Why Americans need a peek at the Mueller report

To prevent future foreign meddling in elections, we must know why Trump campaign officials did not collude with Russia.

AP
Special Counsel Robert Mueller walks past the White House after attending services at St. John's Episcopal Church, in Washington, March 24, 2019.

According to Attorney General William Barr, the main conclusion of the nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller is that members of Donald Trump’s campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russia in its meddling in the 2016 election. While that negative finding is a great relief, Americans may want something else from the report, such as how to prevent future foreign interference. They might want to know if the Trump campaign’s lack of collusion was the result of any virtue in Mr. Trump’s top lieutenants.

Perhaps hidden in the report are their motives for at least acting rightly, such as trust and respect of U. S. democracy. While they may have welcomed meddling by Russia to win the election, nonetheless they decided not to assist the Kremlin, either tacitly or directly, in trying to spread distrust toward candidates and disrupt the American electoral system. And they may have done so despite having met or communicated with Russian agents dozens of times as well as receiving offers by Russians to assist the Trump campaign.

If their reason was not a fear of breaking a law, perhaps their motive came out of civic loyalty and honesty toward their political community called U. S. democracy. Some critics may find such motives difficult to believe, but if they did exist – and they helped prevent collusion with a foreign power – then such information in the report can be a lesson for Americans.

Last year, Mr. Mueller’s office indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies on charges of conspiracy to subvert the election. The fact that no Americans were indicted on similar charges speaks to something about a strong belief in the sovereignty and equality of democracy. If Trump officials did decide to protect the conditions for free debate among U. S. citizens, then they acted in their community’s interest.

“All politics is local,” the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said. And he might have added, all politics relies on local virtues. Perhaps opening the Mueller report to the public can serve a noble purpose.

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