Now Let's Hear Who Authorized Spying on the Trump Campaign | Opinion

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Van Andel Arena on March 28, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan Scott Olson/Getty Images

The best response to the infamous Mueller Report may have come Tuesday from Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In an interview with CNBC, the defeated presidential candidate said, "Any other person who had engaged in those acts would certainly have been indicted" for obstruction of justice.
Mrs. Clinton, it should be recalled, found herself repeatedly under investigation for things ranging from her investments in cattle futures to her use of a private email server to send and receive government documents cleared marked "confidential." She has routinely escaped indictment, relying on a coterie of lawyers, close associates, and political figures to bail her out of trouble each time she got into it. For her to point that finger now at President Donald Trump calls to mind the old maxim about pots and kettles.

Her entry into the fray mandates a broader discussion of the Mueller Report and the events leading up to its production. As people may soon come to understand, it is not a stand-alone document. It is one-third of a three-act play, with the last portion yet to be written.

Act I was the investigation, broadly defined, and what followed into Mrs. Clinton's emails. Act II is Mueller's report. Act III, if it comes to be, will show how the prior acts interconnect on various levels and why they should not be considered separately.

There's been considerable confusion over the Mueller Report's conclusion. It's important to remember it is the product of experienced prosecutors, experts at alleging guilt on the part of those under investigation. The "conclusions" are in fact allegations, not evidence.

Prosecutors can allege what they believe they might be able to convince a jury to accept as true. A commission like the one convened after 9/11 could present its conclusions as fact. Mueller's team could not. Alleging and convicting are not one and the same, which is why not being able to allege is persuasive evidence no misdeeds occurred.

In other words, the issue isn't accuracy as much as whether it is proven. Intent matters.

What we can be certain of is that the Russians attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by using social media to spread untruths and propaganda. It may not have been the first time but as far as the current inquiry goes no evidence was found to show Mr. Trump, any official of his campaign or, as Attorney General William Barr was careful to emphasize in his press conference, any American, conspired with the Russians to pull it off.

On the first count then, the one for which the investigation was originally opened, the president and his associates are not guilty. That's not the way prosecutors or legal scholars might put it but, for ordinary Americans like you and me, that's how it came down.
Then there's the matter of what for convenience and economy can be referred to as "Count Two," the question of whether the president or anyone under his authority acted in ways to constitute efforts to obstruct the pursuit of justice.

This presumes justice was what the Mueller task force after in the first place. There's considerable evidence, however, including the emails exchanged by the FBI's Peter Strzock and Lisa Page, they may not have been. People smarter than me have suggested the whole business was simply an effort to trap the president in what is known as a "process crime" that could lead to him leaving office in some manner.

Such things are not unheard of. It wasn't so long ago that partisans favorable to Bill Clinton and his interests called the Paula Jones case nothing more than a "perjury trap" intended to ensnare the 42nd president of the United States.

Much has been made of the Justice Department policy—ironically first conceived during the Clinton administration—that sitting presidents can't be indicted. That provision notably was never invoked in the Mueller Report. In fact, as Attorney General Barr said in his press conference, the allegations failed without regard to it.

One can presume that if there'd been a "smoking gun" someone within Mueller's orbit would have fired it a second time to draw attention to it. What we're left with is a whole bunch of questions regarding the FBI's spying on the Trump campaign, the provenance of the so-called Steele dossier, the assurances made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court to secure the warrants that authorized the spying, who paid for it all, what actions members of the Obama Administration (especially those who expected to stay on or be promoted to more important jobs after Hillary Clinton won the election) may have taken to facilitate or even initiate it all and more. That's all for Act III, which Attorney General Barr has promised he will initiate.

Let's hope he does. The future of free elections and our system of government may depend on it.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.