A final report released by special counsel Robert Mueller on a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has shed light on U.S. President Donald Trump's desperate efforts to suppress the investigation.
The report covered allegations that Russia was involved in hacking and the release of damaging material on Trump's presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, with the aim of ensuring that Trump won the presidential election in 2016.
The report did not confirm any conspiracy between Russia and Trump's election campaign team. But it stopped short of determining whether Trump had obstructed course of justice, and said it was not possible to conclude that no criminal conduct occurred.
Standing out were Trump's numerous attempts to sabotage the investigation. According to the report, Trump urged Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey to discontinue an investigation into a former aide to the president, and demanded he declare that the president was not subject to the investigation. Trump dismissed Comey after the FBI chief refused to comply.
When the Department of Justice first appointed Mueller as special counsel, Trump uttered, "This is the end of my presidency." The president then instructed White House Counsel Don McGahn to compile a document to dismiss Mueller, but McGahn refused to comply and resigned. Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to supervise the investigation into the scandal, but dismissed Sessions because he stuck to his position of not intervening in the probe.
Mueller did not pass clear judgment on whether Trump obstructed the investigation while confirming all these facts, apparently because it was difficult to prove Trump's intentions behind these moves. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution has traditionally been interpreted as banning law enforcers from prosecuting any incumbent president.
Still, even though Trump's acts were not recognized as crimes, it is clear that he lacked morality as president -- a role demanding fairness -- and damaged the dignity of the U.S. presidency. Trump cannot evade his moral and political responsibility.
McGahn compared the series of events to the 1973 Saturday Night Massacre in which then President Richard Nixon ordered then Attorney General Elliot Richardson to dismiss Archibald Cox as independent special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal, but Richardson refused to comply and stepped down.
In the latest series of events, relief came through McGahn's presence as a high-ranking official in the administration who abided by the law and refused to comply with unreasonable orders, having learned lessons from the past scandal. His stance prevented Mueller from being dismissed and the probe from being discontinued.
The report mentioned the Congress' role of monitoring the president's abuse of power. Trump emphasizes that the case is finished. However, the opposition Democratic Party is demanding that Mueller be summoned to testify before the Congress over the scandal. Clearly it is impossible to bring the curtain down on the case.