Review: The Report

In April 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI, released his Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. The 448-page document is not only heavily redacted due to on going legal proceedings, but the language used is legalistic and difficult to understand. It is not casual reading nor is it something the average reader would be likely to make much sense of. The document itself is of the utmost importance to understanding the relationship between Russia and the United States, as well as the relationship between members of the Trump campaign/Administration and the Russian Government. So how does the average reader interested in politics and the on-going political turmoil in the United States approach the behemoth that is Robert Mueller’s findings?

Enter The Report, by the women and men at Lawfare. The Lawfare Blog, launched in 2010, is a collection of essays, research, podcasts and other projects that explores a range of themes from cybersecurity and foreign policy, surveillance, covert action, intelligence, among others. These are all tied together by examining them through the lens of the laws and legal system of the United States. The definition of the term lawfare as stated by the blog is “that nebulous zone in which actions taken or contemplated to protect the nation interact with the nation’s laws and legal institutions.” One of Lawfare’s projects is the The Report Podcast hosted by Susan Hennessey. The aim of this podcast is to breakdown the dense and legalistic writing of Mueller’s report and present it in bite-size chunks that the average listener can conprehend and digest. Benjamin Wittes acts as the narrator of the Report, while Susan Hennessey explains the various facets, background and interviews conducted. The result is a thrilling and frightening 15 episode narrative in two parts. The first part is a close up of the actions of the Russian government to influence the election in 2016, the role played by Donald Trump, his staff and his family that was uncovered by the investagtion of Robert Mueller and his team. The second part is the story of the investigation itself, how the Trump administration took action to hinder it. They cast a critical light upon the President of the United States and highlight the flaws in the system that might allow a sitting president to stop an investiagtion. Through all of this the important persons involved are profiled, and much detail is given about their background and how they came to make the choices they did, and the roles played during this saga.

The report is  excellent for a number of reasons. First of these is that a listener with no background knowledge can dive in straigth away. The Report is presented as a story teased out of legal speak and serves as an accessible and comprehenisve disection and explanation of the Mueller report. Furthermore, it provides a backdrop for the on-going Ukraine scandal in the Trump Administration and the ensuing impeachment hearings. It asks critical questions of the institutions of the United States and how well they function in the 21st Century. I found it to be a shocking and compelling look into the inner workings of the American political and judicial system. It also has restored much of the my faith in the the American law enforcement agencies and legal apparatus after watching from a far the scandals and firings of much of the Trump staff during Mueller’s investigation. If you are interested in understanding the significance of the Mueller Report, and the role played by President Trump and the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, this is the podcast for you.

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Another Podcast by the folks at Lawfare I very much enjoy is Rational Security. A weekly round table discussion of US Foreign policy, law, news and security topics with Shane Harris, Susan Hennessey, Tamara Cofman Wittes and Benjamin Wittes.

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