What happened between Donald Trump and Russia

The Mueller report The Russia affair continues

At the end of a weekend dedicated to the report that Special Investigator Mueller had handed over to the Justice Ministry on Friday afternoon - at the end of the nervous waiting for the Justice Minister's answer, events rolled over again.

It was 3:37 p.m. Sunday when the first breaking news flashed that Attorney General William Barr had given Congress his views on Robert Mueller's report.

It was 3:42 pm local time when the agencies reported that Mueller had been unable to detect any knowledgeable collusion between the Trump team and Russia during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

It was 4:43 pm local time when Donald Trump reported on Twitter: "No collusion! No obstruction of justice". "Complete and complete relief!"

This development not only put an end to the waiting this weekend. But also the speculation about the findings of the special investigator, which had kept the nation in suspense for 22 months. To anticipate: "Russiagate" does not end there. It is just opening a new chapter.

In a four-page statement, Attorney General William Barr summarized the findings of the special investigator, which Robert Mueller and his team of highly qualified prosecutors, money laundering experts and mafia hunters had compiled in 22 months of discreet, secretive work.

As a result, there is no evidence of conspiratorial collaboration between Donald Trump's campaign team and Russian forces. And this despite the fact that the Russian side has made several advances in this direction, as Mueller's report says.

No clear judgment on the allegation of obstruction of justice

Mueller came to a far less clear judgment in the second investigation complex: namely, on the question of whether Donald Trump hindered the work of the judiciary in order to make the investigation of the affair impossible. Mueller was unable to fully exonerate Donald Trump in this regard, according to the Justice Minister's letter. But what Mueller found is not enough to establish "that the president has committed the crime of obstruction of justice".

Trump did not miss the opportunity of this hour. Shortly before taking off from his golf weekend in Mar-o-Lago, he explained:

"It has just been announced: there was no cooperation with Russia. That was the greatest ridiculousness I have ever heard."

Donald Trump also claimed the "comprehensive and complete acquittal" of all allegations in terms of obstruction of the judiciary.

The Democratic chairman of the Justice Committee in the House of Representatives, Jerry Nadler, sees Trump as anything but exonerated by the Mueller report (Consolidated News Photos)

The reaction was not long in coming: the Democratic chairman of the Justice Committee in the House of Representatives, Jerry Nadler, vehemently contradicted Trump. He would be wrong in claiming that this report wholly exonerated him.

Special investigator Mueller made it clear that he could not exonerate Trump on all points. The statement by Attorney General Barr therefore raises more questions than answers, it said in a statement.

The Democrats summon the Justice Minister for a hearing in the Justice Committee. And urge him to submit the entire Robert Mueller report and all the documents and evidence that led him to his conclusions to Congress. One could not rely on a presentation that could prove to be a hasty, partisan interpretation of the facts.

The ball is now in the Justice Minister's field

After a total of 34 charges in this spectacular investigation, after five judgments, some with long prison sentences, and after seven confessions, it is clear: Robert Mueller will not bring any further charges in this case. The ball is now in the Justice Minister's field. He has the information monopoly and the authority to interpret the results of the investigation by special investigator Robert Mueller. It is William Barr, Donald Trump's recently appointed attorney general, who is now free to decide what information to pass on to Congress and to what extent the results of the investigation are made available to the public.

Over the past 22 months, parallels have repeatedly been drawn between Richard Nixon's Watergate affair and Donald Trump's Russia affair - which has already secured a place in the history books.

Chris Edelson, historian for the history of American presidents at American University in Washington D.C., sees the similarities between the two affairs in the criminal machinations of the election campaign teams of both presidents shortly before the upcoming elections - with or without the personal assistance of the respective top candidates.

Regardless of the officially attested non-conspiracy dealings with Russian interlocutors and regardless of the fact that Donald Trump himself was acquitted of the suspicion of illegal collaboration: It remains a bad aftertaste, says Chris Edelson.

"It's almost a little scary how Donald Trump got this presidency: that Russia intervened in the elections and Donald Trump vehemently denied every Russian cyber attack from the start. He praised Vladimir Putin and his authoritarian leadership style during the election campaign. He actively supported Putin's agenda, be it in his aim of undermining NATO or in defending Russian politics in Ukraine and Crimea. And he repeatedly attacked Robert Mueller. We still don't know what was really going on. That's quite strange. "

Trump's sympathy for Putin

Indeed, with his clearly displayed sympathy for Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump has repeatedly caused head shakes and international irritation.

Donald Trump raved about Vladimir Putin's assertiveness during the election campaign, while consistently alienating America's allies. Trump almost called on Russia to interfere in the election campaign.

The Russian hackers acted promptly and looked for Hillary Clinton's allegedly missing e-mails the next day. With that in mind, Special Counsel Mueller's investigation began in May 2017, days after President Trump fired James Comey.

The FBI chief had opened investigations into Russian machinations during the election campaign, about which he informed the president. A little later, Comey was fired by Trump. It was Deputy Justice Minister Rod Rosenstein who took the initiative at the time and appointed Robert Mueller as special investigator. Trump immediately recognized his bitterest enemy in special investigator Mueller.

There should never have been this Mueller investigation, the President declared time and time again.

Michael Zeldin is an American lawyer. Among other things, he was head of the money laundering department at the US Department of Justice and assistant to Robert Mueller. He notes that there were a large number of contacts and a clear interest in Russian expertise.

"The president, his consortium of companies and his campaign team were apparently very open to the possibilities of obtaining information from the Russians that was helpful to them and detrimental to Hillary Clinton's campaign. Whether these were actually secret agreements in the conspiratorial sense of an illegal one Cooperation, it is currently to be clarified. But the picture seems to be quite clear to me that there was a great openness to get relevant information from Russians and others. "

In the course of his investigations, Robert Mueller came across a network of greed, craving for recognition and stripping. Of the total of 34 defendants whom he called to account in the course of his investigation, most were Russian intelligence officers, hackers or Russian companies that he could not get hold of. In Donald Trump's environment, however, it was primarily four close employees and confidants who were of central importance to him.

Flynn, Cohen, Manafort and Stone

Michael Flynn, for example. Donald Trump's first national security advisor for just under three weeks. Until he stumbled upon his secret contacts with the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergei Kysliak. Michael Flynn was a kind of door opener for the special investigator in Donald Trump's inner circle of power, says attorney Zeldin.

"He lied to the president and the vice-president alike when it came to his contacts with the Russian ambassador. In fact, he talked to Kysliak about the sanctions against Russia and the possibility of easing them after Trump took office."

Michael Flynn confessed and cooperated with the Mueller team. The verdict is still pending.

Then there is Michael Cohen. Trump's former lawyer and "fixer" - his cleaner, the man for the rough. Before the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives, Cohen testified that he had been instigated by Donald Trump to commit various offenses - such as criminal hush money payments to models that could have been dangerous to Donald Trump in the election campaign. Cohen weighed heavily on Trump - be it because of his financial management or false information about the planned construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow. Michael Zeldin says:

"If Michael Cohen is to be believed, then he painted a picture of a president who is somewhat aloof from the truth - in a number of matters."

Cohen will face a three-year prison sentence in May.

Third, there is Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for tax evasion, bank fraud, influencing witnesses and illegally lobbying for the former Russia-friendly government of Ukraine. Manafort was supposed to be Mueller's most important key witness - because he was the campaign team's hinge to Russian contacts. But then Manafort played with marked cards.

Robert Mueller has determined 22 months (Prensa Internacional)

"Apart from the fact that Manafort is a criminal: He made the mistake of promising Mueller a collaboration and then disregarding the conditions. In a certain sense, you can call him a kind of double agent. He pretended to be cooperate with Mueller and at the same time passed on all information about Mueller's interrogation to Donald Trump's lawyers through the back door. "

And there is - fourth - Roger Stone. The political advisor will be put on trial in November - he is considered a "missing link" when there is evidence of direct contacts between the Trump team and the Wikileaks disclosure platform. Trump is said to have been informed via Stone when Wikileaks published new incriminating material about Hillary Clinton that Russian intelligence had hacked. Michael Zeldin said he was the Trump team's liaison with Russian negotiators.

"Because he earned his living from pro-Russian Ukrainians, he was an interface with Russian mediators and tried to influence them, support the Trump campaign and disrupt the Clinton campaign."

Four out of five defendants admitted to having had contact with Russian sources. But neither of them could Robert Mueller prove activities in the sense of a joint conspiracy with the Russian secret service against the United States of America. In fact, at least 14 confidants and employees of Donald Trump maintained close relationships with Russian contacts, business people and informants. Over 100 meetings are said to have taken place between them.

Riot in Congress cannot be ruled out

The Democrats now consider it all the more important to find out the whole truth: The contradictions and open questions that they identify in the Justice Minister's statement should not remain in the room, they say. The top priority in this situation is complete transparency, demands Jerry Nadler, the democratic chairman of the judicial committee.

Attorney General William Barr has promised to deal with the report as transparently as possible. But that he really does it in full is considered unlikely. This in turn raises legal concerns on the part of the Democrats. They insist that according to the constitution, Congress alone has the right to hold a president accountable - which is why Special Counsel Mueller should not have charged the incumbent president even if he had wanted to. But if the attorney general decides to withhold information so that Congress cannot get a comprehensive picture of the investigation results, that would be tantamount to a "cover up", says Jerry Nadler. So: a cover-up. Fogging. Concealment.

"If you can't indict the president because of the legal situation, then you can't hold him accountable. The only institution that can do that is Congress, and if you deny him the evidence, it's like a cover-up. "

US Attorney General William P. Barr must now decide what to do next (Consolidated News Photos)

It is now up to Justice Minister Barr alone to bring the proceedings to a positive conclusion or to turn the Mueller investigation into a political explosive device. Withholding information from Congress and the public in order to possibly protect the president would not only deepen the crisis of confidence in the state and its institutions, many say. It would also be the direct route to a veritable constitutional crisis, because Congress would be denied the securitized control rights and obligations. The lawyer Michael Zeldin sees the country on the cusp of an impending riot.

"If Mueller's report is not made fully available, and if the reasons for his conclusions are not made transparent, there will be an uproar in Congress - and the American public too: They too will want to understand what is going on in the last two Years ago. "

However, with the Mueller Report, the Russia affair is by no means over. The Democrats have already announced that they will step up their efforts to obtain full clarification in the committees of the House of Representatives and significantly expand their mandate: They also want to deal with the financial conduct of the President, for example. Or with possible conflicts of interest between official and business interests.

However, the Democrats run the risk of negotiating the accusation that, according to Robert Mueller, it is now they who are organizing a "witch hunt" on Donald Trump.

"After Watergate, this is the second political trauma in 50 years"

From now on, the Democrats will have to repeatedly defend and prove the political legitimacy of their actions. However, they have prosecutors in New York State, Virginia and Washington DC on their side. The entire Trump family and their extensive business relationships are now in the crosshairs of public prosecutor's investigations.

All of this adds up to a picture of a president who openly questions the authority of his own constitutional state and the separation of powers, as became increasingly clear in the course of this affair. Who undermines the credibility of his institutions and denies his representatives any legitimacy; who always digs new political rifts and drives the wedge deeper and deeper into society.

The historian Chris Edelson therefore sees all the symptoms of a simmering national crisis under Donald Trump's presidency. He believes the United States is facing a major test. The political system is at stake.

"After Watergate, this is the second political trauma in fifty years. And for a country like this, that's a lot. As an American living in the United States, I find it really difficult to say that. But I can't." guarantee that the political system will survive. "