The Mueller Report-Final thoughts and takeaways

Posted by

So I’ve finally been able to read the entire Mueller Report. I actually read Volume II, which dealt with allegations surrounding Trump and obstruction of justice, first—then read the rest of Volume I, which dealt with Russian hacking and the Trump Campaign’s involvement. You can read my first assessment from a post I wrote last week. Here are some final thoughts and major takeaways, now that I’ve read the entire report.

Paul Manafort

I’ve always felt that Manafort was the critical piece in Mueller’s attempt to see what links the Trump Campaign had, if any, to the Russians. He served as campaign chairman for Trump for only about four months, but during his tenure, many of the significant instances of Russian interference was taking place.

For one, he was at the infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016, along with Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. They thought they were going to get dirt on Hillary and were more than happy to accept that dirt. Besides, some of the releases of the hacked emails also occurred during his time with the campaign. And of course, this was also the time when Trump publicly asked for the Russians to find the 30,000 emails missing from Hillary’s private server.

But for me, the most suspicious and damning piece of evidence was the fact that Manafort had given private internal Trump Campaign polling data to a Russian national, Konstantin Kilimnik, someone that the FBI assessed had ties to Russian intelligence. Mueller’s office had determined those assessments were correct. Manafort, for his part, did not think Kilimnik was a “spy,” but his long-time partner and Deputy Campaign Chairman for Trump, Rick Gates, did.

Manafort’s reasons for giving away the polling data is not clear. Gates speculated that he did it to avoid a lawsuit that was being brought against him by a Ukrainian oligarch. Whatever his reason for doing so, the fact that he gave private internal polling information to a man with ties to Russian intelligence is beyond disturbing. And, that information just so happened to contain data from the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Trump won three of those states and nearly upset Hillary in Minnesota. Coincidence?

The fact is though, Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to indict Manafort on any coordination or conspiracy charges as it related to his work for the Trump Campaign. As pointed out in my earlier post, Mueller could not rule out that lying, misleading, and deleting of information could have played a part in his office’s inability to connect the dots.

Based on the fact that Manafort was charged with several other crimes unrelated to his campaign activity, tells me that Mueller had hoped Manafort would cooperate in the end. When he was convicted in a Virginia Court of most of those crimes, Manafort pled guilty in the D.C. Court to additional crimes and eventually signed a plea agreement. But it was short-lived. He repeatedly lied during this, and Mueller withdrew the deal.

Once it became apparent that Manafort was not going to talk, it seems as though the handwriting was on the wall. The one guy who probably knew where ‘all the bodies were buried’ decided it wasn’t worth cooperating. Certainly, pardons being dangled by the Trump team could have played a part here. We still don’t know. Will Trump pardon him? Stay tuned.

Don Jr.

One of the major mysteries of all of this is why Donald Trump Jr. was not indicted by Mueller and his team. After all, he was the one who received the email stating that the Russians had dirt on Hillary and was enthusiastic about using it, if true. He was also very much in contact with WikiLeaks during this period and knew that information they possessed was from data hacked by the Russians.

But Mueller lays out his reasoning in the report as to why he didn’t indict Don Jr.–in detail. He looked at basically two areas of the law: Conspiracy or Coordination … and Campaign-Finance. In both cases, they found that nobody in the campaign, including Don Jr. was found to have violated these laws.

The report states: “The investigation did not establish that the contacts described in Volume I, amounted to an agreement to commit any substantive violation of federal law—including foreign-influence and campaign-finance laws. The Office, therefore, did not charge any individual associated with the Trump Campaign with conspiracy to commit a federal offense arising from Russia contacts, either under a specific statute or under Section 371’s offenses clause.” (Page 181-Volume I)

Since I’m not a lawyer, I’m not going to engage in all of the legal reasoning Mueller used in justifying his non-charging Don Jr. as it relates to the campaign-finance portion. In essence, it came down to proving beyond a reasonable doubt, whether the proposed dirt he was ready to accept on Hillary was a ‘thing of value element.’ In other words, did the dirt he was going to receive rise to the level of what would be considered a ‘contribution’ under the law. And the other element was whether he ‘willfully and knowingly’ acted in a manner that would show he had general knowledge that his conduct was unlawful. More on this shortly.

Hacking of the electoral process

If there’s anything in Mueller’s Report that raises my blood pressure more than anything else, it’s the fact that the Russians were able to infiltrate and target individuals and entities involved in the administration of the elections. That’s right, our electoral process itself. It’s not something we hear about often when it comes to what happened in the 2016 election, but if nothing else, this is a full-fledged warning to state, local, and the federal government that we better get serious … super serious about 2020:

In addition to targeting individuals involved in the Clinton Campaign, GRU officers also targeted individuals and entities involved in the administration of the elections. Victims included U.S. State and local entities, such as state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and county governments, as well as individuals who worked for those entities. The GRU also targeted private technology firms responsible for manufacturing and administering election-related software and hardware, such as voter registration software and electronic polling stations.” (Page 50-Volume I)

Mueller states that his office did not investigate this issue any further, indicating that the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the states have separate investigations ongoing. We don’t hear much about that though. And frankly, do we really know that no votes were changed in 2016? Do we know without a doubt that voting rolls weren’t altered?

All of Congress and the President of the United States ought to be working together as we speak to address this disturbing development. They are not. Frankly, the President himself has rarely, if ever, talked to this issue and the reason for that most likely centers around his inability to accept the fact that his election to that office is tainted. This is all about his narcissism and ego. Nothing more—nothing less. In the meantime, our democracy is crying for help. Without presidential leadership and congressional action, we’re in deep trouble. There are some on the Democratic side who are sounding the alarm. We need more of them.

Final thoughts on Mueller

I’d like to close with a few thoughts on Robert Mueller himself. Going into this, I’ve always had a certain amount of respect for Mueller. And after the release of his report, my admiration has only grown. Overall, I think the man did what he was hired to do, and then some. It’s as detailed as one might expect from a man who has spent decades in the justice department, and whose reputation as a stickler for detail and fairness is beyond reproach.

It’s all the more reason that when I look back at how he was treated by President Trump, Don Jr., and many others from the Republican side of the aisle, I can only shake my head. We were told he was conflicted … he was best friends with Comey … he hired 13 angry Democrats … he has to go because of a dispute at one of Trump’s golf courses … it’s nothing but a witch hunt.

Yet, he looked at the evidence put before him and decided to give a pass to the Trump Campaign, at least as it pertained to a conspiracy with the Russians. On obstruction of justice and Trump? He did not give him a pass but did not indict him either. And we’re still hearing how much it was a witch hunt?

And, speaking again of Don Jr., the man needs to thank his lucky stars that Mueller treated him with extreme caution and fairness because, in my view, he came within an eyelash of receiving an indictment. As mentioned above, much of what Mueller determined depended on whether Don Jr. knew what the hell he was doing. He could not conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he knowingly and willingly accepted the proposed dirt on Hillary, and realized it was against the law. If I had any issue with Mueller at all, it’s in this realm of his decision-making. How many of the rest of us Americans can be assured of being saved because we were ‘ignorant’ of the law?

The way forward

Finally, it appears to me that impeachment is slowly but surely becoming the only way we will be able to resolve these issues. Clearly, the president of the United States is guilty of impeachable offenses. Mueller has given Congress a roadmap, with 10 categories of obstructive acts by the president—detailed, specific, and corroborated. It’s going to be up to Democrats in the House of Representatives to investigate these matters as quickly as they possibly can. It’s not just the Mueller Report either. Multiple investigations are going on, and subpoenas are being filed.

This President will not cooperate. He’s already stonewalling. It’s inevitable in my view that Congress must and will impeach this president, regardless of whether Senate Republicans will have the guts to make a principled stand. Democrats are not in concert as to how to proceed, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging caution.

And for now, caution is what it’s going to be. I’m not a patient person these days. But, I’m willing to give the Democrats a chance to get this right. One way or the other, this president will be held to account. If it takes multiple investigations and testimony from the leading players in all of this—so be it.

And let us not forget that Mueller and his team found many links and contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals having or claiming to have ties to the Russian government. While he did not find the so-called smoking gun, we should not minimize the troubling nature of this whole thing. They were all willing to accept the help of Russia, and as Mueller stated on more than one occasion, the people he interviewed throughout this process weren’t exactly forthcoming. We may never know the truth quite frankly. We should all be troubled about that.

We do owe Robert Mueller a debt of gratitude, however. He’s done his job. Now it’s up to the United States Congress to do theirs.

12 comments

  1. Excellent summation! I, too, have the utmost respect for Robert Mueller and given the obstacles that he faced, I think he did an excellent job. Yes, I would have liked to see Kushner and Junior in prison jumpsuits, and perhaps someday we will. My concern now is the fact that Trump is playing dictator and not only refusing to cooperate with the ongoing investigations, but also forbidding others to cooperate. And, he says he will “go to the Supreme Court” if articles of impeachment are filed. I’m not sure what he hopes to gain there, for the Court cannot stop the impeachment process, but again … he is playing the role of a dictator, so who knows how he will bully his way through the muck? I am very concerned about next year’s elections, for nothing … NOTHING is being done to ensure election integrity. I think the Russians are already playing their little games, and that they may have been behind stirring up the big brouhaha over Joe Biden touching people’s shoulders, among other things. Let us hope that the intelligence community is operating quietly and behind the scenes, despite Trump.

    Again, you’ve done a great job here and I shall re-blog this afternoon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jill. Really appreciate you reblogging this. Yes, the dictator in chief is on the prowl. You know, him ignoring ALL of the Dems subpoenas is also grounds for impeachment. I believe it was Article 1 in Nixon’s impeachment from 1974. Dems just have to fight this guy tooth and nail. I’d start arresting these people who are refusing to cooperate or testify if they don’t start complying. From what I understand, it CAN be done. I can’t believe we are where we are!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As always, you do good work and it’s an honour to share. The past week or two have given the appearance of Trump the dictator, Trump the Supreme Leader, Trump the King. He believes the law does not apply to him, believes he has total control. What’s frightening is that half of his base is too uneducated to see it, and the other half simply don’t care. How we got to where we are today still puzzles me, but as I’ve said for two years, I believe it is pushback from having had the audacity to elect an African-American for two terms, eight years. How dare we, right? Sigh. We gotta keep on fighting the good fight, my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jill, BrookingsLib, after seeing Gronda’s post about staff not wanting former Homeland Security Director Nielson to bring up the Russian influence so as not to anger their tempestuous boss, I have come to the conclusion the US President is more like the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland.” Keith

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Last week, I re-blogged a piece by Jeff of On The Fence Voters fame, of his initial thoughts as he began reading the Mueller report. Today, he has finished reading the 448-page report and has written an excellent summation which I am sharing with you. I think his thoughts are on the money, and I share his hopes that the ongoing investigations will bring further results. Thank you, Jeff, for your excellent work and for permission to share it.

    Like

  3. Many thanks for writing this. There is still more to come with the pending prosecutions of twelve unknown cases and the two known ones. The report is damning from a number of fronts. I still believe there was collusion, as Mueller stopped short of interviewing Trump and did not dig deep enough on several people. Yet, there is an excellent article today where a CIA said that the naivete of the Trump campaign allowed the Russians to take advantage of them, even without collusion. Also, a security expert notes the Russians are still at it, but he forewarns that if Trump loses, he will likely cite election fraud. My blogpost of today has links to these stories, one on MSN and one on PBS Newshour.

    I have sent a note to about twelve GOP Senators suggesting that the GOP should consider impeaching Trump. Our country and planet are being harmed by this man, but the GOP will be viewed very poorly for their failure to act. I so wish Senator John McCain were still alive. If he heard Rudy Guiliani say what is the big deal that the Russians helped, he would rip him a new one. It is a big deal. It is only our country, its laws, its integrity. I am pleased that a former Trump transition team member has called for his impeachment and that former Massachussetts Governor Bill Weld, who is running against Trump, has called for his resignation. And, former GOP Senator Bob Corker has called for a more national known name to run against Trump.

    Yet, a modus operandi of Trump is to make his biggest mistakes after a perceived victory per a biographer. Just look back it is horrible call on healthcare two days after Barr made his first Mueller announcement via letter. Right now, he continues to litigate facts therein the report and fact checkers are calling him on the carpet. Being magnanimous and Presidential is not in his make-up. Plus, we should step back and say the man is ridiculing the same report that gave him a more favorable rendering than he deserved. It is akin to his saying Michael Cohen is a liar, except when he is bragging on me.

    Good summary, Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Keith. I agree with all you said. It’s very interesting about Bill Weld. What I really hope is that John Kasich decides to throw his hat in the ring. Hell, why not Mitt Romney as well? If he gets some credible challengers, it will make him actually do some work for a change. I would never vote for Kasich but I’ve always felt he was a pretty reasonable Republican…especially considering that is such a dying breed these days!! The way I see it, more credible challenges=more damage to Trump. Historically, this has been proven correct..It’s never good when an incumbent has to fight off someone in his own party. Keeping my fingers crossed!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Either of those men would be far better than the incumbent. Kasich was an early adopter of expanding Medicaid calling it a “no-brainer.” They would draw enough attention to scare Trump. Keith

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s