After nearly two years, special counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his investigation on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and possible collusion between the Kremlin and Trump campaign associates. On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr sent a brief document disclosing the findings of the inquiry to Congress.
Barr’s summary letter said that Mueller found that neither the President nor any of his aides coordinated or conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the election process. On obstruction, the AG said that Trump may have acted to obstruct justice but the government “would need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a person with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct.”
Barr quoted the special counsel as writing: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr and his deputy Rod Rosenstein determined that that Mueller’s findings were “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
In the course of the investigation, the special counsel indicted 3 companies and more than 30 people, including a dozen Russians, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
However, Barr’s summary leaves unresolved questions like how Barr and Rosenstein concluded there was no obstruction-of-justice crime. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer released a statement saying: “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.”
A heated constitutional battle between the Justice Department and Congress is likely to ensue as Democrats push hard for the release of the key conclusions of Mueller’s report. Last week, analysts predicted that a huge sell-off in the U.S. stock market was likely to follow if the report had incriminated the President in a direct manner. Uncertainty is now less likely to hit Wall Street, if the AG’s summary is anything to go by. Investors don’t like uncertainty, especially of a political nature.
If the report had brought up the possibility of impeachment, there was a high chance that the Trump administration could have repealed and reformed policies, such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that Republican lawmakers passed in 2017. Stephen Pavlick, policy analyst at Renaissance Macro Research had told MarketWatch that a damning report towards President Trump would have created a great deal of market uncertainty.
The administration’s tax and regulatory agenda would also have been at least risk, had the President been implicated by the special counsel. Trump could have been encouraged to take actions unfriendly to the market in an attempt to distract the public from the contents of the report, according to Pavlick.
The possible removal of the President from office is a massive geo-political event with many unknowns and far reaching global consequences. Investors were expected to pull their money out of the markets and sit on the sidelines awaiting clarification on the next course of action.
From a technical perspective, damning findings could have triggered a sell-off. A divisive impeachment battle could also have sandbagged the Dow, business sentiment, and the economy. President Nixon’s impeachment was followed by a quick slump in the market. The market later climbed to an all-time high after the political environment cooled down.