The Mueller investigation was no failure
Only by the extremely high standard of Watergate was it anticlimactic
[Read the full article in the Washington Post]
Anyone who had been holding out hope that the completion of the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III would signal the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency has had a pretty rough 24 hours. The banner headline for Monday’s print edition of The Washington Post sums it up: “Mueller finds no conspiracy.” Although the full report—unreleased—may not be as friendly to the Trump administration as Attorney General William P. Barr’s four-page summary, President Trump seems to have survived Mueller’s report. For all the time and money spent on the investigation, it ultimately failed.
Or so it seemed to some Americans convinced that members of the Trump campaign and administration, right to the very top, committed crimes and impeachable offenses. But the Mueller investigation was far from a failure. It only looks that way because we are so wedded to viewing alleged political wrongdoing through the lens of Watergate.
Seen through the lens of another scandal, the Iran-contra affair, the Mueller investigation looks very different: It produced impressive documentation of malfeasance, including numerous indictments.
In both instances, an irreproachable special prosecutor assiduously documented evidence of lawbreaking throughout a president’s inner circle, sent people to prison and left a detailed, damning record for history. And while Ronald Reagan and his vice president, George H.W. Bush, escaped indictments—just as Trump seems to have escaped a finding that he obstructed justice—very few people think the Iran-contra report vindicated Reagan.
To summarize: Over the past two years, Mueller sorted through the complex story of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Not only did he conclude that a foreign power indeed interfered in the race, Mueller also secured indictments against 34 people, including six members of the Trump campaign in both financial and election-related cases, with charges ranging from conspiracy to obstruction to making false statements to witness tampering. Everyone within U.S. jurisdiction who was indicted by Mueller has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty except for Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who is awaiting trial. (Mueller also charged 26 Russians in crimes including conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft; they remain at large.)