Astonishingly, I can find no synthesis of the Mueller Report that probed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and looked into the question of whether the Trump campaign aided the Russians in their efforts.
The only so-called "summary" of the report available to the American public is a four-page document put out by Attorney General William Barr. Even Barr himself subsequently said it was "unfair" to call that document a summary.
Others have said Barr's document mischaracterized the Mueller Report's findings, especially so as Barr indicated the report did not find President Donald J. Trump or his associates guilty of obstruction of justice.
On the contrary, the report, which is 448 pages altogether, lists 10 instances in which Trump or his people committed acts that could be construed as obstruction. However Mueller, in his televised nine-minute statement last week on the work he and his team of investigators carried out, cited a longstanding Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president for a crime.
For that reason, Mueller said, the report did not include an indictment against the president. At the same time Mueller said that the ball was now in the court of the United States Congress, and that body should decide whether the instances of obstruction warranted an impeachment inquiry.
Since few Americans, relatively speaking, are likely to tackle the reading of the Mueller Report, a decent synthesis or expanded summary is urgently needed.
Here, in sketchy fashion, are highlights from the Mueller report and notes on impeachment and censure:
There is indisputable, and massive, evidence that Russian intelligence staff, directly linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, conducted extensive operations to interfere with the 2016 elections. Furthermore these efforts aimed at boosting Trump's chances of being elected by releasing information damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Also by feeding false news stories into the American media that helped Trump and hurt Clinton.
There was "insufficient evidence" to prove Trump or his campaign team engaged in a "criminal conspiracy" to collaborate with the Russian interference ploys.
Volume II of the Mueller Report focuses on the issue of obstruction of justice, to wit, attempts by Trump or people connected to Trump to prevent or subvert the inquiry into Russian interference. This section indeed details 10 instances in which obstruction could reasonably be alleged. (Note: Obstruction of justice was a key charge in the House Judiciary Committee's conclusions, July 1974, that President Richard M. Nixon should be impeached "for high crimes and misdemeanors.")
Mueller cites as a reason for not indicting Trump for the crime of obstruction of justice the existence of a memo in the Department of Justice that asserts that a president should not be indicted while in office. (Note: There is no rule against indicting a president once he has left office due to impeachment, resignation, or failure to win a second term.)
The proper venue for litigating claims of obstruction of justice against Trump is Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives may launch impeachment proceedings. A vote would determine whether the president has been impeached - i.e., equivalent of indicted. If impeached, the case would be tried in the U.S. Senate. Conviction would require two-thirds of the members (or 67) to vote "guilty." Any fewer than that and the president would be exonerated.
The House could also vote to censure the president. A censure would be a public slap down for bad conduct but would not lead to a trial where Trump could be forced to step down. He would remain in office, though under a cloud.
John Patrick Grace is a Huntington-based book editor and publisher.