The Hill: It seems remarkably fitting that a now-disproven Russian collusion scandal started with a blatantly political memo known as the Steele dossier and ended with another called the Mueller report.
I’ve covered the Department of Justice (DOJ) for three decades, a period that involved some of Washington’s biggest scandals (Iran-Contra, Whitewater, impeachment), prosecutors’ biggest triumphs (the Unabomber case) and the FBI’s biggest missteps (the lab scandal and pre-Sept.11 intelligence failures).
Most are written simply to explain why prosecutors choose not to charge a high-profile suspect whose name was besmirched publicly. Almost all are written in the spirit of the central tenet of American jurisprudence: One is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Both volumes of the report — Russia collusion and obstruction — start as a narrative that goes like this: If we were going to indict Trump, here’s our best evidence.
Volume I then ends like a “straw man.” After listing every titillating piece of evidence, Mueller concludes his evidence did not establish a conspiracy between Trump and Russia to hijack the 2016 election. In fact, it unequivocally stated no American conspired with Russia.
Volume II takes the same path on obstruction issues — but Mueller then punts with this remarkable have-it-both-ways conclusion: “This report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
In short, Mueller’s report lay out all the dirty laundry and then passes on criminal charges.
His 397 pages of prose and 50-plus pages of attachments stand in stark contrast to DOJ rules mandating that a prosecutor not use grand jury and other evidence to besmirch a suspect who was never charged.
“The prosecutor must recognize that the grand jury is an independent body, whose functions include not only the investigation of crime and the initiation of criminal prosecution but also the protection of the citizenry from unfounded criminal charges,” the DOJ rules state.
Mueller’s report irrefutably exceeds these requirements. As such, it is no longer a legal document. Rather, it is a political document, filled with gratuitous, tawdry details designed to besmirch the president and his aides in the court of public opinion instead of the court of law.