Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on 2016 election interference may not change opinions of Donald Trump but local political experts say the ensuing debate could have an impact on who captures the presidency in 2020.
Mueller delivered the results Friday of an investigation into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Then on Sunday, the Justice Department delivered a summary of Mueller’s findings to the House Judiciary Committee.
The report’s submission ended a two-year saga that, at times, pitted Trump against his own Justice Department. The investigation’s end lifts a cloud that has hung over nearly the entirety of Trump’s presidency, which he has ridiculed as a “witch hunt.”
The “whole ball game” will likely rest on whether the report will be released to the American people, who see it as an investment of their tax dollars, said Paul Leonard, a political science professor at Wright State University and former democratic mayor of Dayton. When asked Monday about whether Mueller’s report should be released to the public, Trump said it “wouldn’t bother me at all.”
“Whether you live in Ohio or you live elsewhere it would seem to me that every citizen in the United States…needs to have access to the information in that report,” Leonard said. “The credibility of the federal government depends on it.”
It’s not clear when, if ever, the report will be released to the public but its details could become vital to the electorate next year, said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the center for political studies at Cedarville University.
Congressman Mike Turner, R-Dayton, is one of several politicians who have called for Mueller’s report to be made public. Turner previously voted to make public all of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigative information on the subject.
“I think the bottom line has to be that the substance and the facts that were reviewed, the conclusions and recommendations, all of that information needs to be public so that both congress and the American public can see it and be confident in its conclusions,” Turner said.
Several politicians running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have also called for the report to be made public in the coming days.
Though the report’s summary didn’t “exonerate” Trump, it didn’t establish that a crime was committed. Trump will likely use this, Smith said, as “another weapon” against his rivals in the 2020 election.
“Whether you agree with him or not, this report will give him more ammunition,” Smith said. “It makes his re-election more likely than it was before.”
In Barr’s summary, Mueller said there was no evidence Trump “was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.” But, on the question of obstruction of justice, the summary stated ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The next battle over the investigation will be about what the Mueller report says in regards to obstruction, said Leonard. In the near future Democrats, Leonard said, will have to choose whether to continue investigating and criticizing Trump over his campaign’s Russia connections.
“I think the Democrats were dancing on the grave of Donald Trump a little bit too early,” Leonard said. “I think that’s going to have to change if the Democratic Party wants to have integrity going into the next election.”