While I was flying home from Israel yesterday, US Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s two-year-long investigation into President Trump and his aides.
The summary addressed the question America has been asking for the last 676 days: Did the president, or anyone working for him, conspire with Russia to influence the 2016 election in his favor? Further, did he or those working on his behalf attempt to obstruct federal investigations into this matter?
The significance of the Mueller report is enormous. If the special counsel determined that such collusion or obstruction took place, the ramifications for our democracy would be foundational and tragic.
What the report tells us
Mr. Mueller’s report was presented to the US attorney general, who in turn issued his summary. He noted that the special counsel employed nineteen lawyers who were assisted by approximately forty FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The special counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly five hundred search warrants, and interviewed approximately five hundred witnesses.
The special counsel’s investigation determined that a Russian organization known as the Internet Research Agency attempted to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the US “with the aim of interfering with the election.”
It also found that “Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries.”
However, Mr. Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
With regard to obstructing the investigation, the special counsel “did not draw a conclusion—one way or the other—as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction.” Instead, Mr. Mueller sets out evidence on both sides of the question and states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
This decision “leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.” Attorney General Barr, in consultation with other officials, determined that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
A threat that should concern every American
The essence of fallen human nature is the enthronement of self. It is seeking what is best for me at the expense of what is best for you.
Russian actors obviously felt it was in their personal and/or national best interests to interfere in our democratic process. Last year, the Mueller investigation charged twenty-five Russian intelligence operatives and social media manipulation experts. The final report makes clear their intent to influence the 2016 election.
This is a threat that should concern every American. Our right and ability to elect our leaders is foundational to our democracy. If foreign countries and actors can influence our votes and elections, our democracy is imperiled.
Closer to home, the responses we are seeing to Mr. Barr’s report are predictably partisan.
Republican leaders are claiming total vindication for the president. Congressional Democrats are calling for the attorney general to turn over all files related to the investigation; a co-founder of a Democratic support organization wrote on Twitter that Mr. Barr’s summary “is pure propaganda.”
It is unlikely that the Mueller report will change many minds. As the New York Times notes, “Opinions have hardened over time, with many Americans already convinced they knew the answers before Mr. Mueller submitted his conclusions.”
Three biblical responses
As Christians respond to this controversial issue, it is vital that we resist the temptation to put our political beliefs ahead of our public witness.
The special counsel’s report could help or hinder the spread of God’s kingdom in a variety of ways, but few of them relate directly to the president, Congress, or Russia. God’s plans for our country already took into account the findings of the report. He knew the truth long before Mr. Mueller did, and he knows what will continue to come from the proceedings.
Our Father is now calling on his children to reflect his character. Whether you are a supporter or a critic of the president and his administration, it is vital that you respond in ways that glorify our Lord and draw people to him.
Scripture prescribes three priorities in this regard.
One: We should respect the authority of the offices our leaders hold.
Paul’s injunction was clear: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Do your words regarding the president and other elected leaders respect their offices and authority?
Two: We should pray for our leaders.
Paul instructed us: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
When last did you pray for our president and other leaders?
Three: We should hold our leaders accountable to biblical character.
Jesus told his apostles, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). After washing his disciples’ feet, our Lord taught them, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
Are you praying for our leaders to be biblical servants?
Are you modeling such behavior for our culture?
As I often note, winning arguments is less important than winning souls. Frederick Faber was right: “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” As a result, in a culture so riven with partisan vitriol, the words of seventeenth-century English churchman Thomas Fuller are remarkably relevant: “Kindness is the noblest weapon to conquer with.”
How will you use it today?