Message of the Day: Human Rights, War, Economic Opportunity
The U.S. Capital, March 24, 2019, The New York Times
After indicting the former national security advisor, campaign manager, campaign officials and other associates of President Donald Trump for various crimes–and getting convictions or guilty pleas on five so far–on Friday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III delivered his report to US Attorney General William P. Barr, finding that the president did not participate in a conspiracy with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference, but was not exonerated from obstruction of justice.
Twenty-eight others, including 26 Russians, also face criminal charges. Russian cyber warfare and other interference against US democracy and other western democracies in 2016 and since is well-founded.
Barr, today, delivered his summary to the US Congress, which included his opinion there was insufficient evidence to establish that the president committed obstruction, although Mueller had specifically excluded this conclusion. A decision to indict is a different matter as the Justice Department guidelines exclude this.
Barr’s communication appears to acknowledge that not all the information provided by Mueller was included in his opinion.
In addition to other investigations in other venues, the next stop is Congress, which it always would be constitutionally if any action was going to be taken regarding the president, and if not, regarding being fully informed of the details of the Mueller report in investigating Russian or other attacks, past, present or future on democratic processes and actions to prevent or counter them. The House already voted unanimously, Democrats and Republicans, that it should receive the full report.
Polls have shown that approximately 70% of the American people want the Mueller report to be made fully public.
We post, without further comment, two extensive news reports and two different editorial perspectives from two of the most widely-read newspapers in the US.
Following are the headline and most read articles in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as editorials from both, online today, in print tomorrow:
By Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner, March 24, 2019, The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III found no evidence that President Trump or any of his aides coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference, according to a summary of the special counsel’s key findings made public on Sunday by Attorney General William P. Barr.
Mr. Mueller, who spent nearly two years investigating Moscow’s determined effort to sabotage the last presidential election, found no conspiracy “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” Mr. Barr wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
Mr. Mueller’s team drew no conclusions about whether Mr. Trump illegally obstructed justice, Mr. Barr said, so he made his own decision. The attorney general and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, determined that the special counsel’s investigators had insufficient evidence to establish that the president committed that offense.
He cautioned, however, that Mr. Mueller’s report states that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on the obstruction of justice issue.
Still, the release of the findings was a significant political victory for Mr. Trump and lifted a cloud that has hung over his presidency since before he took the oath of office. It is also likely to alter discussion in Congress about the fate of the Trump presidency; some Democrats had pledged to wait until the special counsel finished his work before deciding whether to initiate impeachment proceedings.
The letter, by Attorney General William P. Barr, details the main findings of the special counsel’s two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
[Read the key Mueller findings.]
The president trumpeted the news almost immediately, even as he mischaracterized the special counsel’s findings. “It was a complete and total exoneration,” Mr. Trump told reporters in Florida before boarding Air Force One. “It’s a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.”
He added, “This was an illegal takedown that failed.”
Mr. Barr’s letter was the culmination of a tense two days since Mr. Mueller delivered his report to the Justice Department. Mr. Barr spent the weekend poring over the special counsel’s work, as Mr. Trump strategized with lawyers and political aides at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Mr. Mueller, who has been a spectral presence in the capital for nearly two years — so often discussed, but so rarely seen — was photographed leaving a church on Sunday morning just across Lafayette Square from the White House.
Hours later, Mr. Barr delivered his letter describing the special counsel’s findings to Congress. But congressional Democrats have demanded more, and the letter could be just the beginning of a lengthy constitutional battle between Congress and the Justice Department about whether Mr. Mueller’s full report will be made public. Democrats have also called for the attorney general to turn over all of the special counsel’s investigative files.
Mr. Barr’s letter said that his “goal and intent” was to release as much of the Mueller report as possible, but warned that some of the report was based on grand jury material that “by law cannot be made public.” Mr. Barr planned at a later date to send lawmakers the detailed summary of Mr. Mueller’s full report that the attorney general is required under law to deliver to Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers on Sunday also criticized Mr. Barr’s conclusion that the president had not obstructed justice — which requires making a determination about whether Mr. Trump had “corrupt intent” when he took steps to impede the investigation at different turns — when the special counsel’s team never questioned the president in person. After months of debate over a potential interview, Mr. Mueller’s investigators agreed to accept written answers from the president.
Mr. Barr’s letter said that the Mueller report identified no actions that, in his and Mr. Rosenstein’s minds, “constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent.” Mr. Barr did not consult Mr. Mueller in writing his letter to leaders of the congressional judiciary committees, a Justice Department official said on Sunday.
Shortly after the release of the Mueller findings, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter that he planned to call Mr. Barr to testify about what he said were “very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department.”
The Russia investigation has buffeted the White House from the earliest days of the Trump administration, with many current and former aides to Mr. Trump brought for questioning to the special counsel’s warren of offices in a plain office building in downtown Washington. F.B.I. agents fanned out across the nation and traveled to numerous foreign countries. Members of Mr. Mueller’s team questioned some witnesses at airports after they landed in the United States.
Ultimately, a half-dozen former Trump aides were indicted or convicted of crimes, most for conspiracy or lying to investigators. Twenty-five Russian intelligence operatives and experts in social media manipulation were charged last year in two extraordinarily detailed indictments released by the special counsel. The inquiry concluded without charging any Americans for conspiring with the Russian campaign.
More than two years of criminal indictments and steady revelations about Trump campaign contacts with Russians reveal the scope of the special counsel investigation.
The findings could bring closure for some who have obsessed over the myriad threads of a byzantine investigation. A cottage industry of Mueller watchers has spent months on social media and cable news debating thorny constitutional issues, spinning conspiracy theories and amassing encyclopedic details about once obscure figures — Carter Page, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, George Papadopoulos and others.
How many minds it changes is another matter. Opinions have hardened over time, with many Americans already convinced they knew the answers before Mr. Mueller submitted his conclusions. Some believe that the special counsel’s previous indictments, twinned with voluminous news reporting, have already shown a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Some believe that the investigation is, as Mr. Trump has long described it, a “witch hunt.”
To prove a conspiracy, former prosecutors said, Mr. Mueller’s team would have had to show that Mr. Trump or one or more of his associates agreed that Russia should interfere in the election through computer espionage, illegal use of social media or other criminal means.
Campaign officials at times were eager to accept benefits from Russia’s covert operation. “I love it,” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, responded when an intermediary said a Russian emissary wanted to give the campaign damaging information on Hillary Clinton at a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016.
Mr. Trump himself urged Russia to try to unearth deleted emails from a private server Mrs. Clinton had used when she was secretary of state.
And Roger J. Stone, Jr., the president’s longtime friend, tried to enlist intermediaries to connect with WikiLeaks, Russia’s chosen depository for Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers.
But absent an agreement with the Russian government to break the law, former Justice Department officials said, none of that made Mr. Trump or his associates into co-conspirators with the Kremlin.
“There is a big difference between saying, ‘Gosh, I think WikiLeaks has the ability to hack into the Democratic National Committee computers’ and saying ‘We would like them to dump those out in the public, so let’s call them up and ask them to do that,’” said Mary McCord, a former top-ranking national security official at the Justice Department.
The release of Mr. Mueller’s findings could force a decision by Democrats on a simmering issue they have said would wait until the investigation’s end: whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has said it would not be “worth it” to try to impeach Mr. Trump, but suggested she could change her mind if an overwhelming bipartisan consensus emerged.
For months, the president and his lawyers have waged as much of a public relations campaign as a legal one — trying to discredit the Mueller investigation to keep public opinion from swaying lawmakers to move against Mr. Trump.
He was given a wide mandate — to investigate not only Russian election interference but also “any matters that may arise directly from that investigation.” Mr. Mueller has farmed out multiple aspects of his inquiry to several United States attorneys’ offices, and those investigations continue.
Mr. Barr’s letter said that the special counsel’s office employed 19 lawyers and was assisted by about 40 F.B.I. agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants and other staff. About 500 witnesses were interviewed, and 13 foreign governments were asked to turn over evidence.
Over all, the special counsel’s office issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants and obtained more than 230 orders for communications records.
The Justice Department regulations governing the Mueller inquiry only required the special counsel to give a succinct, confidential report to the attorney general explaining his decisions to either seek — or decline to seek — further criminal charges. Mr. Mueller operated under tighter restrictions than similar past inquiries, notably the investigation of President Bill Clinton by Ken Starr, who ended up delivering a 445-page report in 1998 that contained lascivious details about an affair the president had with a White House intern.
Mr. Mueller will not recommend new indictments, ending speculation that he might charge some of Mr. Trump’s aides in the future. The Justice Department’s general practice is not to identify the targets of its investigations if prosecutors decide not to bring charges, so as not to tarnish their reputations. Mr. Rosenstein emphasized this point in a speech last month.
“It’s important,” Mr. Rosenstein said, “for government officials to refrain from making allegations of wrongdoing when they’re not backed by charges that we are prepared to prove in court.”
Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.
By Sadie Gurman, Aruna Viswanatha and Byron Tau, March 24, 2019, The Wall Street Journal
Special counsel report leaves open questions about obstruction of justice, according to William Barr’s summary
WASHINGTON—Special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that President Trump and his campaign didn’t conspire or coordinate with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, according to a letter Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress on Sunday that summarized the final report on Mr. Mueller’s investigation.
But Mr. Mueller didn’t draw a conclusion on whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, according to Mr. Barr’s letter, noting the report neither finds that the president committed a crime nor exonerated him. In the absence of a determination from Mr. Mueller, Mr. Barr wrote, he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that Mr. Trump’s actions didn’t reach the bar of a crime.
The announcement brings to an end an investigation that has roiled the administration since 2017 when Mr. Trump fired James Comey, his Federal Bureau of Investigation director. But a new political drama over the report was set to begin, with congressional Democrats promising to investigate the report’s conclusions and seek access to the full document.
Mr. Trump—who has issued repeated attacks on the investigation and the lawyers and FBI agents involved—embraced the report’s findings. Speaking to reporters in Florida, Mr. Trump called the findings a “complete and total exoneration.” One of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, described the report as “better than I expected.”
Mr. Barr provided the details in a four-page letter summarizing the findings of the22-month investigation. The special counsel “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mr. Barr told Congress, quoting the report.
On whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, Mr. Barr quoted Mr. Mueller saying that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The report on the investigation removes a legal threat and presents a political win for Mr. Trump and his allies after several people in Mr. Trump’s orbit admitted communicating with Russian officials while Moscow was engaged in an operation that U.S. intelligence has said was aimed at boosting him, denigrating his Democratic rival and sowing discord in U.S. society.
But it is also figured to invigorate congressional investigations into Mr. Trump’s interactions with law enforcement. Mr. Barr told Congress he sought to release as much of the report as possible but also noted it contains secret grand jury information that, in the absence of a criminal finding, generally can’t be shared with the public. Those rules are designed to give prosecutors broad powers to obtain sensitive information about subjects under criminal investigation, but they limit disclosure of that information to protect the privacy of those people if no charges result.
The conclusion of the Mueller probe also leaves in its wake about a dozen other probes into Mr. Trump and his associates by an array of federal, state and congressional investigators. Mr. Trump’s inaugural is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, and Mr. Trump’s longtime informal political adviser is scheduled to face trial later this year on charges brought by Mr. Mueller’s office.
Mr. Mueller examined multiple actions by Mr. Trump, including his firing of Mr. Comey and his efforts to pressure his former attorney general to curtail the Russia investigation. Mr. Barr wrote that Justice Department leadership determined that the evidence Mr. Mueller assembled on that question was “not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
The attorney general wrote that the Justice Department’s longstanding opinion that a sitting president can’t be indicted had no bearing on his legal conclusion that Mr. Trump’s actions didn’t rise to the level of a crime. Mr. Barr noted that the department’s bar for bringing criminal obstruction-of-justice charges requires “corrupt intent” to obstruct a proceeding.
In June 2018, Mr. Barr—well before becoming attorney general—sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department criticizing Mr. Mueller’s obstruction theory as “fatally misconceived” and damaging to the presidency. In that memo, he wrote the president was lawfully exercising his authority by firing Mr. Comey.
Democrats in Congress were quick to launch a fierce challenge to Mr. Barr’s conclusions, given that earlier criticism of the probe. Lawmakers are likely to reach their own determination about whether any of Mr. Trump’s actions might warrant censure or impeachment, and they have demanded access to the evidence Mr. Mueller obtained.
In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders in Congress, said: “Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the special counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.”
Democratic presidential hopefuls also called for the release of the full report over the weekend.
Mr. Mueller delivered his report to the Justice Department on Friday, ending a sprawling investigation that involved issuing more than 2,800 subpoenas; executing more than 500 search warrants; obtaining more than 230 orders for records of private communications; making requests of 13 foreign governments for evidence and interviewing about 500 witnesses, according to the Justice Department.
The investigation is the most thorough accounting of Russian activity during the 2016 presidential election. U.S. intelligence concluded shortly before Mr. Trump took office that Moscow conducted a campaign of hacking, leaking and disinformation aimed at boosting him over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee affirmed those conclusions on Russian involvement in May 2018. Moscow has denied interfering in the election.
A separate investigation last year in the House, which was controlled by Republicans at the time, disputed the premise that the Russian campaign was aimed at boosting Mr. Trump.
Mr. Mueller’s inquiry ultimately led to the convictions of five Trump advisers, several of whom admitted to misleading investigators about their contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries, and the indictment of two dozen Russian citizens, including Russian intelligence officers.
Mr. Barr’s chief of staff called White House lawyer Emmet Flood and read him the letter about 3 p.m, a senior Justice Department official said, adding that had been the department’s only communication with the White House as of late Sunday afternoon. Mr. Barr hadn’t spoken with Mr. Trump, and the White House didn’t have the report, the official said.
Democratic lawmakers held a conference call to decide on next steps, which could largely play out on Capitol Hill. Democrats remain united in demanding that the report and much of the investigative material be released to the public.
“Seems like the Department of Justice is putting matters squarely in Congress’ court,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) wrote on Twitter.
In particular, House Democrats seized on language saying Mr. Trump hadn’t been exonerated in an obstruction-of-justice probe, even if the president hadn’t been found conclusively at fault either.
Mr. Nadler said the public needed to know what Mr. Mueller had found in stopping short of clearing the president, saying the Justice Department “owes the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work.”
Earlier this month, the House approved, 420-0, a resolution calling for the public release of Mr. Mueller’s report, but a Democratic effort to pass the measure in the Senate was blocked by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.).
For many Republicans, the end of the investigation represents an opportunity to shift the narrative from the probe to focus on the economy and what they said are the benefits of Republican tax cuts. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said in a statement that Democrats “acted irresponsibly and threw caution to the wind to damage and distract from the work the Trump administration is doing.”
Mr. Barr over the weekend worked closely with Mr. Rosenstein and their top advisers to determine what top-line summary of the report they could quickly deliver to lawmakers.
The special counsel’s office wasn’t consulted about their summary, and the office didn’t respond to requests for comment about Mr. Barr’s summary.
The attorney general said he has asked for Mr. Mueller’s counsel in deciding what other information the law and longstanding Justice Department protocol will allow him to release.
Mr. Barr gave no time frame for how long such a review would take.
. . .
By The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2019
All Americans should be pleased with the end of the collusion illusion.
Well, so much for the claim that Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russians to steal the American Presidency. That conspiracy theory, which has distorted American politics for more than two years, expired in an instant Sunday when Attorney General William Barr delivered Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “principal conclusions” to Congress.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Mr. Barr wrote in a four-page letter to the Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate.
Mr. Barr’s letter also said that Mr. Mueller investigated the evidence of whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice but made no “prosecutorial judgment.” Mr. Barr said that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein examined that evidence and concluded there is nothing sufficient to prove that the President “engaged in obstructive conduct.” Mr. Trump called all this an “exoneration,” and it certainly looks to be, but it’s worth stepping back from the partisan claims for some larger political context.
* * *
The Russia conclusion in particular ought to be good news to all Americans. Mr. Mueller spent two years and the vast resources of the FBI and Justice Department to search for “collusion.” He found ample evidence that Russia did try to influence the election. But he found that no one in the Trump campaign “coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” Mr. Barr wrote.
This lifts the cloud over the 2016 election that authoritarians like Vladimir Putin hope to promote with their meddling in democracies. It means no Trump officials abetted the hack into Democratic emails, and no Trump officials conspired with WikiLeaks (Roger Stone’s fantasies aside). The conclusion should restore a measure of public confidence in our political system and the integrity of U.S. elections. Imagine the political crisis had Mr. Mueller found the opposite?
The end of the collusion illusion should also cause the media to do some soul-searching about rushes to judgment. For two years, with the help of ex-Obama officials, they spun anecdotes of contacts between Russians and Trump campaign advisers into a conspiracy. With few exceptions they went well beyond First Amendment oversight into anti-Trump advocacy. But it was always odd that those individual Russia-Trump contacts never added up to anything or went anywhere, which is why we warned about waiting for the facts.
Many in the press also took Mr. Trump’s denunciations against the investigation and his odd solicitousness for Mr. Putin as an admission of guilt. But Mr. Trump is often his own worst enemy, and bursts of ego and anger aren’t evidence of anything but predictable Trump behavior.
The question has always been whether Mr. Mueller would be able to connect those anecdotes into a larger conspiracy, but now we know he could not. By the way, Mr. Mueller’s probe is the third to find no Russia-Trump collusion, following the House and Senate Intelligence Committee findings. Perhaps the press corps will finally take no conspiracy for an answer.
As for obstruction of justice, some Democrats will assert that Mr. Mueller’s failure to reach a conclusion justifies more investigation. They will demand to see the evidence Mr. Mueller compiled, though most of this is already in the public domain since it concerned the firing of James Comey as FBI director. And they will claim that Messrs. Barr and Rosenstein are politically conflicted.
But note that Mr. Barr says that he and Mr. Rosenstein took into account that Mr. Mueller found that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” which bears on motive. Without an underlying crime, what was Mr. Trump trying to cover up?
Mr. Barr says he and Mr. Rosenstein reached their judgment about obstruction without getting to the constitutional issue of whether a sitting President can be indicted. But in our view Mr. Trump had every right as President to fire Mr. Comey for whatever reason he saw fit. The Constitution gives the President the power to hire and fire at will, and it cannot be illegal to perform an act that the Constitution says is legal, no matter the motive.
House Democrats will have to decide what to do with all this, and their first resort will be a demand to see the entire report. Mr. Barr in his letter again promised to disclose as much as he can subject to grand-jury secrecy and other Justice rules. But we also hope he includes in his disclosures the documents that explain how this entire Russia conspiracy story began at the FBI and inside the Obama Administration. With Mr. Mueller’s conclusions, we now know that someone may have conned the FBI into one of the great dirty tricks in American political history.
The Mueller report won’t end this rancorous period in American politics, but at least it should put the Russia conspiracy file to bed. And for that we can all be grateful.
. . .
By The Editorial Board, The New York Times, March 24, 2019
A Trump-friendly attorney general’s letter doesn’t do justice to the special counsel’s investigation. Release his whole report.
On its face, the letter that Attorney General William Barr sent to Congress on Sunday afternoon, summarizing the key findings of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, is good news, not just for President Trump.
According to Mr. Barr’s four-page summary, Mr. Mueller and his team were unable to establish that anyone connected to the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government when it interfered to help Mr. Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign.
This should provide some relief to all Americans who have harbored fears that a presidential candidate was conspiring with Vladimir Putin to subvert American democracy. Mr. Mueller — who never once responded to the shameless stream of insults Mr. Trump has hurled at him over the last two years — is as careful and thorough an investigator as there is. His investigation lasted almost two years, issued more than 2,800 subpoenas and roughly 500 search warrants and heard from a similar number of witnesses. If he couldn’t find any links, it’s doubtful anyone could.
What this outcome is not, however, is a “Complete and Total EXONERATION,” as Mr. Trump unsurprisingly spun it. Mr. Mueller explicitly declined to exonerate the president on the matter of obstruction of justice — a crime that constituted one of the articles of impeachment for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. After examining Mr. Trump’s actions and weighing “difficult issues” of law and fact, Mr. Mueller punted. “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report states.
Mr. Barr wasn’t as cautious. Less than 48 hours after receiving Mr. Mueller’s report, the attorney general briskly decided that Mr. Trump had not obstructed justice. Why not? Because there was no underlying crime to obstruct, Mr. Barr said, and anyway, most of Mr. Trump’s behavior took place in full public view, had no connection to any legal proceeding, and wasn’t “done with corrupt intent.” How did Mr. Barr make these determinations so quickly? On what evidence in the report did he base it?
Recall that Mr. Barr got his current job only after Mr. Trump shoved out his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, for not showing him enough personal loyalty and shutting down the Russia investigation at the start. Among the reasons Mr. Barr may have appealed to the president was an unsolicited memo he sent last year to the Justice Department, taking the position that Mr. Mueller should not be allowed to question Mr. Trump about obstructing justice, and that the president could not be guilty of obstruction unless there were an underlying crime to obstruct.
In other words, Mr. Barr did exactly as Mr. Trump hoped he would. But there’s a reason obstructing justice is a crime on its own. The justice system doesn’t work when people lie to authorities, no matter why they do so.
Mr. Barr’s curious views on obstruction are just one reason that Mr. Mueller’s full report must be made available, immediately, to both Congress and the American people.
Also, while Mr. Mueller may not have found sufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy, let’s not lose sight of what we already know, both from his investigation and from news reports over the past two years.
We know that the Russian government interfered repeatedly in the 2016 presidential election, by hacking into computer servers of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. We know that it did this with the goals of dividing Americans and helping Donald Trump win the presidency. We know that when top members of the Trump campaign learned about this interference, they didn’t just fail to report it to the F.B.I. They welcomed it. They encouraged it. They made jokes about it. On the same day that Mr. Trump publicly urged the Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails, they began to do just that. And we know that when questioned by federal authorities, many of Mr. Trump’s top associates lied, sometimes repeatedly, about their communications with Russians. None of this is in dispute.
That Mr. Mueller couldn’t find sufficient evidence that Mr. Trump or anyone involved in his campaign had coordinated directly with the Russians may be explained by the fact that they didn’t need to. They were already getting that help.
We also know that what began as a counterintelligence investigation quickly turned into a criminal investigation, in large part because Mr. Trump surrounded himself with criminals. To date, his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; his deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates; his national security adviser, Michael Flynn; his campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos; and his personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, have all pleaded guilty or been convicted of federal crimes. In January, Mr. Mueller charged Roger Stone, Mr. Trump’s longtime aide, with multiple counts of witness tampering, obstructing justice, and making false statements.
Imagine if we’d learned all of this just Sunday, in one fell swoop, rather than in a trickle of indictments and prosecutions over the last 18 months.
Americans are, of course, continuing to learn more unsettling truths from the dozen or so other investigations that are continuing, such as the one in New York that has already landed Mr. Cohen a three-year prison sentence for campaign-finance violations that prosecutors said Mr. Trump was also involved in, from the White House.
One might expect Mr. Trump to feel happiness at Sunday’s news, but for him, that emotion seems to transform into a desire for vengeance. It’s no surprise that he and his allies are once again floating the idea of prosecuting Mrs. Clinton. Remember her? She was the candidate who, during a presidential debate all the way back in 2016, said: “It’s pretty clear you won’t admit that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do and that you continue to get help from him because he has a very clear favorite in this race.”
Mr. Putin did have a clear favorite. He interfered on his behalf, and his favorite was elected president. Trump campaign officials knew about this and were more than happy for the help. Then they lied about receiving that help. This isn’t so complicated. And while Mr. Mueller may not be able to do anything about it, Congress, and the American people, certainly can.
- Issue of the Week: Human Rights, Economic Opportunity
- Message of the Day: Human Rights, Economic Opportunity
- “Is It a Pandemic Yet?”, The New York Times
- “South Africa, Apartheid, Crimes against humanity and the Rule of Law: Quo Vadis?”, Daily Maverick
- “The world’s most unlikely solar farms”, BBC Future
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