In Mueller’s Report, Look for Obstruction of Elections, Not Just Obstruction of Justice

Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The submission of the Mueller Report, and Attorney General William Barr’s four-page cliff notes, sure ignited a firestorm in Washington, D.C. But the real goal for both parties should be to employ the rational choice model and start by securing our elections.

The Rationality and Rationale of the Mueller Report

The rational choice theory is something political scientists borrow from economists. It starts with identifying your goals, and then goes on to identifying options to achieve those goals. The third step involves assigning costs and benefits to those goals. Finally, one determines the best option as the one with the most benefits and the fewest costs. It sounds simple, but people sometimes get it wrong.

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Often times, people confuse tactics (a plan to achieve the goal) with the strategy (the goal itself).  We have to understand why the Mueller Report was created, in order to understand what it found and what should happen next.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was tapped to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. And he was able to secure a lot of indictments against Russians, Russian institutions and companies.

Critics complain about the cost, $25 million of the Mueller Report, but it was far less than the Ken Starr-Robert Ray report which cost $70 million, or the Iran-Contra report by Lawrence Walsh which reached nearly $50 million. Heck, Donald Smaltz’s investigation of former Agricultural Secretary Mike Espy alone was $17 million. Mueller’s findings should be priceless for our democracy considering what it could do to protect our country from foreign manipulation.

The Goal Behind the Full Release of the Mueller Report

Mueller did net some indictments against Trump’s former campaign manager and some associates of the president. So far, we haven’t seen any of those nail Trump himself. But remember, the goal of the investigation wasn’t to prosecute Trump for something.

Democrats who were hoping the Mueller Report would lead to enough evidence to indict Trump are highly likely to be disappointed. They are pressing for the whole Mueller Report to be made public. But here’s what they need to do this time: stop building up the release of the Mueller Report as something potentially capable of indicting the president. Additionally, they need to resist the pleadings by some to “move on” from the Mueller Report to other investigations of Trump.

Republicans certainly breathed a sigh of relief that Trump is not facing direct charges, even though the report “did not exonerate him” of obstruction of justice.

Democrats have called for a full release of the report, something Trump has resisted, calling it “a waste of time.” Support for the release of the report is overwhelming (at least 75 percent). But to what end? How can we use the lessons from this report in a way that can help protect the country without falling into yet another partisan battle?

Republicans and Democrats should focus on what should have been the goal all along: investigating the 2016 election and foreign interference, looking for evidence of crimes, and the most important factor—protecting future elections from other countries.

The evidence which has been uncovered, which is substantial, is vital for not only securing tangible prosecutions, but also for crafting new legislation that can protect our democratic elections. Few things could be more vital for our country, and those who resist the urge to implement such reforms clearly don’t have much of a rationale anymore, as 2016 was the election most penetrated by foreign sources in our nation’s history. As the details come out, it should be clear that anyone opposing protections for our elections hopes to benefit from foreign influence, and shouldn’t be serving in office anymore.

I’m sure some will still search for any charges of obstruction of justice against the president. But right now, we need our elected officials to prevent the obstruction of our elections. That should be the top goal of our country.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia—read his full bio here.

In Mueller’s Report, Look for Obstruction of Elections, Not Just Obstruction of Justice