Thoughts on the Mueller Report

So I read the Mueller Report. Or technically, Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. I came away with a few key lessons:

  1. Trump and his campaign did not conspire with Russia.
  2. Russia absolutely did attack our election.
  3. Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

Reading the Report

With all the talk about the report and possible impeachment, and all the lies about the report, it seemed worth reading it for myself.

It’s very long and took me a while to get through—and I read a lot. It wasn’t so much the legalese that made it hard, but the incredible amount of detail. Mueller basically laid out every single rabbit hole they chased down and gave a report on everything, whether there was something there or not. So in many cases there’s a lots of detail about what happened, lots of detail about the laws involved, and lots of detail about why the evidence does or doesn’t support criminal charges.

It’s an exercise in covering your ass.

Thorough and detailed. And that’s what it should be. We’re talking about our democratic process, the very institution that defines our government. It has to be thorough so we know, once and for all, whether something bad happened.

And something bad did happen, regardless of your political leanings.

I don’t know if everyone needs to read the report. It’s so involved, it’s probably not worth it. The legal language mostly isn’t too bad, but there were a few times when it does get intense. The redactions didn’t seem excessive to me either (though it was hard to tell in my ebook version). It is probably worth reading the summary sections, just to know what it says for yourself.

1. Trump Didn’t Conspire With Russia

So the first conclusion I came away with is that Trump and his campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russia (collusion is a made up word and not a legal thing, as the report explains, so let’s stop using it). At least this report found no evidence of that. And they dug pretty deep, so I think we can have reasonable confidence in the conclusion.

And even though I do not like Trump at all, I’m very happy with this conclusion. What a sigh of relief. The idea that the president of the United States would conspire with a foreign power to get that job—that’s terrifying.

I think this conclusion is good for America, no matter where you are politically.

Trump continually touts this conclusion, as he should. But it’s far from the end of the story.

2. Russia Attacked Our Election

The next big conclusion from the report is that Russia attacked our election. This came in two forms:

  1. Creating social media disinformation campaigns. More than just bots, these included fake social media profiles that organized real life political rallies. These fake accounts were quoted in the media and used to show what “real voters” think. Facebook estimates these fake posts may have been seen by 126 million people. (As propaganda campaigns go, that’s shockingly effective.)
  2. Hacking the computers and emails of campaign officials and election officials. More than just stealing information from candidates (which is still illegal, though Trump seems to endorse this idea), this included trying to break into and comprise our election system. While you might laugh at a silly campaign manager gullible enough to fall for a phishing attempt, it’s a lot more serious when it’s an election official in charge of safeguarding out ballot boxes.

The fact that this happened is startling. Not so much that hackers exist and they do bad stuff, but that the U.S. was specifically targeted and attacked by a foreign government. This wasn’t just ‘fat kids in their mom’s basement,’ this was the Russian government. That’s outrageous.

But what’s really mind boggling about this is the complete lack of a response from Trump. He’s denied that Russia has attacked us for so long, whether it’s back in Helsinki when he took Vladimir Putin’s word over our own intelligence agencies or even now that the report is out and he still jokes about it. He recently met with Putin and joked about how he told him not to hack us.

The president joked with a foreign leader about their attack on our democracy.

Just take a moment to wonder at the madness of that. Imagine any other president doing that. The cavalier way that Trump just dismisses this attack on democracy should be chilling.

I think Trump’s failure to protect and defend American democracy is the real high crimes and misdemeanors in the Muller Report that he should be impeached for.

3. Trump Obstructed the Investigation

The final conclusion is that Trump repeatedly tried to obstruct the investigation. There are a ton of examples of this, some with more evidence or weight that others.

This section of the report got a little hard to follow because there were so many egregious examples and so much legalese analyzing what was required in each case to bring charges or make a case.

It’s mostly Trump trying to cover his butt and get out from under the cloud this investigation cast on his presidency. And his own actions only made it worse.

In some ways I get how people can argue that this is a process crime, and it’s not that big of a deal. Trump personally didn’t do anything wrong with Russia (except for that whole failure to defend the country thing), so who cares if he wanted the investigation over?

Of course there’s that whole rule of law thing. You can’t lead a ‘lock her up’ chant about Hillary Clinton’s emails and then ignore all the actual crimes of your own people (the “best” people, remember?).

But aside from that, what really gets me is that Russia attacked the U.S. and Trump tried to kill the investigation.

The word ‘treason’ has been thrown around a lot in these arguments, but those are actions that might actually deserve the word.

When a foreign government attacks our country, you investigate and get to the bottom of it, no matter how bad it makes your people look. To do anything else is treasonous. To actively try to stop that investigation to cover your own ass—those are not the actions of a president who defends the country, they’re the action of a selfish man worried about his own image.

What’s Next?

So what happens next? Based on my conclusions above, I think Congress should open impeachment hearings.

Of course that hasn’t happened (yet).

Instead everyone is playing politics.

The Republicans are sticking by Trump and claiming there’s nothing in the Mueller Report. They’re clearly deluding themselves. It’s fair to say they’ve neglected their oath of office. And since Republicans control the Senate, even if the House files charges of impeachment, the Senate will never convict.

Meanwhile the Democrats are afraid of public opinion. There’s not enough public support for impeachment yet, so they’re too afraid to go down that road (especially if it will fail in the Senate). They want to win, whether by impeachment or election, and losing impeachment could endanger winning the election. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has this strategy of building support over time with an onslaught of investigations, but the White House refuses to cooperate and it all just drags on so slowly that the public loses interest.

I’m not surprised this whole thing has become so political.

But what’s buried in all the arguments, theories, strategies, and fake news is doing what’s right. Screw public opinion. Screw whether or not it’s successful.

Integrity means you do what’s right, no matter the result or public opinion.

Neither party seems to have much integrity right now.

And that sets a terrifying precedent. We’re allowing a vanity president to ignore attacks on our country. The message this sends to the world is that you’re welcome to attack our democracy, and we’re too politically immobilized to do anything about it.

The United States has to be more than Democrats or Republicans, each trying to win no matter what. The country has to come before party, and right now both parties and the president seem to be obsessed with themselves.

I’d love to see Donald Trump lose the 2020 presidential election by a huge margin, to have an electoral repudiation of his presidency and his policies. That would be cathartic.

But I also think Trump has neglected the duties of his office, and failing to hold him accountable for that is to be guilty of the same crime.

Hold Trump accountable. Make Republicans vote for Trump over country, and then win or lose you’ve done the right thing.

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