Well, Robert Mueller has left the building — but not before he gave us a final point at the report's conclusions and, more or less, saying, "Read the book." Thank you, Congress, but no thank …
Well, Robert Mueller has left the building — but not before he gave us a final point at the report's conclusions and, more or less, saying, "Read the book." Thank you, Congress, but no thank you.
First and foremost, it is clear, how he began and ended the report that the most important thing he wanted us to understand is the basic conclusion: Russia made a systematic effort to interfere with the American 2016 presidential election. He said that effort "deserves the attention of every American."
This point seems to have been largely overlooked in all the hoopla about conspiracy, and it shouldn't be. However, the president reportedly is so obsessed and neurotic that the matter looks like it undermines his election - when it really didn't affect the outcome that much, apparently - and his infatuation with Vladimir Putin and Russia seems so heavy that he has given it scant attention and basic lip service. Essentially, he says Putin tells him he didn't do it, so that's OK with me. After all, between buddies like Putin and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, whom he believes is not testing weapons, how can things go wrong?
We must recognize that Russia is not our friend. Putin is ruthless and would like to destroy us for Russia's benefit. Our enemies in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are now able in the digital age to hack systems and create mayhem, in a form of disruption that spies and foreign intelligence in the past never dreamed, from fake Facebook posts to hacking systems. That is not even counting what Wikileaks has caused, in likely cooperation with enemies.
Just this month, we found out one American municipal government, Baltimore, has been plagued this month by cyberattacks against its systems using a hacking tool that was stolen from the National Security Agency; reportedly it was picked up by some of the aforementioned countries to do harm elsewhere. The attackers have even demanded ransom. This incident itself hasn't gotten much play, but we should expect to see more of this in the future.
With our elections coming next year, more should be talked about, planned and carried out to protect our elections this year. From what I've read, I don't think the Trump administration is interested in the least. Mueller was warning the American public that we should pay more attention to this threat.
On the other hand, Mueller also didn't give a pass to the president, despite what the attorney general so eagerly told us to give an early spin. Trump and his minions have been screaming "no collusion" and that the report clears him. The report did nothing of the sort. Mueller said Wednesday morning the report was carefully worded and speaks for itself - and that "if we had confidence the president did not commit a crime, we would have done so."
The report itself earlier noted, "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgement."
What Mueller indicated was that there has been insufficient evidence and that it is not legal for the Justice Department to charge a sitting president. Without using the word "impeachment," he indicated that there are other constitutional ways to deal with such a situation. He was obviously punting to Congress as the one having the appropriate process.
Mueller noted Wednesday that it would be unfair to potentially accuse someone of a crime knowing it could not be adjudicated in the courts. He was even careful not to name the names of those charged and noted all are innocent until proven guilty. It is obvious he has been going by the book. And he noted Congress would not find anything more than what is in his report; he refused to answer questions Wednesday.
So, it would appear that the report does not clear the president, but raises questions that Mueller obviously thinks Congress, not the Justice Department, has the right to bring charges on and perhaps do more investigation on. Congress has been doing just that in terms of maybe 20 investigations, and this statement obviously provides cover needed to the Congress and maybe the courts to allow the current investigations to continue on the Hill.
However, this still may not move Speaker Nancy Polosi yet from her political position, which is that it would could be disaster to try to tie up the nation with actual impeachment proceedings (versus the current investigations) when it could look like sour grapes to voters and cost the Democrats - especially as Republicans in the Senate are probably closed minded to any conviction.
These are not the most courageous stands, I know, but politically Democrats feel (and may be right) that it may be better to take the president out with an election. It is the gamble of the century, one way or the other, and it puts the Democrats in quite a bind. However, many on the left are angry with the president and know that the president could reasonably be impeached.
The Republican congressman from Michigan who gained so much attention for coming out to say the president had committed "impeachable conduct," Justin Amash, said he has been approached privately by many Republicans on the Hill who say they agree with him but are not going to say anything publicly. It is no secret they have been increasingly unhappy with the president's actions of late and are pretty much staying quiet for political survival.
"Mueller's report lays all of this out," he said at a recent town meeting. "And I'm confident that if you read Volume II (of the Mueller report, which deals more with Trump and his people) you'll be appalled at much of the conduct. And I was appalled by it. And that's why I stated what I stated. That's why I came to that conclusion, because we can't go -- we can't let conduct like that go unchecked. Congress has a duty to keep the president in check ...
"It's not easy. So no one's suggesting that just because you start some inquiry or process that a person's removed from office. Nonetheless, we have a job to do. And I think we owe it to the American people to represent them, to ensure that the people we have in office are doing the right thing, are of good character aren't violating the public trust."
And, again, there is the problem of Russia. That may even be more detrimental to the country than Trump's actions.
So Robert Mueller leaves the stage, making his one and only verbal statement, which is to essentially point to his words and to point to our dangers. He leaves it to the institutions and the nation to resolve the problems, and he has given us much to work on. God help us if we don't, as so much, so very much, is at stake.
But whatever we do, Robert Mueller has done his job, with grace, dignity, and integrity. He can rest now, knowing he did his best for his country.
Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle's news editor.