By some measures, President Donald Trump had a pretty good weekend. Whether he’ll have a good year, though, remains to be seen.
The short summary Attorney General William Barr penned when Robert Mueller ended his 22-month inquiry into Trump’s inner circle relieved the president from allegations that his campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Barr also wrote that the special counsel’s mixed evidence indicating Trump may have obstructed the Russia investigation didn’t rise to the level of a crime (according to Barr, Mueller demurred on drawing a conclusion about obstruction).
But Trump’s still under the magnifying glass. The release of the summary didn't silence his most ardent critics, and in fact it heightened the question of whether the full Mueller report documents wrongdoing that might fall short of outright criminality.
“Congress of the United States doesn’t engage in criminal prosecution,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told VICE News in an interview. “So we’re much less interested in the narrow question of statutory offenses than we are in the broader question of obstruction of justice, abuse of power and corruption.”
And while Democrats call for the full report to see what Barr didn’t say, there are multiple other investigations percolating. The bottom line? The president’s legal troubles are far from over.
Here’s what to expect next:
Democrats demand transparency
Whether it takes a lawsuit or a congressional inquiry, Democrats and some Republicans will continue fighting for Mueller’s full report — including the underlying evidence he gathered.
The Barr letter on its own raises big questions about what led Mueller to say he couldn’t make a determination on the obstruction issue, and Barr’s decision that the behavior documented by Mueller wasn’t criminal. Trump was never interviewed by the special counsel and reportedly gave written answers to questions only about potential conspiracy with Russians — not obstruction.
“To me, the memo raises a lot more questions than it answers,” Raskin told VICE News. “And I’m just unwilling to accept this CliffsNotes version of the Mueller report.”
The Democrat-controlled House plans to bring Barr before Congress for sworn testimony.
Democrats also want to see the evidence — interview transcripts and documents obtained by subpoena, for example — that Mueller used to reach his findings.
These are only Democrats’ most recent demands for transparency. Even before the report dropped on Barr’s desk late Friday, Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had asked for records from 81 people and entities tied to Trump, from his adult sons to his real estate company. Mueller was empowered to specifically probe the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians, but the records requests went far beyond Russia, extending into allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
Some legal experts saw the requests as an opening salvo toward impeaching the president. Democrats, though, are split on this issue: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she doesn’t support impeachment proceedings, while some prominent freshmen have been full-tilt on it — although it remains to be seen how Barr’s letter might affect that.
Campaign finances, and finances during the campaign
Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York took down Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. And they’re not done yet.
Cohen pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and a litany of other money-related crimes in August. He admitted to orchestrating hush-money payments, shortly before the election, to two women who said they’d had affairs with Trump. And he also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline of a plan to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow, hiding that development talks continued well into the campaign.
But, in the course of his testimony before Congress last month, Cohen also implicated Trump in at least 11 different felonies. He alleged that Trump indirectly, “in his own way,” directed him to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow development deal. He accused Trump of insurance fraud, alleging that the president made false claims about the worth of his assets to reduce premiums. And he has also repeatedly alleged that Trump directed him to pay the hush money. (In a December court filing, prosecutors also alleged Trump directed these payments.)
Meanwhile, the Southern District of New York is reportedly tracking the money that flowed into Trump’s inaugural committee to determine whether any of the payments were from outside the U.S. In February, the U.S. attorney’s office issued a subpoena requesting documents relating to the record-high $107 million sent to the committee behind the January 2017 inauguration. Reportedly, prosecutors are investigating allegations of money laundering and election fraud.
Separately, some cases that Mueller couldn’t complete or chose to hand off, such as the final hearings and sentencing of Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, will be turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C.
New York state interrogates Trump’s businesses
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into Trump’s business entities is still ongoing, and it has already led to the closure of the Trump Foundation. (The probe was opened in August by the previous New York attorney general, Barbara Underwood.) New York alleges the charitable arm of Trump’s ventures violated state law and that the president used cash from the foundation to settle disputes into his own businesses.
The Trump Foundation shut down in December, and its remaining assets were donated to other nonprofit groups. The state is still seeking restitution of $2.8 million and a 10-year ban on Trump and his three eldest children running charities.
James is looking into Cohen’s allegations that Trump misstated the value of his assets, according to the New York Times. The state reportedly subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for a wide range of documents last month.
Republicans seize the moment
Despite all this, the White House and many Republicans are declaring the president exonerated. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, assured Sunday that “the cloud hanging over President Trump has been removed by this report.” He then promptly proposed moving on to other investigations into Trump’s opponents, or the probe’s origins (a move the president and his son Don Jr. also called for on Sunday). Graham even floated the idea of Barr appointing yet another special counsel.
Graham’s concerns center around allegations that some FBI agents were biased against Trump and therefore unfairly sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against former Trump adviser Carter Page. The FBI believed Page was, at worst, a foreign agent for Russia.
“I’d like to find somebody like a Mr. Mueller that can look into what happened with the FISA warrant, what happened with the counterintelligence investigation,” Graham told reporters Monday.
Cover: President Donald Trump listens to remarks from Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu on March 25. (Photo by Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images)