Now that the report from special counsel Robert Mueller is finally available to the public, it’s clear that it says … just what everyone thought it would say. The report confirms almost every suspicion, verifies an amazing percentage of theories, and absolutely validates the concerns that caused the investigation to be launched in the first place. Russia conducted a sweeping military operation to alter the results of a presidential election in the United States, and the Trump campaign welcomed, participated in, and benefited from that effort. Period.
Beyond accepting help from Russia, sharing information with Russia, assisting in the dissemination of stolen goods, and celebrating the efforts of Russia, Donald Trump and his campaign also worked to thwart the investigation in every way. They lied to the public. They lied to Congress. They lied to investigators. They withheld evidence. They destroyed evidence. And Trump personally attempted to fire everyone interested in finding the truth.
What’s most amazing about the Mueller report in the end may be just how right everyone was. Sources turned out to be credible. Reporting turned out to have been credible. Analysis was often spot-on.
- Russia was out to help Trump, and regarded his victory as a win for them.
- Trump's campaign welcomed and accepted Russia's help.
- Trump’s campaign knowingly shared information with Russian agents in hopes of gaining political advantage.
- Trump covered up both the timing and extent of his business dealings in Russia.
- The campaign was involved directly in soliciting and distributing stolen goods.
- Both Trump and the campaign obstructed justice, lied to investigators, lied to Congress, destroyed evidence, and impeded the investigation in every way possible.
- The only reason that Donald Trump is not currently in jail is concerns about constitutional issues related to the executive—and nothing else.
Even with some 10 percent of its primary content hidden behind redactions, and 100 percent of the grand jury testimony that Mueller included with the report removed, it’s clear that the report is itself a total indictment of the Trump campaign, and the basis for the impeachment of Donald Trump.
On the obstruction front, Mueller looks at incident after incident, weighs each against existing case law regarding obstruction, and concludes over and over that, yes, Trump committed acts that fall within the definition of obstruction. There is no doubt about those actions. There is no doubt that, had they been committed by anyone else, that person would have been formally indicted.
The only issues that stood between Trump and a suit as orange as his face are the theory—put forward by Trump’s attorneys in the report, but absolutely mirroring the opinion of William Barr—that a sitting executive can legally obstruct justice, and the Department of Justice policy that a sitting executive cannot be indicted. There is no question in fact about Trump’s crimes. Only a question of policy.
Mueller believed that, as an agent of the Justice Department under direction of the executive branch, he could not resolve these questions, because his position carried with it a conflict of interest. That is, of course a DOJ member would find it convenient to give the executive all the authority of a medieval pope, because they would benefit from that authority. Mueller examines the basis of the DOJ policy and finds it both wanting and self-serving. He also looks at the defense put forward by Barr and finds it in conflict with both common law and common sense.
That’s why Mueller explicitly refers to the power of Congress to cut through these issues, and explicitly says that it cannot be solved within the confines of the Justice Department—statements that Barr didn’t just ignore, but reversed when he immediately declared that his theory of presidential perfection “trumped” all other concerns.
On the “collusion” front, the evidence is equally compelling. The Trump campaign had “numerous” connections to Russia, featuring an outreach to Moscow from all the characters that appeared in reports from the beginning. Carter Page. George Papadopoulos. Rick Gates. Paul Manafort. Michael Flynn. Donald Trump Jr. Jared Kushner. Just about the only person who talked to a Russian who didn’t seem to be doing so for political gain appears to have been, improbably, Jefferson Sessions. Or at least, Mueller didn’t appear to find any evidence that Sessions’ unique Senate office visit with the Russian ambassador was something other than what Sessions claimed it was.
Mueller also shows that not only did Trump lie about the timing and nature of his real estate efforts in Moscow, but he was also much more aware of and involved in those efforts than he admitted. The report may have not turned up a genuine “pee tape,” but it certainly turned up plenty of evidence that Russia had more than enough leverage over Trump in the form of cooperation toward building a billion-dollar tower.
When it comes to Trump’s earlier business dealings with Russia, the answer is simple: Mueller didn’t really look. For more than a year, it’s been known that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued explicit orders to Mueller defining the areas to be investigated. The report reveals that those orders did not include looking into past actions of the Trump Organization. Everything Trump did that wasn’t directly involved with the campaign period appears to have been given a waiver.
Donald Trump and the staff of his campaign end up not being indicted on conspiracy not because they didn’t reach out to Russia—the report shows that they did. Not because they didn’t share information with Russia—they did that, too. An indictment isn’t forthcoming because Mueller didn’t think that the Trump campaign and the Russian government passed the very high bar of entering into a conspiracy by making an agreement to cooperate. Mueller also seems to have given several members of the campaign, including Donald Trump Jr., a pass for simply not knowing that they were breaking the law in seeking assistance from a foreign government to sway an American election—a genuinely troubling position that could do with more explanation.
In those areas where Robert Mueller did investigate, the answer is almost uniform: They did it. Almost every accusation of cooperating with Russia is fully borne out in the evidence presented. In addition, there was obstruction, witness tampering, and destruction of evidence that Mueller acknowledges may have kept the investigation from learning more about the instances of potential conspiracy. In fact, Mueller acknowledges that but for the lies, obstruction, and destruction of evidence, the investigation may have found everything it needed to charge the Trump campaign with a broad conspiracy.
Anyone who thought the Mueller report would conclude “nothing to see here” turns out to be dead wrong. Anyone who thought it would provide damning evidence against Donald Trump and members of his campaign turns out to be absolutely right.
Why did Barr spend two weeks spinning, spinning, spinning? Because the report is about as bad as it could possibly be.