Waiting for Mueller
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Waiting for Mueller

Trump Can’t Decide Whether the Special Counsel’s Report Should Be Released

While Trump and his friends have done their best to inure us to their belief that there was no collusion with Russia, that he has no legal problem in a “witch hunt” investigation gone bad, that no issue of ethics or bad behavior from his campaign associates should rub off on him, it still came as a surprise to hear the president announce that there should be no report from the special counsel Russia probe.

Instead, the president called the investigation “illegal.”

Then, Trump took the opposite tack, saying yesterday that since the report is worthless, we may as all read it or as much of it as will be adjudged as releasable. Bizarrely, however, Trump is attacking the special counsel, Robert Mueller, as being unelected, as if that were relevant, as compared with himself, who won one election.

“So, if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be ‘zero’ crime when the Special Counsel was appointed, and if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime), then the Special Counsel. . . . should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report,” the president tweeted.

Normally, I might just ignore this prod (especially since it was among a flood of them), as I can imagine that all but the Trump base voter is meant to do.

I don’t mind that Trump wants to defend himself, but I do find it offensive that he wants to defend only himself.

I don’t mind that Trump wants to defend himself, but I do find it offensive that he wants to defend only himself.

Rather, I would say, Trump shares the same responsibility I do to the institutions and protocols around him to ensure that the country, as a whole, moves ahead once we know whatever the investigation has unearthed. That kind of progress can only require now that Congress get whatever is relevant from the Mueller investigation and decide what to do with it.

After all, Trump wants a second term, not an impeachment (though cynics note that this may simply be to extend his time of shield from any pending prosecution). Politics and practicalities aside, Trump should still want my support, for the presidency itself rather than necessarily for him. This special counsel investigation is not a Trump plaything, even though he is at the center of its focus. It is a needed guide from a trusted investigator to sort through the half-truths of the last three years.

Clearly, Trump and lawyer Rudy Giuliani have repeatedly called out Mueller’s probe, and Republican congressional allies have attacked the FBI and Justice Department for how it began the investigation, which differs from the Trump summary above. Nevertheless, despite his criticisms, the president has maintained that he has cooperated fully with the investigation, which also includes whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.

Mueller’s investigation is reportedly winding down, and lawmakers on both sides are calling on the special counsel’s report to be made public once the probe is completed. The House last week passed a resolution 420-0 urging the Justice Department to make Mueller’s findings and full report public and available to Congress. Senate Republicans, however, blocked the bill.

The president on Friday also complained that the probe was only started as an excuse for Democrats losing the 2016 election.

Trump then went out of his way to thinly explain away the unanimous House vote by insisting that he told Republicans to go along with it, since it was meaningless. Still, that felt like too much explaining to defend an outright loss.

“This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime,” he tweeted, adding “Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win.”

“THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!” Trump concluded.

Well, it should also never happen to the United States again, I would conclude even without seeing the Mueller report.

The continuing spiral of non-ending lies and conflicting explanations for the various meetings, circumstances, exchanges of information with Russian operatives has been confusing, complicated and, while perhaps barely short of criminal in a legal sense, certainly unsettling to most of us. If the continuing efforts at hiding, distorting, twisting and attempting to influence the end of investigations is not legal obstruction of justice, it is not anything that I would want to be associated with having done.

Release of the Mueller report, whenever that happens, will only come through the filter of Attorney General William P. Barr. Once it is released, the spinning and reinterpretation police will take over to offer guidance on what the words mean. Because the Justice Department appears to accept the traditional advice that a sitting president is beyond indictment, all we have is the words, along with whatever evidence can be made public.

In any case, the only hope we can have to get through those expected disparate attempts at partisan tea-leaf reading will be the special counsel’s guidance.

Quite apart from the president’s self-serving statements that we should have no Mueller report, we need one pretty badly right now.

March 21, 2019