After 675 days of endless speculation and pontificating, we have a verdict … no collusion! According to Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary letter of the Mueller report, “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” This is the same conclusion that both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee reached in their investigations. Moreover, this is the conclusion of an investigator championed by the mainstream media—someone whom a Washington Post columnist and senior fellow with the Council on Foreign relations described as being “universally respected for his integrity and doggedness”, adding that “the Marine combat veteran cannot be bought off or intimidated.” Nevertheless, numerous cable news personalities responded to the news by assuring us that this is only the beginning, not the end. Perhaps late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel best summed-up their response to the news, “Now the process of tearing our country even further apart can finally begin.”
Partisan politics and disagreements over how best to govern our country are as old as our nation, but the division surrounding Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion is unique with a large swath of Americans actually hoping for proof that our president or any of his aides coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Despite this, many expected that a process of reunification would begin with the completion of Robert Mueller’s report. Instead, the country continues to fracture into ideological camps, largely along party lines. Even our most trusted institutions have divided, choosing sides because of political ideology. We are a nation that is deeply divided.
Robert Mueller’s investigation prompted more than 533,000 web articles according to NewsWhip data cited by Axios. For nearly two years, these articles have kept social media ablaze, generating approximately 245 million likes, comments, and shares on Twitter and Facebook. America’s obsession with Mueller’s investigation is unprecedented. Together, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC published an average of nearly 13 articles a day for almost two years.
This frenzy of reporting combined with countless hours of commentary on network and cable news channels, incessant calls for impeachment from politicians, and assurances from Congressional committee members that there is overwhelming non-circumstantial evidence that President Trump colluded with Russia has made countless Americans resolute in their judgment of President Trump.
After years of prosecuting the President in the court of public opinion, most Americans drew their own staunch conclusions long before Mueller’s investigation was finished. According to a Fox News poll completed before Mueller submitted his report to the attorney general on March 22, 2019, 47% of Democrats and 39% of Republicans say there is no chance Mueller’s report could change their opinion of whether President Trump colluded with Russia. Again, a comedian best summed-up this sentiment when Bill Maher told America, “I don’t need the Mueller report to know that he’s a traitor. I have a TV.”
Following news that Mueller had submitted his report, presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke declared at a town hall meeting, “You have a president, who, in my opinion, beyond the shadow of a doubt, sought to—however ham-handedly—collude with the Russian government—a foreign power—to undermine and influence our elections.” Likewise, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) insisted, “We know there was collusion” in a Sunday interview with CNN’s Dana Bash. And House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) told ABC’s George Stephanopolis that there is “compelling and incriminating evidence that should be shared with the American people”, and The Washington Post, “Undoubtedly there is collusion.”
Regrettably, the Mueller report has fueled such tenacity by empowering those who refuse to accept anything short of a guilty verdict. Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel specifically to determine, yes or no, whether according to his investigation President Trump or any of his aides had conspired with Russia and whether the President had obstructed the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference. To accomplish this, he was assigned 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other staff, and he assembled an all-star team of 19 attorneys described as being “the most elite, finest federal prosecutors in the entire country.” Together, they issued 2,800 subpoenas, interviewed 500 witnesses, executed nearly 500 search warrants, and spent $25 million dollars. Despite this, Mueller failed to accomplish his primary task, instead writing, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
According to Attorney General William Barr’s summary letter, rather than make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment … as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction”, the report “sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.”
Given the political climate surrounding this report, Mueller’s failure to make a legal recommendation could do nothing but further sow seeds of division throughout our country. This is why attorney and Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz chastised Mueller, saying, “This is precisely what prosecutors should not do. Shame on Mueller for not having the guts to come to a decision one way or the other. That’s what prosecutors are paid to do.” According to Dershowitz:
I thought it was a cop-out for him to say that there was not enough evidence to indict, but it’s not an exoneration, and we’re going to put a report out on obstruction. We’re going to put a report out that says on the one hand—on the other hand. It sounds like a law school exam. That’s not the job of the prosecutor. The job of the prosecutor is to decide yes or no. Make a decision. And then if you say yes, you indict. If you say no, you shut up. You don’t go on and say, “No we’re not going to indict, but let me tell you all the evidence that might have led us to indict.” That’s exactly what prosecutors shouldn’t do. That’s exactly what Comey did. How is this different from Comey? Comey says, “I’m not going to indict Hillary Clinton, but let me tell you it was a close case. She had all of this stuff, and she was extremely careless, and she did terrible things, but we’re not going to indict her. That’s not what prosecutors do.
Essentially, Alan Dershowitz argues that Mueller’s report can accomplish nothing but politicized speculation and division—regardless of whether it is made public. Rather than provide the non-partisan legal conclusion, as our nation had hoped, Robert Mueller has virtually guaranteed that our national rifts will remain according to what each person has already determined the truth to be. And now Republicans appear to be readying a counter-offense. Some are even advocating that investigations into Hillary Clinton be re-opened.
Our nation desperately needs justice, but we cannot afford to permit the continued weaponization of our Department of Justice. There is a vindictive spirit that must be rejected for the sake of our nation. After all, Jesus warned in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Regardless of how we may feel regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation or his conclusions, it is time that we stop viewing our fellow Americans as enemies.
We find ourselves in a transitional moment of history. How we proceed in these coming weeks will likely determine the next few years. Will our nation move into further division, or will we once again become a nation united? Here are a few steps to guide us in these coming weeks:
- Cherish truth
Despite how we may feel about it, truth is liberating (John 8:32). Sometimes that truth is good news, and sometimes it is not. Regardless, we ought to champion and cherish truth, and we ought to reject that which is not true.
We now know that the biggest names in news have been—wittingly or unwittingly—fueling a false narrative. The New York Times and The Washington Post were even awarded Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of something that we now know did not exist. Nevertheless, the mainstream media refuses to be held to account. The famed reporter Carl Bernstein has only doubled-down, calling the media’s coverage of the Trump administration “one of the greatest reporting jobs in history”, blaming any distortions and mistakes entirely on the President and those around him.
Our nation’s guardians of truth have forsaken their commitment to objectively report the facts. Truth has become an acceptable casualty for the “greater good” of protecting and promoting select political agendas. However, truth is not relative; it is objective. It is also an attribute of God. This is why God says in Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord”, and Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
We should reject those who habitually lie to us. Those news sources who refuse to acknowledge their role in propagating what is now known to be a false narrative do not deserve our trust. Similarly, any news outlet that prioritizes political agendas over the truth should be rejected. We must cherish truth above all else.
- Reject the spirit of vindictiveness
Jesus summarized our responsibility to others by saying, “[L]ove your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22–39). To accomplish this, we must resist being conformed to the mindset of this world (Rom. 12:2), crucify our fleshly passions and desires (Gal. 5:24), rely upon God to renew a right spirit within us (Psa. 51:10), and follow the instruction of Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Politicians on both sides of the aisle, together with their constituents, are seeking their pound of flesh by calling for new investigations. While some investigations are merited, investigating for the sake of disparaging and embarrassing opponents is not helpful. It is vindictive.
As Christians, we are called to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28; Rom. 12:14). Furthermore, Proverbs 24:29 cautions, “Do not say, ‘I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.’” Likewise, Romans 12:19 teaches, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
- Do not worry
We are most tempted to worry when the stakes are high, but Philippians 4:6–7 instructs us, “[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We worry when we lose perspective and when we seek to wrest control from God. Proverbs 3:5–6 reminds us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” When we hold to this truth, we need not worry about how confused we may be or how precarious the future appears. Neither must we worry about people receiving what is due them. Jeremiah 17:10 promises, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
- Be joyful
Anger and hatred are exhausting emotions. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Ultimately, our anger and hatred cause the most harm to ourselves. More importantly, anger and hatred do not accurately reflect Jesus to the world (2 Cor. 5:20), nor do they draw people to the hope of the gospel (1 Pet. 3:14–16).
Rather than quarrel, we are called to pray for our national leaders (1 Tim. 2:1–2, 8). This is especially true when we believe they have wronged us (Luke 6:27–28). Prayer re-calibrates our hearts and minds by exposing our motives and reminding us of what is most important. It also helps us understand God’s hidden purposes (Jer. 33:3). This is why Romans 12:22 exhorts us, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
In Psalm 34:15–19, we are reminded, “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.”
For most of us, we already know these things, and we know that they are the beginning point for unifying a divided nation. However, they are easier said than done, and it is amazing how often we forget these truths and expectations during times of crisis. Together, let’s strive to keep these as guiding principles through the weeks to come. And let’s pray that the Lord will use us to promote unity by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), beginning among those with whom we naturally have influence.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.