The ‘Biggest Implication’ of Mueller’s Report Has Nothing to Do With Obstruction, Experts Say

By Michael Bastasch Published on April 19, 2019

The “biggest implication” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 400-page report could be that “reminders of Russian malfeasance might stoke Congressional Russia sanctions momentum,” according to analysts at ClearView Energy Partners.

Mueller found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin regime. Mueller also did not conclude President Donald Trump obstructed justice, though the report did not exonerate him either.

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Trump saw Mueller’s report as a major win. However, the report’s detailed description into Russian agents’ attempts to interfere in the 2016 election have some lawmakers fired up about punishing the Kremlin.

Congressional calls for sanctions, especially on Russian energy companies and assets, could grow in the Mueller report’s wake, ClearView analysts said in a memo released Thursday.

Republican Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner suggested passing legislation to sanction Russia and another bill to fund projects to lessen Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and natural gas imports.

“I will keep up the pressure on the Putin regime and pursue additional sanctions — they cannot go unpunished,” Gardner said.

Support for increased sanctions on Russia have grown during Trump’s time in office. In ClearView’s estimation, the White House and GOP lawmakers “might prefer to redirect the popular narrative towards Russia sanctions legislation ahead of 2020 elections.”

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Trump administration officials have been casting Russia in a negative light in recent months, warning the Kremlin against propping up the socialist Maduro regime.

Attorney General Bill Barr made certain to detail Russia’s election meddling in his Thursday press conference before Mueller’s report was released. The Trump administration has also framed its “energy dominance” agenda as part of a strategy to undercut Russia’s grip on Europe’s energy supply, and slapped Russian oligarchs and companies with sanctions for election meddling.

However, Trump has come under criticism from both parties for, in their view, not being tough enough on Russia. ClearView expects more lawmakers, Republican and Democratic, to renew their push for sanctions, despite what the White House might want.

Gardner pushed the bipartisan Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA), of which he is a co-sponsor. DASKA would expand sanctions to natural gas projects outside of Russia.

Gardner also co-sponsored the European Energy Security and Diversification Act (EESD), which would allocate $1 billion to key natural gas infrastructure projects abroad.

On the left, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat who co-sponsored legislation EESD with Gardner, urged Trump to “finally hold the Kremlin accountable for its attack on our democracy.” Gardner and Shaheen sit on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

There’s also the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (DETER), introduced by Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Marco Rubio of Florida, which imposes sanctions on a key sectors of Russia’s economy, including energy.


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