William Shakespeare could not have written a more riveting drama than that which is unfolding before us. Two days after receiving Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russian investigation, Attorney General William Barr presented his four-page conclusions letter to Congress and the public. It dashed the hopes of those who expected that President Trump would be charged with a crime. Trump, of course, claimed he was totally exonerated. He wasn’t.
Almost four weeks later, Barr held a press conference prior to making a redacted Mueller report public. He sounded more like Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, than the chief legal officer of the United States. Trump was still basking in the glow of Barr’s March 24 letter and having “a great day” as he left for the Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach Florida. His political high didn’t last long, however, after Democrats and the media had commented on the damning facts about him in Mueller’s 448-page tome.
Mueller’s investigation failed to “establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Mueller also declined to find that Trump had obstructed justice — but Trump was definitely not cleared of these charges either. In fact, the report provides incriminating and shocking detail on Russian interference in the election, the Trump campaign’s highly questionable activities related to the Russian efforts and Trump’s frantic attempts to squash the Russia investigation.
At no time in this nation’s history has a foreign government mounted such a sophisticated, pervasive effort to influence a presidential election. This was unquestionably an attack on our democracy, akin to an act of war. Yet, the Trump campaign welcomed it, used it and benefited greatly from it. Was that a crime? Mueller didn’t establish the necessary evidence to make that determination but that doesn’t mean crimes weren’t committed.
Were the acts of Trump and his associates treason? Mueller didn’t go there. But didn’t Trump and his campaign aid in this attack on the United States by a hostile foreign government? Consider this: If Donald Trump Jr. had gone to the FBI when Russians offered him “dirt” on candidate Hillary Clinton in June 2016 – as most loyal citizens would have done — their efforts could have been made public and stymied.
Other Trump campaign operatives also had numerous opportunities to do the ethical thing regarding Russian interference, including George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and others. Instead, they willingly played along and Trump brazenly requested that Russia hack Clinton’s emails. Five hours later – according to Mueller – they attempted to do just that. Surely that fits at least one definition of collusion.
Referring to the release of Russian hack emails, Trump’s personal attorney and former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani recently mused during an interview, “I wonder if there isn’t an argument that the people had a right to know that about Hillary Clinton.” What unbelievable audacity! Didn’t voters have a right to know about Trump’s infidelity with porn star Stormy Daniels, his ongoing attempts to cut a deal for a Trump Tower hotel complex in Russia and the many contacts his campaign associates were having with Russians? Instead, these important facts were kept from the public with illegal hush money payments and lies by Trump and his associates.
Mueller’s report did reveal some good news: Trump aids don’t always follow his orders, particularly if they’re illegal. But here’s the thing, evidence shows that Trump has repeatedly directed his staff to take such actions. Is that the type of president the rule of law and the Constitution abides? What about his oath to “faithfully execute the office of President,” which requires that “he take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed?” Can there be any doubt that Trump believes our laws don’t apply to him?
Another spot of good news is that Trump doesn’t appear to have the cunning to pull off the crimes he has been attempting or the viciousness to exact harsh retribution on those who fail him. So far, he doesn’t seem capable of taking permanent control of the government. But given more time and a few more loyal henchmen in high positions, like advisor Stephen Miller, that could change.
The bad news we’ve learned, however, is that AG Barr appears to have become a Trump enabler and “fixer.” Those who have respected Barr in the past have expressed fear that the man they knew has changed. If he hasn’t, perhaps he will resign sometime this year in order to save what’s left of his reputation. Well, I’m not holding my breath.
Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.” But is impeachment in the House worth the effort if there is no chance that Trump will be convicted in the Senate? Warren says yes; she believes it’s about principle, not politics. I agree; there are compelling reasons to hold Trump accountable.
Some Democrats may be asking if they can politically afford to impeach Trump. To uphold the rule of law and the Constitution, the better question is — can they afford not to?