Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report is in and a redacted version isavailable to the public. After readingthe report, I think it made things harder, specifically as far as what happensnext. To some extent, I was hopeful, aswere most Americans, that the conclusion of the report would end this uglychapter in our modern politics, that it would answer all the important questionsand provide a way forward. The reportwas incredibly professional, comprehensive, and fair. It provided Congress, the American people,the media, and even the Trump Administration with a sound, complete factualpredicate detailing what occurred during the 2016 Presidential Election andactions by the administration concerning the investigation itself. Now we must decide what to do with it.
The investigation in no way whatsoever was an exoneration or vindicationfor President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or the Trump Administration. In fact, just the opposite. The 448-page report is wholly condemning,containing numerous founded examples of contemptuous conduct by Trump and hisassociates during the campaign and throughout the investigation. The fact that the Mueller team did not electto seek indictment of the President does not change the fact that his conductwas not only abhorrent but could still be criminal in nature and subject toother appropriate sanction. Muellerbegan his report with a clear statement that he was bound by the Department ofJustice (DOJ) policy against indicting a sitting president and that policydrove the charging decisions.
The most important aspect of the report was the critical issue ofRussian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election and ongoing efforts todestabilize our democracy, regardless of whether the Trump campaign was complicit. This entire process was necessitated by Trumprefusing to acknowledge the Russian interference despite overwhelming evidenceof their activity and his unconscionable, inexplicable refusal to allow the Departmentof Homeland Security (DHS) to work with the states the improve our election security. Trump did not have to concede that Russianefforts led directly to his election, he simply had to acknowledge theyattempted to interfere and then do his solemn duty to safeguard our systems.
These counter intelligence issues were the most critical aspect of theinvestigation. The report carefullydetailed a significant, deliberate, ingoing campaign by Putin and Russia tointerfere with our elections and undermine confidence in our democracy. They are doing the same thing in otherwestern democracies and must be stopped at all costs. Whatever comes from this process, the TrumpAdministration is obligated to begin the crucial effort to improve electionsecurity at an incredible pace to make up for time lost by the President’s intransigence. The 2020 Election is already beginning, andwe know it is under serious threat of Russian interference. Is this how the Trump Campaign plans to win reelection,by allowing similar Russian assistance?
The investigation did not find sufficient evidence to support criminalcharges of an actual conspiracy or official cooperation between Russia and thecampaign. However, the investigation confirmedthat the Russian efforts were intended to benefit Trump because Russia believedthey would benefit from a Trump Presidency and the investigation confirmed thatthe Trump Campaign knew it would benefit electorally from the Russianefforts. Thus, despite the lack of sufficientevidence of a formal partnership, there was most definitely a mutualunderstanding and actions in concert thereto. The campaign took no steps to stop the Russians nor did they notify theFBI. Instead, there were abundantexamples of reprehensible actions by members of the Trump Campaign infurtherance of this effort.
The Russians made numerous, aggressive overtures to the campaign to promotea partnership and coordinate activities, but the campaign smartly resisted aformal arrangement or meetings between Trump and Putin during thecampaign. Paul Manafort, as campaignchair, met with Russians and shared campaign information, including the statusand importance of the battleground states upon which the campaign hinged. The Russians intensified their interferencein those states. Erik Prince,representing Trump, met with Russians in a secret meeting in The Seychelles duringwhich they discussed reconciliation efforts between Russia and the U.S. duringa Trump Presidency. There was also theinfamous Trump Tower meeting between the Russians and the campaign wherein theRussians promised the campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton. This action violated campaign finance lawsand exposed Donald Trump, Jr. to possible charges. There was also ongoing collaboration betweenWikiLeaks and the campaign. The onlyreason that was not charged was the lack of proof that the campaign knewWikiLeaks role in the hacking. These arebut a few of the examples. Trump’srepeated claims of no collusion were entirely disingenuous.
The report listed 14 examples of obstruction of justice by President Trumpduring the investigation. From readingthe report, it is clear Mueller would have brought charges but for the DOJpolicy against indicting a sitting President. Most of Trump’s actions were done openly and notoriously and most of hisstaff refused to comply, but his intent was nonetheless apparent. He pushed his staff to provide false testimonyto Congress and to the investigation. Hepublicly attacked and threatened witnesses to dissuade them from cooperating.
Trump directed White House CounselDon McGahn to meet secretly with Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and compel him tofire Mueller. McGahn resisted severalTrump directives and ultimately resigned. He directed Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign chair who was never amember of the administration, to meet secretly with then AG Jeff Sessions andcompel Sessions to announce he was unrecusing himself for the purpose of informingthe public that Trump was being unfairly accused and investigated, that he hadnot had any connection with the Russians, and to discredit theinvestigation. He was to direct Sessionsto limit Mueller’s investigation to only future election interference, thuscovering up Russian efforts in 2016. Trump attempted to coerce his IntelligenceCommunity, specifically Dan Coats and Gina Haspel, to make public statements falselyasserting that Trump had no Russia connections, there was no collusion, and noRussian interference. Of course, theyhad the integrity to refuse his directive.
Trump fired K.T. McFarland as Deputy National Security Advisor, butlater offered her to be ambassador to Singapore if she would write and issue afalse statement claiming Trump never requested Mike Flynn to speak to theRussians on his behalf. Trump alsodirected his staff to destroy emails and documents rather than turn them overto investigators. Press Secretary SarahSanders admitted to investigators that she made false statements to the mediaabout speaking to numerous FBI agents who were happy that Trump fired James Comey. She never exchanged emails and phone callswith FBI agents as she had falsely claimed from the podium. Trump himself made far too numerous falsestatements concerning the Mueller investigation attempting to discredit it, unfairlyattack the agents, cover up his actions, and lie to the American people. Among was those was his repeatedly false claimthat he wanted to be interviewed by Mueller when he never intended to do so andin fact refused to do so throughout the investigation. He clearly had much to hide. Trump’s campaign to deceive the Americanpeople, cover up his impropriety, and falsely attack the Mueller investigationclearly supported charges of obstruction of justice.
The Mueller team adhered strictly to the narrow scope of theinvestigation that was tasked to them. Consequently,he referred 14 related cases to other U.S. Attorney’s offices in New York, Virginia,and Washington, DC, because they fell outside of his purview. One of the major questions not addressed bythe Mueller Investigation was Trump’s connections to Russia. We know with great fidelity that the Russiansinterfered in the election and did so to help Trump win. We needed to learn why Russia believed sostrongly that they would benefit from Trump in the White House. During the campaign and while in office,Trump has completely reversed decades of U.S. policy. He has blindly supported Russia and attackedNATO.
His actions have worked to the benefit of Russia and against our ownnational security interests. Remember theHelsinki Trump-Putin meeting wherein Trump had an unprecedented secret meetingwith Putin which he has not disclosed to a single person, including his ownadvisors, and for which the interpreter had to destroy all notes. The country not only deserved to know butmust determine how Putin has compromised Trump to such a great extent. This may prove far more significant than the campaigncollusion or obstruction of justice. Mueller did not investigate Trump’s highly questionable financial tiesto Russia, but hopefully one of the other investigations will discover thetruth about the extent and nature of Trump’s debt and business dealings withRussian oligarchs and organized crime.
The big question of the moment is what Congress will do armed with the Mueller Report. House Democrats have already begun to fulfill Congress’ long overdue responsibility of oversight and accountability. Those efforts must continue. Will the House begin impeachment proceedings? If the House impeaches Trump, will the Senate even commence its own proceeding, or will McConnell refuse to do so and continue a complete cover up for the President. House Democrats have an extremely difficult decision. Will the American people support what would be a lengthy and divisive impeachment process or would they react negatively towards Democrats in the 2020 election? Republicans suffered losses after they impeached but did not remove President Clinton. There is a strong lesson here for Democrats. However, Trump’s transgressions are far more serious than Clinton’s lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
There is a strong argument that Democrats should focus their efforts on 2020 and hold off on impeachment, especially without clear consensus. They should primarily focus on legislating the issues for which the American people elected them and then conduct their oversight duties. In the election, use this evidence against Trump in addition to his policy failures. He failed on health care, taxes, the environment, etc. He went to great lengths to escape accountability for his reprehensible campaign activities and attempts to cover them up. Trump is unfit to serve as President and must cease his policies against our national interests. He certainly deserves the stigma of impeachment and removal from office. However, the stronger message is for Democrats to nominate a strong, viable candidate and knock Trump/Pence from office with a definitive statement by the electorate. Let the people decide with their votes.