The Truth About The Mueller Report: Collusion Still A Maybe

Main / Thursday, June 27th, 2019

At this point you’ve been hiding under a rock if you haven’t heard the oft-repeated Republican talking point about the trainwreck that is our presidency: “Happy no collusion day!” Of course as is so often the case with those who keep Fox News playing in the background throughout the day, the Mueller Report didn’t actually specify whether or not Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian officials to take the election — Attorney General William Barr is the one who said that out loud, and Mueller later reemerged to say that Barr gravely mischaracterized the report.

No kidding.

There is no such thing as “collusion” legally speaking, which is why the Mueller Report didn’t investigate it. Instead, Mueller focused on criminal conspiracy, which is very much a real thing. 

In law, criminal conspiracy is a charge that represents an unlawful agreement between two parties (or more) to actively commit a crime. The charge of criminal conspiracy does not require those who make the agreement to actually commit the crime. In the United States, criminal conspiracy also occurs when two people act illegally to succeed in a legal goal. 

The Mueller Report is firm in its findings that Russia attempted to interfere and succeeded in interfering during the 2016 presidential election, and was systematic in doing so. In addition, the report establishes the many instances during which members of the Trump campaign were connected to Russia — many of which went undisclosed to the public or, eventually, the investigation.

According to the Mueller Report, none of these seemingly obscure connections were enough to establish criminal conspiracy (to affect the outcome of the election from the Trump end). But does that mean the Mueller Report confirmed the lack of collusion? Not quite. It’s also worth noting that the burden of proof sets an unimaginably high bar in criminal court, which would undoubtedly be even higher when attempting to indict a sitting president (or one who had since been impeached).

The report does say that the Trump campaign and Russia were working toward the same ends.

In 2016, Trump said he wouldn’t mind if Russia found tens of thousands of emails that were reported missing during the Clinton investigation. According to the Mueller Report, it was less than five hours before Russian hackers attempted to do exactly that. Both these events happened in the same time frame during which Trump asked Michael Flynn to make an attempt to find the emails as well.

Because “collusion” isn’t a legal term, it means there is no bar high enough that we can’t easily decide these events — and many more just like them detailed in the report — don’t show the Trump campaign publicly and blatantly open to Russian interference and, even, help. Mueller has strongly implied that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings. There’s a reason.