Finally, some truth has emerged in the long-running Russia-gate scandal.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after an exhaustive, two-year investigation, concluded that there was no conspiracy between Donald Trump and the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The Mueller investigative team employed dozens of attorneys and interviewed more than 500 witnesses. They issued 2800 subpoenas, executed 500 search warrants and issued 230 orders for communications records, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
On the issue of possible obstruction of justice by Trump, both Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein --- who had originally ordered the Russia probe ---- said they found insufficient evidence in the Mueller report to prove that President Trump had illegally tried to impede the investigation.
The report is clearly a vindication of Trump, who has maintained all along that the claims about collusion with Russia were a hoax.
While Trump and his family still face legal jeopardy from investigations into other matters, the culmination of the Mueller probe marks the effective end of the Russia-gate scandal.
That began in the summer of 2016, when claims were made that Russia had hacked Democratic Party computers and gained information damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in order to undermine her campaign and throw the election to Trump.
About the same time, word of a secret dossier emerged, a document written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, which claimed that Trump had connections with the Russian government and was doing their bidding. Steele was paid by a firm doing opposition research for the Clinton campaign.
On July 31, 2016, the FBI began an investigation of the Trump campaign.
A McCarthyistic hysteria took over Washington, with pundits, former intelligence officials and lawmakers accusing Trump and his family of being traitors and secretly helping the Russian government and Vladimir Putin.
The frenzy continued unabated for two years, and, after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly for his improper handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, there were bi-partisan demands that a special counsel be set up to look at Russian election interference and possible collusion by Trump.
Mueller, who had been the FBI director for years prior to Comey, was then appointed to conduct the probe.
Although Democratic members of Congress vow to continue the Russia investigation, with several leaders saying they are not satisfied with Mueller's conclusions, it is hard to see how these committee probes will lead anywhere, and more importantly, why the American people would take them seriously.
Polling by USA Today done just before the Mueller report was issued, showed that 50% of the American people agreed with Trump that the Russia collusion investigation was a "witch hunt." Now that the report is out --- essentially clearing Trump --- it is likely that a majority of Americans would be skeptical about the purpose of any further investigations. The House inquiries could in fact turn into a political liability for Democrats heading into the 2020 election season.
While the result of the Mueller investigation has settled the issue of collusion, it did nothing to answer a number of other crucial questions. Just what was the basis for suspecting Trump was compromised by Russia in the first place? Was the Steele dossier a legitimate basis for the FBI launching an investigation? Who was pushing the campaign to paint Trump and his family as traitors?
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