he report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which does not establish that Donald Trump or his campaign actively took part in a conspiracy with Russia to subvert the 2016 presidential election, is a major blow to Trump’s political opponents.
Trump, of course, is taking it to the hoop, claiming that the report is a “total exoneration” (despite an official summary that states that it is not) and saying that the entire investigation was driven by people who did “very, very evil” and “treasonous things against our country” and promising a counter-investigation.
Critics on the left and the right have attacked news outlets that pumped up the Russia investigation, inflating hopes for defeating Trump based on the theory that he was a real-life Manchurian Candidate, elected by conspiring with Russia to subvert the outcome of the 2016 election.
The truth is less dramatic, but more sordid: It’s not that Trump engaged in secret dealings with the Russians in order to become President of the United States; it’s that Trump ran for President as a publicity stunt, figuring he would lose, all the while focusing on his real goal: a secret hotel deal he was working out with the Russians to build his Trump Tower Moscow.
The claim that the Mueller investigation was a big nothingburger flies in the face of the facts that we know were uncovered—even without reading the full report.
We learned the details of that scheme from Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, who testified before the House Oversight Committee: “To be clear, Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump-Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it, because he never expected to win.”
Cohen, who pleaded guilty to felony charges and was sentenced to prison after lying to Congress to protect Trump, is one of the many people with close ties to Trump who have been criminally charged as a result of the Mueller investigation. Others include Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and former campaign strategist Roger Stone.
The claim that the Mueller investigation was a big nothingburger flies in the face of all thirty-four indictments by the special counsel, as well as the facts that we know were uncovered—even without reading the full report.
In fact, Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary disproves Trump’s claims that the investigation was simply a “witch hunt.”
Barr notes that Mueller found plenty of evidence of Russian hacking and a disinformation campaign aimed at tilting the outcome of the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. That alone is sufficient justification for the investigation.
Mueller also explicitly stated, according to Barr, that, on obstruction of justice, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
What the Mueller investigation did not find was an explicit agreement between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to subvert the election. Mueller left it to the Attorney General’s office to decide whether the investigation had uncovered conclusive proof of obstruction by the President. The Attorney General quickly decided to clear Trump on that charge. Members of Congress are demanding to see the evidence. And they should.
Trump is smart enough to hint about crimes he wants his aides to commit, without coming out and making an explicit agreement to that effect.
Meanwhile, thanks to Mueller, we have learned a lot more about the mobster-like behavior of the President of the United States. As Cohen explained to the House Oversight Committee: “Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates.”
“Mr. Trump had made clear to me through his personal statements to me that we both knew to be false, and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie,” Cohen continued. “And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.”
In other words, Trump is smart enough to hint about crimes he wants his aides to commit, without coming out and making an explicit agreement to that effect.
What is important here is not whether Trump directed the Russian government to interfere in the election. What’s important is that the Russian government meddled in our election to help him, and that we now have a President of the United States who lies continually, who puts his own financial interests ahead of the interests of the country, and who is stunningly unprepared and uninterested in his job, and was as shocked as anyone that he was elected in the first place.
Trump has used his time in office to stir up conflict and petty personality wars to serve his own ego, and to continue running his family business, Sopranos-style. Cohen is going to prison in part for a scheme to use campaign funds to make hush-money payments to a porn star for Trump.
We are sure to learn more tawdry details about the Trump organization’s business practices and campaign finance violations from the investigation now underway in the Southern District of New York.
This much is clear: The case against Trump is not over with the Mueller report. Forget the spin about a report that did not find specific criminally indictable evidence of a conspiracy with Russia. Focus on the mountain of evidence that the President is unfit for office.