DECATUR — News that the Mueller Report found no evidence that President Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was no surprise to Bruce Pillsbury, chairman of the Macon County Republican Party.
And the further news that Attorney General William P. Barr, based on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, found no grounds to prosecute Trump on obstruction of justice charges wasn’t much of a shock, either, he said.
“This whole thing (the Mueller investigation) has been a colossal waste of time and money for the government, and for the country,” Pillsbury said. “And not only has it wasted so much time and money, but I think it has caused the reputation of the whole country and to be looked at in a very dim light worldwide; it’s just a dirty shame."
A December report put the cost of the investigation at $25 million, according to Forbes Magazine.
Jim Underwood, the chairman of the Macon County Democratic Party, isn’t so sure that the Trump White House is off the hook of legal jeopardy just yet.
“Even though Mueller didn’t find any evidence of a conspiracy with the Russians, the question over whether there was obstruction of justice remains,” Underwood said. “I think it is important to remember that 34 people have been indicted so far and there are a number of investigations ongoing.
“The 2020 election will most likely get here before this is all over, and it won’t be any too soon for the American people.”
Trump enjoyed support from Macon County during the 2016 election, pulling in 56.6 percent of the votes to 38.5 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who nevertheless carried the state and its 20 electoral votes with overwhelming support from Cook County.
Asked whether President Trump emerges strengthened or weakened after two years of the Mueller probe, Underwood said that was tough to call.
“It may give him a little bump because they didn’t find any evidence (of his wrongdoing)," Underwood added. “But the other questions are still out there, and I so I don’t think it will affect it (his political capital) very much in my opinion.”
Pillsbury said the investigation should never had been allowed to drag on for two years, finally reaching a conclusion he said Republicans and “most of the country has already known for some time.”
He said the president’s reputation will emerge enhanced and now, at last, he will be free to devote all his attentions to his prime job of moving the country forward.
“Hopefully, he can now move on and get something done for our country,” Pillsbury said.
Hubert Murray, 30, President of the Macon County Young Republicans, agreed, believing the way ahead has finally been cleared for Trump to push on with his agenda, which has focused lately on a border wall with Mexico and trade with China.
“I think, politically, it helps him skyrocket his approval ratings and poll numbers; it’s a big boost,” said Murray.
He said Mueller’s investigative efforts had exposed wrongdoing — there have been dozens of indictments so far, some of Russian citizens, and eight guilty pleas and convictions — but the president had emerged unscathed.
Asked if the end of the Mueller probe would finally allow Trump to turn a new page on his presidency, Murray said “hopefully, yes.”