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Sharp Elbows for Mueller’s Report

Terry H. Schwadron

March 26, 2019

Shunning graciousness In victory, President Trump struck out at would-be enemies, labelling the Mueller investigation “illegal,” and calling for counter-investigations aimed at Democrats. One wonders how he would have responded if the decision about prosecuting had gone the other way.

Pushing acceptance away, the Democrats in Congress and the presidential candidates, seemed more convinced than ever that the Justice Department decisions that there had been no prosecutable case for conspiracy with Russians for election interference, and therefore insufficient evidence for obstruction charges, need to be re-litigated for non-criminal oversight.

The early reactions were sharp, partisan, and portend more and deeper division, not anything that looks like “healing.” The president has two campaign rallies scheduled this week in which to flail away at his perceived enemies.

Those early reactions were somehow depressing rather than invigorating. The tone of the day is sarcastic and pointed, a sense that my guy has to win at any cost.

The idea that we have done little to shield our elections from undue influence from a foreign country, a foe like Russia, seems not to figure into much of the political calculations. The idea that Trump associates held barely legal meetings with Russians, pursued secret contacts with Russians, Wikileaks and others, that the Trump campaign gleefully accepted the help of Russians are not reasons for celebration.

If this were anyone but Donald Trump, we might expect just a touch of humility. After all, Mueller’s acceptance of Justice Department administrative policy not to bring criminal charges against a sitting president clearly weighed heavily here.

If Trump and his supporters want public acceptance of the conclusions, they should be fighting as hard as Democrats to make the report itself available. Instead, it looks as if we are in for a fight over whether Barr substituted his own judgment for Mueller’s on obstruction, or whether all of this is because we lack a prosecution on the central collusion/conspiracy matter.

From where I sit, I have a president who doesn’t really want to govern, devoted entirely to a self-love reelection campaign whose basic tenets are blame for immigrants, blame for democratic institutions, blame for Democrats and blame for even raising questions, blame for those who would raise questions about ethics, deregulation, the Wall or Climate Change. He just wants to run for office at rallies where he can bathe in self-praise and the adulation of sycophants. We have a president and campaign associates that, if they did not direct a conspiracy, simply were fools who let Republican operatives walk all over them.

And I have an opposition Democratic Party that can’t seem to prioritize that we need a health access system, an infrastructure investment, a rational foreign policy that the Trump administration can’t seem to delivery; we need a tax policy that fits our spending patterns, answers to fistfuls of social problems, and an orderly approach to big issues like immigration.

For Trump to lower his post-Mueller cannons on Democrats (and the media) is as pig-headed and anti-American as for Democrats to still be discussing a clearly dead impeachment effort; even if Mueller had put Trump in the cross-hairs, the chance of Senate Republicans voting for impeachment was iffy. The decision went his way — but that decision, which could have as easily gone against him, was exactly the result of Justice Department commitment to process and investigation.

Trump didn’t want to win the day. He wanted to dominate the day. Troublesome statements like the face that Trump “was not exonerated” by Mueller and Justice are not just to be ignored.

Trump is ignoring the fact that if he wants to blame someone for prompting a Russia investigation, he need look no further than the liars and fraudulent aides he brought into his campaign. If you’re going to accept the top line of the Mueller report, you’re also under obligation to accept the fact that there was a genuine Russia interference problem for which there have been no practical solutions in coming elections. Trump is ignoring that in the non-Russia investigations by the Southern District of New York, New York State and other prosecutors, the operations of his business, his family, his inauguration, his hush-money payments, his way of doing business have put his presidency in continuing jeopardy in both the legal and the political arenas.

The particular strangeness in the slow-release of the Mueller Report by Atty. Gen. William P. Barr reflects that tension that arose during the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton emails. People from all political persuasions were critical of then-FBI director James B. Comey Jr. in talking too much about the circumstances of the use of a private email server while not bringing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. Now, people from all political persuasions are expressing unhappiness because Barr wants to protect language about people who are not being charged before making the Mueller Report public.

I resent Trump blasting the media for doing the hard work of uncovering many of the details involved here. The newsrooms that have done the work have not been involved in starting or judging whether these acts represent crime.

We are left believing that this magic report has advanced detailed knowledge about what happened between the Trump campaign and Russians, but not for our eyes. We are left, then, with the spin that partisan participants take away from the report itself.

We should have faith in seeing the report ourselves.


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