Yes, Adam Schiff is a Democrat, but Robert Mueller is a Republican. If you can’t conceive of a world in which someone not of your political party can be telling the truth even when it is not supportive of your party or school of thought, save yourself some time and trouble and stop reading right here. Because this is about how Russians are attacking American elections and the Trump Administration isn’t doing anything about it.
- A multiyear special counsel investigation confirmed the attacks and says they are still happening,
- the Senate Intelligence committee—Republicans!—has investigated and found it to be true, too,
- but the Senate majority leader—Republican!—is blocking Congress from taking defensive action against future assaults.
- The evidence says the president’s 2016 campaign welcomed the Russian effort to help him win that election but not to a level constituting a criminal conspiracy, yet
- the president himself (and others) took a number of actions intended to thwart the special counsel’s investigation,
- constituting obstruction of justice, a high crime or a misdemeanor which could lead to impeachment of this president (as could other potentially impeachment-worthy actions by this president)
- if Congress recognizes its responsibilities to take action.
- Democrats in the House appear to be doing so.
Dahlia Lithwick in Slate last week reminded us that the special counsel’s investigation—which became necessary only because the president’s attorney general had to recuse himself from the whole matter because he had been part of the campaign—was originated to look into Russian interference in the election, not into crimes by Donald Trump or any other American.
Robert Mueller was originally charged with investigating Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and that only secondarily was he tasked with figuring out whether the president had obstructed justice by impeding that investigation. The whole point of this sad affair—lost entirely on a Law & Order nation intent on seeing the Mueller investigation end with Trump in handcuffs on the White House lawn—was that Russia hacked an election, that it is right now hacking the next election, and that this is a threat to national security and the long-standing American experiment in representative democracy. On this one point, Mueller was emphatic: “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign,” Mueller told the House Intelligence Committee. Indeed that, and not the commission of specified crimes, was always meant to be the special counsel’s yardstick.
Rep. Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intel Committee, has been making this argument for more than a year, trying to remind the American people that criminality is not the baseline; criminality is a side dish. Congress is meant to be overseeing and investigating something far more important and also something far less quantifiable—not just whether Donald Trump committed crimes (Mueller functionally tagged him for that regardless)—but whether Donald Trump sold out, devalued, shilled for, and grifted around American democracy over the course of the 2016 election. The question for Mueller has always been whether Russia interfered in an election (it did), whether Trump benefited (he did), and whether he tried to stymie the investigation into this concern (he did). All of that was laid bare on Wednesday for anyone who was listening. Trump campaign members were exchanging polling data with Russian intelligence operatives and hosting meetings at Trump Tower in order to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump was lying about all the Russia contacts before he was even caught lying about it. This is not in dispute, even as all the screaming over the origins of the Steele dossier attempts to distract from these facts.
Donald Trump prioritized his brand over American national security during the election, and he gave foreign interests ample opportunity to exploit and capitalize on those actions, both during the campaign and after. His campaign prized winning and, if he did not win, his ability to still build a hotel in Russia over American interests. Nobody disputes any of this. Republicans in Congress admire it. Half of the American electorate forgives it, sold on the dream that to be “successful,” i.e., to make money freely, is the ultimate expression of American aspiration. The Trump campaign exposed and continues to expose the country to foreign meddling, and it continues to make itself vulnerable to foreign blackmail. And the GOP is unbothered, because it is prioritizing party over patriotism, and party over national election security.
This president spends a lot of time criticizing people who oppose him by asserting that they don’t love this country. (Merely opposing what a president—any president—says or does or wants to do is not evidence of lack of love for America; you can make the argument that it is the quintessentially American thing to do, that speaking out for what you think is best for America is clear evidence of love of country. Trump himself has been doing it for years!) Yet we are to believe that Donald Trump loves his country although, in the face of clear evidence that Russia is attacking us by interfering in our elections, he’s taken no action to punish the attackers or to protect us from future attack? When he, in fact, makes repeated public and oleaginous displays of cozying up to the leader of the country that is attacking us?
Mueller’s testimony before two House committees last week has been criticized for not being a good enough “show.” That’s not the point, or shouldn’t be. There are two points, actually: the fact that the Russians are attacking us, and the fact of what Mueller’s investigation found about President Trump’s actions while investigating those attacks. As reported in The Nation, Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler narrowed the focus:
NADLER: Director Mueller, the president has repeatedly claimed your report found there was no obstruction and completely and totally exonerated him. That is not what your report said, is it?
MUELLER: Correct, not what the report said.
NADLER: You wrote: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are not able to reach that judgment.” Does that say there was no obstruction?
Nadler pursued the matter further, asking, “Can you explain what that finding means so the American people can understand?” Mueller replied, “The finding indicates that the president was not exonerated for the act he allegedly committed.”
That may not have been a revelation for Americans who read the Mueller report. But it was a conclusion that was so jarring, when stated by a veteran investigator and prosecutor, that Nadler sought a final confirmation of the special counsel’s determination. “In fact,” said Nadler, “you were talking about incidents in which the president sought to use this official power outside of usual channels to exert undue influence over your investigations. Is that right?”
“Correct,” replied Mueller.
I found a couple more things I’d like to share, starting with concerns about proceeding on impeachment when there’s a good chance the Republicans controlling the Senate would do anything to protect the president of their party:
Thanks Tom the Dancing Bug/gocomics.com