Public Citizen News / July-August 2019
By Samantha Lai
This article appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.
Have you read the Mueller report? If you’re like a majority of Americans, you have not read the entire 400 pages of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In the 2016 Presidential Election.”
In May, Public Citizen set out to rectify the situation. Along with its partners in the Trump Is Not Above the Law coalition, including Common Cause, March For Truth and People For the American Way, Public Citizen launched the Mueller Book Club to encourage more people to read the Mueller report and to help participants in the virtual reading group understand the nuances of the document.
Though written in language that can often be dense, the information in the report is of incredible importance to our country. It is the most in-depth summary that the United States government has produced about the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump, and it chronicles a president and a White House intent on obstructing the investigation into that effort.
“The importance of the facts in the Mueller report cannot be overstated,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “We have convened the Mueller Book Club as a step toward the goal of every American understanding the deep interference of the Russian government in our elections.”
Public Citizen also maintains that it is crucial for Americans to parse Mueller’s findings firsthand, rather than through the filter of ratings-driven cable news or the misleading brief summary of Attorney General William Barr, who presented a cherry-picked summary of the report to the public before releasing the report, diminishing the findings that were damaging to President Donald Trump and making excuses for the president’s behavior.
Beginning on May 13, the Mueller Book Club conducted seven weekly broadcasts with legal experts and other noteworthy people to discuss Mueller’s findings. Notable guests included Gloria Steinem, the former Acting Solicitor General of the United States Neal Katyal and U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chair of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee. The last broadcast included the livestreaming of a play based on the report, hosted by Law Works and written by Robert Schenkkan, an award-winning screenwriter and playwright. The star-studded cast included John Lithgow, Alyssa Milano, Annette Bening and more.
Public response to these broadcasts has been enthusiastic, and the videos have garnered almost 400,000 views. Many viewers also have been motivated by the broadcasts to send letters to local newspapers in New York, California, Vermont and more to raise awareness of the report’s findings. Mueller’s findings regarding the president’s repeated efforts to obstruct the investigation are so damning that more than 900 former federal prosecutors from across the ideological spectrum have signed on to an open letter stating that they believe Trump would be indicted were it not for the Office of League Counsel’s policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. In other words, if any other individual in the country did what Mueller’s report found the president did, they would be charged with multiple felonies for obstruction of justice.
“It’s gratifying that so many people are eager to learn more about what the report says and what it means,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign and one of the brains behind the Mueller Book Club. “It is crucial that Americans understand what happened so they can make their own judgment as to whether Trump is fit to govern our nation. It’s also critical that they understand the need to secure our elections so a foreign entity is not able to interfere in 2020 as it did in 2016.”
Concerned citizens can visit muellerbookclub.com to access the report, see the archive of all Book Club broadcasts and get more information on upcoming events such as the national day of Mueller report readings on July 24.