Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation — which has thus far only been released in a redacted version by Attorney General William P. Barr — raises more questions than it answers.
President Donald J. Trump, continuing his poor-me victory lap, has bemoaned how ill-used he’s been by the “witch hunt.” No president in history has been so abused, blah, blah, blah. (Oh, really? How about for starters the false birtherism movement against President Barack Obama in which Trump wholeheartedly participated?) He has vowed to investigate “evil things” in his own Justice Department. But the whole Russian probe began with his firing of FBI director James Comey. So he must begin with himself.
Why did Trump fire Comey and why, oh why if he were going to fire him because he wouldn’t play ball and go easy on National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — then under investigation for accepting and not reporting money from foreign governments; he would later plead guilty only to lying to the FBI — did Trump brag on camera about firing Comey over the Russia probe to “NBC NIghtly News” anchor Lester Holt and, incredibly, to the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak? Why isn’t that obstruction of justice right there?
Apparently, it was enough of an alarm bell for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — AG Jeff Sessions having recused himself because of his own Russia connections — to appoint the special counsel. If the counsel is so independent, why is he appointed by a member of the administration he’s investigating? Why isn’t he appointed by Congress?
In the course of the investigation, we learned from The New York Times that Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign ostensibly to discuss Russian adoptions — the reason Trump himself gave to the media — but in reality to learn dirt about Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. If the law says, as it does, that the intent to commit a crime is the same as committing it, why isn’t this criminal behavior? Why isn’t the Trump-crafted response further evidence of obstruction and proof of his hands-on approach to everything his underlings do?
In the end, the Russia investigation yielded seven indictments/guilty pleas, including those of Trump’s top campaign advisers; and 27 additional indictments, 26 of which were actual Russian hackers and trollers, proving Russia meddled in the 2016 election in favor of Trump. The investigation, however, brought no charge of collusion (the legal term is conspiracy) against him. Is it that Mueller found that Trump didn’t collude or that he couldn’t prove it? Why didn’t he subpoena him and interview him face to face?
The report did not “exonerate” Trump from obstruction. If it’s not the prosecutor’s job to exonerate — and apparently it isn’t — then why even bring this up? Is it that Mueller found Trump obstructed justice but couldn’t prove it?
Will Congress receive the full report and how will the Democrats navigate the shoals between this rock and a hard place? Will this guarantee Trump’s reelection and embolden him to further strongman actions? Or will it embolden the opposition to ensure his reelection bid fails?
We already have an answer to the last question. The Dems were handed a gift as El Presidente snatched defeat from the jaws of victory to go after Obamacare — the issue the helped hand the Dems the House of Representatives. Why would Trump go after an issue that has proved to be kryptonite for the Repubs, who for almost 10 years have had no plan for repeal and replace and saw one of their own — Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — uphold the Affordable Care Act in 2012, a subject discussed at length in Joan Biskupic’s new biography “The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts”?
Trump doesn’t just want to win. He wants his enemies to lose — bigly. Trump talks about witch hunts, but he has a Javert-like obsession with Obama. It’s like “Les Miserables,” but without the mediocre score and Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne and Russell Crowe.
Oh, the irony: Trump was enjoying his greatest triumph, his semi-honorable discharge from Mueller, although the bar — or should that be Barr? — had been set low. Then he overreached. He’s like the tennis player who just can’t serve out the match.
And now the Dems are right back in the game.