EDITORIAL: Mueller reinforces Trump's misdoings
In overseeing the two-year investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination by the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller ran a very tight ship.
The former FBI director did not comment publicly during the probe, his office issued very few statements and there were virtually no leaks.
There was considerable expectation, then, when Mueller took to the microphones last week for a brief public statement.
After all, his office’s low profile during the two-year investigation left the media field open to President Trump and maniacal minions like Rudy Giuliani, who gleefully filled the vacuum with their particular brand of fact-free fanaticism.
Mueller last week put the lie to much of their narrative in an understated, matter-of-fact, 10-minute speech.
The lifelong Republican (despite what Trump says) was hardly conflicted (despite what Trump says) in making clear his report does not exonerate the president (despite what Trump says).
While Department of Justice policy precludes Mueller from charging Trump with a crime — or, Mueller believes, even stating that he has committed one — the special counsel left little doubt about what he believes: “If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.”
The Mueller Report, actually, says much the opposite: It spells out more than 10 instances in which the president sought to impede, influence or derail the investigation – otherwise known as obstruction of justice.
Mueller’s statement was also a rebuke to Attorney General William Barr, who has been everything the consigliere-hungry Trump could have dreamed of when he was appointed earlier this year.
Barr’s initial summation of the report and a subsequent pre-release spin session weeks later when the (largely redacted) document was finally produced were egregious breaches of his office.
Instead of letting the report speak for itself, as Mueller has insisted on doing, Barr intentionally mischaracterized its findings to leave the incorrect impression that it found no misdeeds or potentially criminal behavior by Trump.
In fact, the report cites dozens of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries despite leaving many questions unanswered owing to the lack of cooperation from several key players.
Trump himself was among those refusing to testify, his attorneys rightly ascertaining the president’s inability to speak truthfully on any matter would be problematic. (“A perjury trap,” Giuliani cried at the thought of Trump giving sworn testimony, despite the fact that perjury can only be committed if the witness lies.)
Mueller’s remarks do not change the context in which his report is to be seen but they magnify the findings. He stressed anew that “there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”
Including congressional Republicans. Unfortunately, they are treating the report much the way they have treated the president’s dangerous and deadly immigration policies, persistent conflicts of interest, hush-money payments to mistresses, excuse-making for white nationalists, churlish government shutdowns, denigration of the nation’s military and intelligence institutions, social-media insults and embarrassments, paltry responses to natural disasters, lies and laziness.
They’re ignoring it.
Democrats are not. Nor are they ignoring the continued flouting of the Constitution by an administration that blows off subpoena requests, orders private citizens not to testify before Congress, and generally behaves as if it were above the law.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear she’s not going to be goaded into impeaching the president in the short term. But should public opinion continue to build for such a move, should additional GOP colleagues join Republican Rep. Justin Amash in his calls for such a move, should continuing extralegal White House belligerence necessitate such a move, it will come.
And as Robert Mueller reaffirmed last week, there’s plenty of evidence to justify that impeachment inquiry, if it becomes necessary.
It’s all there in the report.