Manafort Sentencing Underscores the Need for Transparent Results of Mueller Probe
During former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s sentencing hearing in federal court on Wednesday, his lawyers made a peculiar point: had it not been for Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the possibility of the Trump campaign’s cooperation or President Trump’s obstruction of justice, Manafort’s many crimes—his financial crimes, as well as his unregistered lobbying , his conspiracy to obstruct justice, and his conspiracy against the United States exemplified by his sharing of polling data during the campaign with Russian associate Konstantin Kilminik—would likely have never been discovered.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the Washington, D.C. District Court did not find the argument convincing in the way Manafort’s attorneys had intended—to argue for lessened sentencing. But the lawyers were absolutely correct that the public would likely know little to nothing about the crimes of Manafort and other associates of the Trump 2016 campaign were it not for the Mueller probe. Unintentionally, these lawyers effectively made the case that the special counsel’s investigation has been invaluable in helping the American public understand what happened in the attack on our elections, and that therefore we have a right to know the full extent of Mueller’s findings.
At present, the Mueller investigation has led to indictments and/or plea deals from 37 known defendants—including Manafort, as well as Trump’s former personal lawyer Michel Cohen, his former campaign aides George Papadopoulos and Rick Gates, his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and his longtime adviser Roger Stone. This has resulted in at least 199 criminal charges and five prison sentences already. The amount of criminal activity that the Mueller probe has uncovered and brought into public awareness is staggering.
It is clear that the special counsel’s office has been extremely effective in rooting out evidence of attacks made against the United States electoral system in the 2016 election as well as a number of other crimes. It is also clear based on what the public already knows about Mueller’s findings that the assault on our electoral system was massive, and we, the taxpayers who have funded the investigation, deserve to know the full scope of its findings. This, of course, may include evidence of whether or not our president knew about or took part in that assault, or acted to obstruct justice in covering it up—information which is absolutely critical for ensuring that our citizens feel they can trust our government.
Despite this, the president’s recently Senate-approved Attorney General, Bill Barr, has declined to commit to release the special counsel’s final conclusions in full to Congress and the public. Barr’s shakiness on this matter is not only morally indefensible—it is also deeply unpopular.
A recent poll shows that 81 percent of the public, including strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, support the public release of Mueller’s report. Thankfully, it appears that our members of Congress are listening to this public demand—today, a resolution to demand transparency on any final report made by the special counsel passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 420-0. The implications are clear: the public deserves to know everything that the Mueller probe has turned up.
Now it falls to the Senate to respond to the immense demand of the American people. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has obstructed previous efforts to protect the Mueller investigation, it is essential that he allow a vote on public transparency of Mueller’s findings. The Senate must vote on and pass the bipartisan Special Counsel Transparency Act introduced by Senators Blumenthal and Grassley.
Americans deserve to understand the details of Mueller’s findings without presidential spin. We deserve to know about the full scale of the assault on our electoral system, including details of President Trump’s possible criminal activity. We need to feel assured that in the United States, no one is above the law.