Those Americans who were counting on special counsel Robert Mueller to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his actions during and after the 2016 campaign have been greatly disappointed.
So far, of course, we don’t really know what Robert Mueller and his crack team found during their 22-month investigation. We only know what Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr says Mueller found and didn’t find. Members of the Mueller team are already whispering that Barr is covering up the truth.
Trump and his supporters, of course, are trumpeting the Mueller report as a total exoneration of the president, but that’s not even what Barr says the report says.
On the issue of obstruction of justice, Barr wrote, “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”
Got that? Does. Not. Exonerate.
Yes, Mueller apparently found “no collusion,” which will no doubt be Trump’s 2020 campaign slogan. Maybe, maybe not, but then please explain to us why so many Trump associates were cavorting with the Russians and lying about it. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, confidant Roger Stone, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and personal attorney Michael Cohen all lied about their contacts with Russians and are headed to jail.
Trump supporters are trying to weaponize the Mueller report, as though there were never any reason to investigate more than 100 contacts between members of the Trump campaign, family and associates and Russian officials – contacts they felt they needed to hide. And if it doesn’t bother you that Trump met alone with Vladimir Putin and then destroyed the translator’s notes, you really don’t care much about national security, or this country for that matter.
The Mueller report apparently establishes that Russia did interfere with the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Trump may not have colluded with the Russians, but he knew about their interference, he encouraged it and he benefited from it. As a result, his presidency will never be legitimate in the eyes of many Americans.
The American public and members of Congress are rightly clamoring for the release of the full report. Beyond collusion and obstruction, Americans are left wondering what Trump’s tax returns would reveal, why he is not in violation of the emoluments clause, and whether paying off a porn star is a campaign finance violation.
Americans have every reason to suspect Trump of criminal wrongdoing. He cheated on his taxes, cheated on his charities, cheated on his wives and cheats at golf. He also passes out security clearances to his family and friends like free condoms.
The good news is that Mueller farmed out indictments to seven different jurisdictions to continue investigating hush money payments, illegal foreign contributions to the Trump inauguration, and the inflation of real estate valuations in order to secure bank loans. The House and Senate will also continue to mop up after Mueller, but whatever they find will no doubt be seen as too partisan to be persuasive.
I am as disappointed as most that the Mueller report has so far been so anti-climactic. But, quite honestly, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I do not want to see Trump impeached. That could lead to civil unrest.
What I want to see is Trump voted out of office in 2020 in a landslide defeat that will leave no doubt that the great majority of Americans are good people who repudiate Trump’s politics of pettiness, nationalism, greed, bigotry, ignorance and lies.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.