Opinion | Muftic: End of the Mueller probe, an opportunity and danger for Democrats
Felicia Muftic / My View
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General Bill Barr took the wind out of the sails of Democrats this weekend when he released a summary of Mueller’s findings.
Impeachment because of Donald Trump’s collusion/conspiracy with the Russian government was taken off the table. The slogan that the “deep state was out to get Trump” was laid to rest since Mueller’s findings got Trump mostly off the hook, though it has been made clear throughout this ordeal that a sitting president would not be indicted due to Department of Justice rules.
Given the long number of indictments of Russians interfering in the 2016 election and the indictments and guilty pleas by close campaign and administration associates, even Trump’s constant drumbeat that the Mueller probe was just a witch hunt is now an empty slogan. The Mueller probe caught plenty of witches in their net, but the top witch escaped. What is left is for the release of the full report so that the American public and Congress can see how Barr came to his conclusions, particularly regarding the obstruction of justice judgment call. Barr was already on the record for supporting a controversial legal theory that presidents could not be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. He was in no way an impartial arbiter of Mueller’s findings. Unlike similar prior special counsel reports in the Nixon and Clinton cases, Barr made his own call instead of letting Congress do it first, giving Trump a propaganda advantage and an immediate reason for an “I am not a crook” victory tour.
The end of the Mueller probe presents both a danger and an opportunity for Democrats. It can free Democrats to switch focus from impeachment to pocketbook issues, in particular, health care and unfair distribution of tax cut benefits. The reason that Democrats flipped the House in 2018 was not so much about the Mueller probe but it was about disgust with Trump’s character flaws, health care and other public policy concerns that impacted middle-class pocketbooks, particularly those of suburban women.
Trump has just set his own trap by announcing support of a court case that would kill Obamacare. He has stacked the Supreme Court making this total repeal likely to succeed. If the suit is successful it would completely repeal Obamacare’s protection of coverage of 50 million people with pre-existing conditions and eliminate the insurance exchanges for subsidized coverage for 12 million and roll back expansion of Medicaid for millions more. If the Democrats make a big deal of pursuing the issue of obstruction of justice and impeachment, they may overshadow their best platform plank, expansion of affordable health care coverage for all, whether it is Medicare for All or some version of making it a public option or allowing consumers to buy into the system.
Trump’s strongest pitch for his reelection is the booming economy. He may regale in the strong economy, but most in the middle class felt no benefits, discovering as they get ready for tax day that over half never felt a significant increase in their take-home pay, got a lower refund than last year, and found that deductions they had counted one were no longer permitted. Trump, the promiser in chief, conned them.
There are still some unsolved mysteries and concern for the integrity of future election persists, even if they are not on top voter concern lists. Voters should be more concerned since the future of democracy and our national security are at stake. What we do know from multiple indictments and guilty pleas coming from the Mueller probe is that the Russians offered and carried out active measures to help Trump get elected and that Donald Trump’s foreign policy supports Russia’s designs to expand their control and influence at the expense of the national security interests of the US and our allies. Perhaps sometime in the future, the question will be answered why Trump kissed up to Putin and still supports Putin’s foreign policy, but the Barr version of the Mueller report summary shed little light. In the meantime, we will be puzzled why so many in Trump’s near orbit lied about Russian contacts. We are left to assume Trump’s motivation for his pro-Putin policies and attitude were based on sheer self-interest with hopes never dying he would sometime build that Trump tower in Moscow and his loyalty to Putin would be rewarded.
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