I’ve tried my best in the last 24 hours or so to read as much of the Mueller Report as I possibly could. While I haven’t completed this endeavor, I nonetheless have consumed quite a bit. Here are just a few of my thought thus far.
Robert Mueller has produced a report one might expect from a man who has spent a good portion of his life in law enforcement. It’s a thorough, fact-based account on what transpired between the Trump campaign and their alleged involvement with the Russians in the 2016 election, and an equally comprehensive look at the actions of President Trump after the appointment of Mueller as Special Counsel in May of 2017.
In no uncertain terms, Mueller lays out the facts of what the Russians did to try to sow discord in our democracy and help elect Donald Trump to the presidency. Their actions were systematic, widespread, and targeted. They clearly wanted Trump to win and Hillary to lose. Page after page of intelligence and evidence detail the whole thing.
And while Mueller could not ultimately find that the Trump campaign did anything that rose to the level of conspiracy or coordination with the Russians, there were clearly multiple instances of contacts between both.
So, as far as the whole ‘no collusion’ mantra uttered by Trump and his minions for the last two years, it just doesn’t pass the smell test. The fact is, the campaign welcomed help from the Russians on multiple occasions. The event that not one person on the campaign ever called law enforcement concerning overtures from a foreign adversary raises serious questions over our laws surrounding campaigns and our electoral system itself.
I’m reminded of the story of how the Al Gore campaign in 2000 was approached with information concerning George W. Bush’s debate prep. Instead of accepting the material, which would have most definitely helped him prepare for the debate, they decided it was not ethical or prudent for them to use it. So what did they do? They called the FBI. It was the right thing to do then. The fact is, it wasn’t against the law if Gore would have accepted the information.
I’d like to think that most politicians would have done the same thing as the Gore campaign—just not the current president or any of his entourage. It’s not in their DNA to do the right thing. It’s why we now will have to take a look at these laws and make changes so that a campaign that fails to alert law enforcement when approached by a foreign adversary, will be held criminally liable.
The second part of Mueller’s report deals with 10 areas of possible obstruction committed by Trump after Mueller was named Special Counsel. It includes the firing of then FBI Director Jim Comey, the demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions un-recuse himself from overseeing the investigation, dictating the email for Don Jr. that changed the nature of the Trump Tower meeting of June 9, 2016, and his public and private actions trying to fire Mueller himself.
There are credible accusations of obstructive acts by the president in all of these areas. But, rather than get into the specifics of each, I’m going to point out what really stands out when it comes to the President’s actions. For nearly a year, Mueller and his team tried to reach accommodation with the President on getting him to testify. Mueller had tried to point out that the President’s testimony was vital to his investigation and that it was in the interest of the Presidency and the public for an interview to take place. Time and time again, they refused to do it, but eventually, an agreement was reached to provide Mueller with written answers to a series of questions related only to the Russian interference portion of the inquiry.
Mueller’s statement on the President’s answers speaks volumes. In the introductory note of the Appendix C portion of the report, Mueller writes, “We received the President’s written responses in late November 2018. In December 2018, we informed counsel(the President’s) of the insufficiency of those responses in several respects. We noted, among other things, that the President stated on more than 30 occasions that he does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’ of information called for by the questions. Other answers were ‘incomplete or imprecise.’ The written responses, we informed counsel, demonstrate the inadequacy of the written format, as we have no opportunity to ask follow-up questions that would ensure complete answers and potentially refresh your client’s recollection or clarify the extent or nature of his lack of recollection.”
And then Mueller answered the question many of us had regarding why he never issued a subpoena requiring the President to testify in person. According to Mueller, they had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for their report. The delay in trying to get Trump to testify with a subpoena outweighed the benefit of such an action. They knew he would have fought it all the way to the Supreme Court so why even bother? Besides, they had enough evidence of obstruction anyway.
When you take the President’s lack of transparency, and couple that with the actions of many surrounding the investigation, you get the idea that while Mueller did the job he was hired to do, he was thwarted so much that we may never get an accurate picture of all that transpired.
In what I consider to be a chilling reminder of what he was up against, page 10 of the introductory section of the report states the following: “Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records.”
And in conclusion, it states: “Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.”
Thus, what we now have is a severe dilemma, especially as it pertains to what happens next. This is a damning report in my view. There are serious questions as it relates to the Presidency of the United States. Not just Donald Trump, but to any future president who happens to occupy that office. The Constitution of the United States demands that the president take care that our laws are faithfully executed. Has the current President lived up to that standard?
This is now a question for the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. How will they move forward? It’s not an easy answer by any means, but it’s one they will have to make … and soon. There’s an election coming up in about 18 months. Decisions will have to be made with that in mind—but it should not be the only consideration.
This is about the rule of law and whether our elected leaders will allow the actions of this President to stand, or will they hold him to account? Impeachment is not an action to be taken lightly. But it’s an action specifically put there by our founders to deal with a president who has behaved in a malicious, if not illegal way.
There’s still time, but it’s not limitless. There’s no doubt that Robert Mueller needs to testify—in public. Perhaps once he’s done that, we can get a clearer picture on how to move forward. It’s pretty apparent that the obstruction of justice portion of his report is meant to be a roadmap for Congress. He didn’t make a final conclusion, but he indeed mentions in the report that Congress has every right to move forward with impeachment proceedings, if they see fit to do so.
It’s too bad that Attorney General Barr misled the public on this issue. He will need to answer for his actions as well. Is he the Attorney General of the United States? Or, is he the personal attorney for the President of the United States? He needs to testify as well.
There are tough decisions ahead for the Democrats. Mueller has done his job in my view. Now it’s time for the Democrats to do theirs. A foreign adversary infiltrated our electoral process—a campaign welcomed the help. And the President of the United States obstructed justice every step of the way. Lies and deception were on full display. Are we going to let it stand for future generations? Is this the new standard? I sure as hell hope not.