Ignore the Mueller Report At Your own Peril
Two years ago, Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI, was given a mandate to investigate President Trump for possible collusion with the Russians and possible obstruction of justice. The recent release of his report has garnered different interpretations from the Democrats and most Republicans. This was after Attorney General Barr skewed the report’s conclusions and recommendations to make it seem as if Trump had done nothing wrong. However, while Mueller could not find evidence of conspiracy between Trump and his team and the Russians, he did discover an unseemly connection between the Trump crew and the Russians that did not rise to the level of criminality.
During the campaign, Trump’s associates were willing to receive information from the Russians that cast Hillary in a negative light and data that was illegally hacked from Democratic sources. The Russians also employed social media to disparage Hillary and planted stories to discourage her supporters from voting. On the other hand, they lauded Trump in ways that would make him appealing to white supremacists and right-wing voters. The Russians admitted that they preferred a Trump presidency to a Hillary administration, though they denied interfering in any way in the election. American intelligence insisted however, that the Russians did meddle, but Trump took Putin’s word that they did not interfere over those of his own operatives. After the release of the Mueller report, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giulliani said on the Sunday morning talk shows that there was nothing wrong with getting information from the Russians even if it was stolen, and that other candidates would have done the same given the chance.
On obstruction of justice, Mueller reported that he could not reach a definite conclusion, but was unable to exonerate Trump. He indicated that it was up to Congress to determine whether the president had broken the law with criminal obstruction. If so, they could attempt to impeach him, as a sitting president could not be indicted. However, in addition to Congress, Mueller sent the information that had been collected on Trump to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and other prosecutorial jurisdictions. They could act as they saw fit on possibly pursuing Trump for obstruction of justice and other charges when he was no longer president. Whether or not there were underlying crimes that Trump was trying to hide didn’t matter as it was the intent that was important. Among the actions that could be considered as criminal obstruction were Trump asking Comey to let up on General Flynn because he was a nice guy, pressuring Attorney General Sessions to un-recuse himself and fire Mueller and his team to end the probe, and asking McGahn and several others to fire Mueller, as well as a number of other incidents. SDNY will also be able to go after Trump and the Trump Organization for money laundering, graft, falsifying bank statements and a number of other charges that were not within Mueller’s purview, many of which occurred prior to the election.
Mueller also describes a pattern of lying and cheating that was normal behavior in the Trump White House. Trump lied repeatedly then changed his statements and lied about his previous statements. The president also expected his people to lie for him whenever he felt it was necessary. Barr’s summary of the Mueller report and his redactions were done to try and protect the president, Barr seemingly unconcerned with Trump’s conduct and what will happen to Trump after he leaves office. Though Trump apparently could not be indicted while in office, it’s unclear why Mueller did not go after Don Jr, Jared, and others who were meeting with the Russians to get dirt on Hillary during the campaign.
Now it’s up to Congress to decide how to follow-up on Mueller’s report, depending on Trump’s willingness to cooperate. A number of Congressional bodies, including the oversight, judicial and intelligence committees, will be looking further into the report and taking testimony from Mueller, Barr, McGahn, Comey, and others who could provide Congress with information on the report and Trump’s actions. Of course, that may depend on the rulings of the courts. The elephant in the room is whether the House will proceed with impeachment hearings or let the 2020 election decide Trump’s fate. The left wing of the Democratic Party is generally calling for impeachment while the moderates want to go slowly and see what the investigations uncover. From a political standpoint, impeachment may not be good for the Democrats, while investigations will keep the issue alive. And no matter what the House decides, impeachment is likely to be voted down in the Senate where Republican allegiance to Trump seems pretty solid aside from Romney, Collins, and Murkowski.
Every American should familiarize him and herself with the Mueller report and then act upon it. This means at least voting in 2020 and booting a crass, lying, egocentric, narcissistic criminal president out of office by a large margin to show him how the American public feels about him and his tenure.