The day we had all been waiting for finally came: Robert Mueller finished his investigation of collusion and obstruction of justice within the Trump administration and submitted his report to the Attorney General for review.

What happened next was exactly what I feared would happen: the media completely bungling the coverage. Despite the extensive coverage of the indictments, the speculations on the release date and the contents of the report, media organizations from every inch of the ideological spectrum have done a horrendous job reacting, interpreting and presenting the conclusion of the investigation and Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the report.

Let’s first be clear about what we know about the report. The special counsel, throughout its investigation, indicted 37 people. Amongst those indicted are the president’s campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, former national security adviser, personal lawyer and various advisors to the president and his presidential campaign. This investigation was not a wash. Many crimes were uncovered.

The report is over 300 pages long. Barr summarized the report in four pages. This summary highlights that there are no further indictments to be sought, no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian Government and the Special Counsel was unable to draw concrete conclusions on obstruction of justice but that does not mean the President is exonerated. It was then up to the AG to decide if the report shows a crime was committed, and under Barr’s judgment there were none.

This is where I get mad. Many headlines, even ones in respectable news sources like the New York Times, have failed to contextualize the summary and the findings. These are two separate entities. We have seen a total of 101 words from the official Mueller report. We have absolutely no idea what this report digs into and what it truly concludes. The summary of the report was written by William Barr. This is a man who was installed as AG barely a month ago after he auditioned for the job with an unprompted 19-page memorandum on his belief that presidents cannot be indicted. This memo was longer than the summary he wrote. The race to publish failed the American citizens and dropped the ball on how to handle this situation. The lack of context is disconcerting. It makes me fear the lessons of the 2016 election have not been learned.

Not all is lost. The next month will be a test to see if the press can handle the battle for the release and the aftermath of the information. The report apparently does not find collusion or clear obstruction of justice that could lead to criminal charges. Neither did the report that detailed the crimes of Watergate. The report suggested Congress draw up articles of impeachment. Without the full release of the report, we can only dream that Mueller’s does, too. In the age of clickbait and fast news, the media better start preparing now for what is possible to come. Again, I emphasize, context is key.

On April 1, Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, published an editorial outlining his commitment to see to the release of the full report. This is promising. What is frustrating to me is Democratic leaders pivoting away from this pressing is- sue. Leader James Clyburn (D-SC) made a statement outlining the “closed” chapter that is the Mueller probe and that we should return focus on “the No. 1 thing on people's minds”: healthcare. This is unproductive and insulting to the American people. We can care about more than one issue at the time. Healthcare is an important issue. The Democratic Party’s focus on it won us the House of Representatives. We can’t ignore pressing issues like healthcare, gun law reform or criminal justice reform. But we can’t shy away from the findings of the Mueller report. The 2020 Election is the most important election of this generation. We need to be prepared on all fronts if we are to win back our government and save this democracy.

The American people deserve to read the full report. The Ken Starr report was a New York Times best-selling book. Just imagine if the Mueller report hit shelves tomorrow.

Contact Glynnis Harvey at gharvey@colgate.edu.

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