On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr released his summary of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigations into foreign influence during the 2016 presidential election. Reactions to the release varied amongst Cornell professors, alumni and student leaders.
The report, titled the “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” was the result of years of examining potential collusion between the Russian government and President Trump’s campaign team during the 2016 election. It concluded that there was no strong evidence that Trump’s team was involved in Russian hacking and attempts to sway the American vote through social media efforts.
“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the report states.
Secondly, the report states that some of Trump’s public actions have been investigated for potential obstruction of justice charges. After investigation, the Special Counsel decided not to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” and did not rule Trump guilty or not guilty.
“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the Special Counsel said in the report.
Because the Special Counsel did not make a decision, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were allowed to and chose to make it. They determined that the evidence “is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
“So far as we can tell, I think it’s a great victory for the rule of law,” Prof. Joseph Margulies, law, told The Sun. “It appeared as though the process was allowed to run its course. A very thorough investigation into the role of the President and his campaign [was conducted] and concluded that there was no evidence that warranted action. That’s what a thorough investigation is for.”
Leaders from both the Cornell Democrats and Cornell Republicans weighed in on the significance of the report.
“The Mueller report is good news for all Americans. It completely lifts the cloud that Vladimir Putin and America’s enemies tried to impose on this country through election meddling and other propaganda efforts,” Michael Johns Jr. ’20, president of the Cornell Republicans, said in an email to The Sun. Johns is also an opinion columnist for The Sun.
“This is precisely the outcome I expected [from the report],” he continued. “[The report] was a wild conspiracy which has distorted American politics since 2016.”
Political Director for the Cornell Democrats Geneva Saupe ’21 had a different view.
“I think that it’s important to remember that we haven’t seen the actual Mueller report, only a summary of the report by a Trump political appointee. Because of that, I think it’s hard to tell yet what exactly will come out of the report, and how it will impact Trump’s legacy or current politics,” Saupe said.
Saupe reiterated that she would like to see the full report, and raised the concern that Trump provided written answers during the investigation rather than submitting to in-person questioning.
“We didn’t come to the same definitiveness about obstruction,” Marguiles said. “In that respect, the final judgment was made by the Attorney General, not by the Special Counsel. There are questions about the Attorney General’s independence, so that is troublesome.”
Margulies says that in order to make a determination on the legitimacy of these concerns, the attorney general would have to release the full report for examination.
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 responded to the summary’s release with a tweet criticizing the American justice system.
“He’s a rich and powerful businessman. They don’t have the same justice system as the rest of us. I never expected he would face actual consequences for the crimes he committed in open public view,” Myrick tweeted.
Trump responded to the report’s release via Twitter, defending his innocence.
“No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” Trump tweeted.
As with the report, Trump’s tweet caused differing reactions from both sides of the political aisle.
“Trump’s tweet about exoneration is simply wrong,” said Saupe. “Six of his campaign associates are facing jail time, and there are investigations ongoing in New York, DC and other jurisdictions.”
Johns, when asked if Trump’s tweet was valid, said that “it certainly seems that way.”