I'm a little annoyed that Robert Mueller's testimony in the House has been delayed a week from July 17. But I'm annoyed for a reason different from most. I decided to get the Mueller Report and read it before he testified. So, I barreled though the 688 pages faster than I read most books and got if finished the other day!! Only to find out I had another week to spare...
I'm not going to analyze the Mueller Report in depth, but here are a few observations that leap out.
It's pretty easy to read. Though 688 pages, there is a lot that's redacted, and there are a great many footnotes that you don't need to read. Also, though the portions explaining the laws which governed the "Office's" actions are often a bit convoluted, they're actually fairly interesting and you can skim them to get the gist. As for the rest, it reads like a novel.
Regardless of whether you love Trump and think he can do no wrong, or if you hate him and cringe at the thought of him, it is near-impossible to read the first 90 pages and not easily grasp that the United States was attacked by Russia. They didn't "meddle in the election," Russia attacked the U.S. And it is repeated documented in minute and relentless detail. Whatever your political view, you should be against a foreign adversary attacking the United States. And it transcends shameful that the Republican Party is not outraged by this. They literally are putting us all at risk.
If one doesn't want to read the full report -- and most any of it -- and just want to jump to the very end to see how Mueller summarizes it all, that summary is only a fairly-brief single paragraph. Just five sentences. And if you don't even want to all that -- a whole five sentences -- you just read the very last one sentence. I reads, in full: "Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also doesn't not exonerate him."
So, when Trump keeps saying that the Report exonerates him, it's pretty black-and-white that this is a lie. And it's just as untrue when other Republicans say that the Report exonerates Trump. Because that sentence that ends the Report couldn't be more clear -- and is repeated several times throughout the report.
What's also a lie -- or untrue, if people haven't read the report or summaries and choose to ignore it -- is that the Report also doesn't exonerate Trump from colluding with Russia. Volume One is relentlessly filled with collusion by the Trump campaign. What Mueller explains very clearly is that he did not investigate whether collusion occurred, since "collusion" is not a crime. He only looked into conspiracy -- and he explains in great detail the very narrow definition of what constitutes "conspiracy." The short version is that for there to be criminal conspiracy, two or more parties must have an actual agreement between themselves to take actions and reciprocate. Further, Mueller doesn't say that such an actual agreement doesn't exist, just that the "Office" couldn't establish that it existed -- in part because there was obstruction.
However, he presents extensive detailed evidence of collusion that they came across while investigating Russia's attacks and while looking for a conspiracy agreement. There is a wide range of evidence of people in the Trump campaign, Trump included, who were not only aware of actions that Russia took in attacking the U.S., but often welcomed it and were happy to accept the benefits of that without pushing back or calling in security services. However, since there was no actual agreement about any of this, then that's not legally a "conspiracy." But it is most-definitely collusion.
Somewhat in that regard, Mueller also lets some people off -- like Don Jr. -- for actions that could be seen as conspiring with Russia (as in the Trump Tower meeting), basically because he was too stupid to know that it was illegal to do what he was doing, and "intent" is a critical component of a crime. So, if Don Jr. didn't know he was committing a crime, Mueller didn't pursue charges. There are several other instances like that by others -- where the actions would be criminal, but "intent" could not be proven.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the Report repeatedly explains with great clarity that the Justice Department has a policy that says a sitting-president cannot be charged with a crime while in office, and so there was no need for the investigation to consider against him. Yet it also regularly goes out of its way to point out that there is nothing in the law that says a president can't be charged with crimes after he leaves office.
What's also fascinating is that the final 50 pages of the Report deal with answering claims by the White House legal team challenging the right of the Special Counsel to look into whether or not a president can commit obstruction of justice -- which is the subject of Volume Two. So, for 50 pages, the Mueller Report goes into great legal detail explaining very clearly why every challenge by White House lawyers is incorrect, showing how each instance of obstruction by the president is in fact properly and appropriately covered by the law. For 50 pages. One would think that if the Mueller Team didn't find any obstruction of justice by the president, then they wouldn't feel it remotely necessary to refute claims that the president can't commit obstruction. It would be a moot point. But they not only do refute the claims...they take detailed pains to do for for (again)...50 pages!!!
And then after they've done so, they follow that immediately with a one-paragraph summary, which ends with the sentence -- "Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also doesn't not exonerate him."
Two takeaways -- 1) Russia attacked the United States repeatedly, there was extensive obstruction of justice, and there was also much collusion between the campaign and Russia. And 2) Attorney General William Barr grievously lied about the conclusions of the Mueller Report and that the Report left it to him to make those conclusions.
One final comment.
The Report also makes clear that there are many matters that they did not investigate because they did not fall under the very narrow purview of their mandate of what to investigate (which was solely Russian efforts to impact the election, and any obstruction of justice), so they passed those off to other federal districts. As such, the Mueller Report should not be taken as the sole investigation into crimes by the White House -- let alone high crimes and misdemeanors, of which "collusion" could well be such an issue. Among other abuses.
I don't know how many elected officials in the House and Senate have read the Report -- or at least been given a detailed summary by a member of their legal staff. It should be 100%, this is much too important to ignore. But I get the sense from public comments that far too many elected Republicans have done neither, most likely because they don't want to know. They want to have "plausible deniability" in their defense of Trump. But that is not plausible. And it is indefensible. This is simply much, too much important -- this is not just about Trump, it is about Russia attacking the United States. And all these elected officials of the Republican Party have sworn an oath to preserve, protect and defend the United States of America. And almost all of them are silent and complacent about that.
And this is why, again, this is not about Trump -- we know who he is. This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who enable and are complicit in it all.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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