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Limited exoneration

It is still rather uncertain whether the charge of Russian collusion can be further prosecuted in court.

Editorial | New Delhi |

The world can almost hear a quiet chuckle from Donald Trump’s White House to Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin over the report of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, on the alleged Russian meddling in Election 2016 of the United States of America. As Moscow was riveted to ensuring Hillary Clinton’s defeat ~ there are no two opinions on the primary goalpost ~ it is the former First Lady who must be quite the most upset with the findings. Comment on whether President Trump has eventually scored a moral victory must await the release of the report in its entirety… if at all. Markedly on Monday, only a summary or excerpt was furnished for public consumption, not merely in the US but the world in the wider canvas. Small wonder that the euphoria in Washington is unmistakably subdued. Suffice it to register that the Mueller report deserves more than a truncated version not the least because of the two years and the effort expended on crafting the document that is of pivotal importance to the presidency, indeed the country’s constitutional development. This is not to forget the shake-up of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that was effected by Trump two years ago. It is urgently imperative, therefore, that the full report is made public. The document is generally believed to be lengthy and complicated. A measure of relief has of course been granted to a beleaguered President in the aftermath of a shutdown and the legislative denouement in the midterm election. “Total exoneration” must still be a long way away, however. The time for presidential grandstanding is not yet.

It is still rather uncertain whether the charge of Russian collusion can be further prosecuted in court. Not wholly unrelated is whether the charge of what they call “obstruction of justice” is warranted. Mr Mueller, according to the US attorney-general, William Barr, found “no smoking gun on the charge of Russian conspiracy”. Perhaps not many will readily buy this argument. Not the least because the former FBI director has indicted, convicted or elicited guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies, including top advisers to Mr Trump and his Kremlin acolytes. Yet the special counsel did not think he could prove that the Trump campaign committed a crime in aiding Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 election. Mr Mueller could not make the charge stick. However, Congress ~ with a Democrat helming the House of Representatives ~ can do the needful. It is hard to prove “corrupt intent”. If indeed Mr Mueller found there was no crime, then how could justice be obstructed? While it is possible for a President to obstruct justice, the responsibility devolves on Congress to review any findings of misconduct and whether or not presidential acts are acceptable. Members of Congress must be able to consider all the evidence, including that which is publicly known, to decide whether Donald Trump’s “obstructive behaviour” went beyond management of the executive. The last word is yet to be pronounced.