One media commentator adequately summed up Thursday’s fascination with the Mueller report in a single tweet:
“Judging by my Twitter feed, the #MuellerReport is nothing more than a 400-page Rorschach test.”
The quip has truth to it. It’s unlikely opinions have moved much between the release of Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary and Thursday’s release of the full, albeit partially redacted, report from the Justice Department. Nor does there seem to be any new evidence to prove the claim President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to help him win the White House.
While journalists, congressional committees and lawyers rightly pore over the report’s minutia and explore lingering and potentially damaging obstruction of justice claims against the president, now is as good a time as any for the general public to regain a proper focus of the events that have transpired.
House Democrats have the right and responsibility to call for hearings where there are legitimate concerns to explore. They have the constitutional responsibility for oversight. However, if they weaponize hearings for political purposes, that will distract the country from more crucial conversations — debt and the deficit, immigration and health care.
Then there's Russia. Utah Democrat Rep. Ben McAdams noted, “If the conclusion remains that there is no further criminal wrongdoing, I think we should, as a country, move on and ensure that Russia cannot interfere again.”
That’s the logical conclusion the country has missed.
Russia clearly meddled in the 2016 elections and compromised aspects of American democracy. Holding those actors accountable while shoring up technological weak spots in the U.S. elections systems should be the universal focus of lawmakers now.
Underestimating Russia has proven a worrisome trend. Then-candidate Mitt Romney received heaps of ridicule from President Barack Obama in 2012 for identifying Russia as the greatest threat to America. The Mueller investigation ought to elevate those concerns to a prominent pedestal.
Meanwhile, Mueller deserves recognition for performing impeccable work and setting the standard for how future investigations should be carried out. For nearly two years, Mueller has been a hero to the left and potential villain to the right. Now those perceptions have flipped, which means he probably got it right.
His work also emphasizes foreign threats to the country. Russia may have failed in ultimately undermining the 2016 election, but it succeeded in planting seeds of discord. Trust in government and institutions has suffered as a result, and if that distrust is allowed to creep into America’s neighborhoods and communities, Russia will have won.
Tough work sits on the horizon for everyone. Congress must investigate legitimate issues, and officials must make sure the election system is secure and that foreign powers don’t get away with compromising U.S. democracy. For the rest of the country, keeping communities free from the stain of discord would be a proper outlet for their frustration.