Mueller’s Own Mysteries

Little-noted aspects of the first volume of the Mueller report.

By Stephen F. Cohen

May 03, 2019 "Information Clearing House" -   Special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III’s two-volume “Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” is not an easy read—not unlike those manuals that come boxed with “easy to assemble” multipart children’s toys on Christmas Eve. Nonetheless, considering the exceedingly damaging effects Russiagate has had on America at home and abroad for nearly three years, the report will long be studied for what it reveals and does not reveal, what it includes and does not include.

Because of my own special interest in Russia, I read carefully the first volume, which focuses on that country’s purported role in the scandal. I came away with as many questions about the report as about the role of Moscow and that of candidate and then President Donald Trump. To note a few:

§ Mueller begins, on Page 1, with this assertion: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” Maybe so, but Mueller, who is not averse to editorializing and contextualizing elsewhere in the report, gives readers no historical background or context for this large generalization. In particular, was the interference—or “meddling,” as media accounts characterize it—more or less “sweeping and systematic” than was Washington’s military intervention in the Russian civil war in 1918 or its very intrusive campaign to reelect Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1996—or, on the other side of the ledger, the role of the Soviet-backed American Communist Party in US politics in the 20th century? That is, what warranted a special investigation of this episode in a century of mutual American-Russian interference in the other’s politics? Put somewhat differently: Readers might wonder if, had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, there even would have been a Russiagate and Mueller investigation.


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