By Dawn Johnson and Joe Johnson
Flash flood warnings didn’t keep several Athens citizens from coming to Donderos’ Kitchen Saturday afternoon to take part in a public reading of the Mueller Report. The gathering was a prelude to a six- part community discussion series on the 448-page report released by the Special Counsel on April 18. Attendees read aloud from the heavy tome in the gray light filtering through the large, single-paned windows and occasionally stopped to chuckle at the volume of redacted material or mull over the report’s precisely worded evidence of wrongdoing during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.
The series is sponsored by WUGA FM and the Athens-Clarke County Library and will facilitate a community discussion of the report’s findings led by an impartial moderator. Structured similar to a book club, the report will be broken into 65-page sections to allow for a deep dive into the findings in each session.
Robert Mueller led an investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 Presidential Election and the allegations of conspiracy and collusion by the Donald Trump campaign and subsequent allegations of Trump’s involvement in obstruction of justice. The heavily redacted report was released by Attorney General William Barr on March 22,2019. Barr released a 4-page summary of the report that cleared President Donald Trump of any wrongdoing. Mueller later expressed frustration with Barr’s summary in a formal letter sent to the Attorney General stating that Barr’s memo “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Special Counsel’s findings. On May 29, Mueller spoke publicly about the report for the first time. In the press conference, Mueller stated that his investigation did not exonerate Trump of wrongdoing and said that existing DOJ policy prevented him from indicting a sitting president.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," Mueller said at the press conference.
Mueller’s report outlines 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice committed by Trump and accounts of Trump’s attempts to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation.
The reading of the report at Donderos’ drew a diverse group that included University of Georgia Journalism professor and author Dr. Leara Rhodes, Neal Priest, an emergency medical physician at St. Mary’s Hospital, and Dylan Martin, a 29-year-old software developer from Jefferson.
The reading session’s organizer, Pat Priest, said the goal is to foster discussion on the Mueller Report based on the facts it contains, instead of through the filters of political pundits and uninformed social media posts. Priest, who serves as a member of WUGA’s advisory group, said, “I don’t want to live in a fact-free world. Each of us has the right to our own opinions, but those opinions must be based on facts.”
Martin, another reader at Saturday's event, said, “There are very important things that are happening in the world right now and we have to go beyond tribalistic politics and use facts to collectively steer the direction of the country."
The Mueller Report: Community Discussion Series will take place at the Baxter Street library Multipurpose Room B from 3 to 4 p.m. on June 9, 23, 30 and July 7, 14, and 21.
Sometime in August, WUGA will partner with Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Political Rewind program to “take a look at the fact that Athens did this and hopefully that will inspire others to take up readings of the Mueller Report,” Pat Priest said.
The Athens discussion event is free to attend and does not require tickets or pre-reg
Copies of the Mueller Report can be purchased in local bookstores or found online. Audiobook versions of the report are available for free download on Audible.com and as a podcast at www.stitcher.com/podcast/mueller-report-audio.