, but if there were to be, the standard for obstruction of justice could well be very different, particularly given the number of questionable acts the president engaged in in that direction,” Arenberg added. Congress could also construe the president’s actions as an abuse of power, he added.
Although the report itself does not come to a conclusion on the culpability of the president, Arenberg believes it may lead to further action by Congress. “That whole narrative can be interpreted as a roadmap for Congress to look at this question of obstruction,” he said. “The House Judiciary Committee will continue its investigation and subpoena the full unredacted Mueller report,” he added.
The Rhode Island Congressional delegates also weighed in on the report — calling for the release of an unredacted version to Congress. Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair David Cicilline ’83, D-RI, who also serves on the House Judiciary Committee, released an official statement that read, “This is a damning document that outlines a series of misdeeds conducted by the President and his associates.” Having already spoken to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, Cicilline expects that the Judiciary Committee will issue a subpoena for the unredacted report and all of Mueller’s underlying evidence. “No one is above the law,” Cicilline wrote in his official statement. “The American people deserve to know whether their president committed wrongdoing. This report makes clear that Congress has a responsibility to answer that question.”
In an official statement, Congressman Jim Langevin, D-RI, wrote, “Special Counsel Mueller must testify before the House and Senate as soon as possible. It is imperative that the American people have an opportunity to hear the Special Counsel discuss his findings without further spin or interpretation from the Attorney General.”
With hundreds of pages of evidence to read, students and politicians alike will be digesting the Mueller report for some time to come.