Not a Complete Dud

No collusion. No obstruction. U.S. President Donald Trump is delighted by the Mueller report, released in part on April 18. He’ll thoroughly relish playing the victim of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, an investigation that he likens to slander against his honorable character. It’s a “scam,” a coup by corrupt police and rogue Democrats. Steps must be taken so that a president in office never again has to undergo such a witch hunt, he says …

His opponents have not even finished reading the voluminous report that the president has already taken up on the 2020 campaign trail, armed with ammunition to deliver his message of victimhood and revenge to a segment of the electorate that’s already seduced by populism amid a growing mistrust of elites and public institutions. The finer details of the report will be quickly lost in this Trumpian jumble.

Resuming where he left off when he published a four-page summary of the report, Attorney General William Barr delivered the equivalent of a presumption of innocence to President Trump. Barr recognizes the real interference of Russia in two forms during the 2016 campaign: the use of social networks for the misinformation and polarization of the American electorate, and the piracy of sensitive data of the Democratic Party, made public through WikiLeaks.

The Russians and their associates did not get the assistance of Trump or his entourage in the pursuit of their fraudulent schemes. There is no evidence of collusion and no evidence that Trump tried to impede the course of justice to derail Mueller’s investigation, Barr argued during a press conference that was short on details (because the report had not yet been made public), forcing journalists to ask questions blindly.

The report is not as generous to Trump as his attorney general makes it seem. The investigation concludes that there is insufficient evidence of collusion to bring charges. That’s a far cry from “no collusion.”

Members of the Trump campaign had more than 100 contacts with the Russians, WikiLeaks or their intermediaries. They knew that some of Russia’s actions would be favorable to the Republican campaign. They cannot be held criminally responsible because the investigation shows that they did not participate in the cyberattack against the Democrats and that they were not involved in the WikiLeaks data dissemination process. The organization founded by Julian Assange did not participate in the piracy of data either; it simply made it public. Here again, this nuance makes cooperation between the Trump team and Assange’s team an activity that escapes criminal justice. In short, coordination is not collusion.

If they had nothing to be ashamed of, why did so many members of Trump’s inner circle lie about their contacts with Russian middlemen? This question remains unanswered.

Far from being a dud, the investigation led to the filing of about 100 charges against 34 people, including six henchmen or Trump advisers. The Mueller report documents not only Russian interference to weaken the Democratic fabric, but President Trump’s frantic attempts to bury the investigation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has documented a dozen incidents that could have amounted to an attempt to obstruct justice by President Trump. He carefully laid out the actions taken by Trump to derail the investigation: dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, misleading statements on the Trump team’s contracts with Russia, a request to fire Mueller, attempts to limit the scope of Mueller’s work, pressure on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, etc.

If the investigation had unequivocally found that the president did not obstruct justice, Mueller would have said exactly that, says the report. Instead, Mueller and his team state that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

A sitting president cannot be indicted without provoking a constitutional crisis, which Mueller explicitly wanted to avoid. However, this does not mean that he can’t be dragged to justice at the end of his presidency. Mueller therefore leaves the ball in Congress’ court, stating that elected officials have the authority to prevent a president from misusing his powers.

The House Judiciary Committee, with a Democratic majority, was quick to take over by inviting the special counsel to appear. No, the end of the Mueller investigation does not mark the end of investigations into Donald Trump.

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