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Politics & Government

National Security Expert at SU Speaks about What's Next after Mueller Report

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Much of the nation’s attention today has been focused on the release of the Mueller report.  The founder of Syracuse University’s Insititue for National Security and Counterterrorism has been following developments of the investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice by the President and staff. 

WAER’s Chris Bolt spoke with Professor Emeritus William Banks on some of the legal and historical aspects of the report and what it means going forward. 

One of most significant things about the report William Banks says, might be what’s not there. President Trump was never directly interviewed about any of the allegations.

“His responses to the written questions were that he simply didn’t recall, most of the time when the questions probe his state of mind. Had they obtained oral testimonial from the president would be far more difficult to walk away from direct answer to the question about his state of mind.”

Intent would have to be established for prosecutors to be able to bring any charges for obstruction of justice against the president.  But that doesn’t mean the investigation didn’t have legal ramifications … he notes two dozen indictments of others came out of it.  Still, no direct questioning of President Trump leaves a hole in any possible criminal case. 

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Professor Emeritus William Banks

He found in the report less redaction that he thought by Attorney General William Barr.  Most things blacked out had to do with grand jury materials, things relevant to ongoing congressional investigations, and identification of ancillary witnesses.  What does concern him, is the lack of objectivity from the Attorney General’s office.

“The willingness of the justice department to go behind the scene allows them to prepare their rebuttal. Today speaks more of an effort to support the administration to some places speak for the rule of law for the United States. So I think this is a very unfortunate aspect of investigation and one that somewhat unique in our history.”

Of course you can’t escape the political aspects of the investigation and the report.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who’s a presidential candidate, called it an embarrassing display of propaganda.  She said in a release that the nation can’t trust a hand-picked attorney general and that congress should see the full, un-redacted report to really find the truth. 

Area Congress members John Katko and Anthony Brindisi had different reactions to the release of the report, both speaking at a public event in Oswego.  Katko told Syracuse.com he had no problem with Barr’s press conference and then releasing the report.  He’s more concerned with what’s in it and how we reduce Russian influence in elections.  Brindisi wants to see a full, un-redacted version before drawing conclusions, though he also does not want the investigation to overshadow other issues that need attention. Professor Banks meanwhile believes the prospect of Congress starting impeachment proceedings is not in the cards.

 “I think the democrats recognize if they start an inquiry in the house, they may or may not have sufficient votes to impeach there. If they did, they would certainly not have votes to convict to the senate. It would be a way like the Clinton inquiry many years ago, a lot of effort for vey little outcome, any positive outcomes.”

While the President might not face that challenge, Banks says the whole process draws into question just how Mr. Trump views the office.

“One of the aspects of his presidency is to treat more like a business and a personal fiefdom, as though he was a king or autocrat, rather than a democratically elected leader of a country who shares authority with the congress and the court in between nation government and states. So in many respects, I think the president has treated the office of presidency in a way as no other president has before as though he was above the law. That’s the most dramatic challenge to our constitutional system that I can imagine.”

And he adds things are far from over.  There are still ongoing grand jury investigations; congress will have its own investigations and hearings; and Banks expects you should get used to hearing about the report and all manner of reactions to it on the campaign trail.

“I think certainly through the 2020 election, this is not going to quite done. And then whatever the result the election produces, certainly the president and perhaps the shape and contour of the congress on the partisan, aside democrats from republicans. Then maybe on the November, 2020, this will all go away, but I doubt that it will before then.”