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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

The Mueller Report: An Ethical Analysis

Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller
(AP Photo/Al Drago)

Since the redacted version of the Mueller Report was released, debates have raged on about whether to move on or dig deeper into the charges. The Ethics Center staff and other scholars address some of the related key ethical implications in this Ethics Spotlight.

The Ethics Center approaches potentially polarizing yet critical issues such as this with an analytical eye, focusing on ethical standards that tell us how human beings ought to act in different situations. In this light, Ethics Center Executive Director Don Heider responded to the following questions:

1. How do you and Ethics Center staff maintain objectivity and impartiality when weighing in on political issues?

The Markkula Center is not partisan. We try on every issue to weigh in using ethical principles to guide us through an analysis of competing values. Are we objective? I would say for a human, objectivity is nearly impossible. Each of us has a subjective perspective based on our upbringing, background, age, social class, etc. But in doing ethical analysis, we try to be impartial in considering carefully competing values and ideas. We also understand that different people can analyze the ethical implications of a situation and come up with very different, valid perspectives.

2. What parts do opinions play in writing about the ethics of political situations?

Ethics is based on well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Applying those standards is an exercise in judgement, so to some extent every bit of work we do involves humans offering an opinion on a situation. We hope it is an informed opinion, and informed by ethical questions we outline in our framework for ethical decision-making.

The Constitution and the Mueller Report by Ann Skeet, senior director of Leadership Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Was the Mainstream Media’s “Walls Closing in …” Narrative Ethical? by Subramaniam Vincent, director of Journalism and Media Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Looking at the Mueller Report through an Ethical Lens by Hana Callaghan, director of Government Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Prosecuting a President for Obstruction of Justice: A Primer by David Sloss, the John A. and Elizabeth H. Sutro Professor of Law at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

Ethical Implications of “Indexing” for Press Independence by Anita Varma, program manager for Journalism & Media Ethics as well as Business, Leadership, and Social Sector Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Mueller's Statement and the Injustice That Won't Go Away by David DeCossse, director of Campus Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
May 20, 2019