Opinion | Muftic: Mueller report reveals Trump administration as ‘a team of liars’
President Obama’s administration was a team of rivals, but Donald Trump’s is a team of liars. Special Counsel Mueller’s report was a treasure trove of information and evidence.
It revealed the Trump administration associates and Donald Trump himself often trying to take the Special Counsel and Trump’s loyal followers for fools with their lies. The game is not over. In the matter of obstruction of justice.
It is a maybe game on. While Mueller did not find enough evidence to indict Trump and his associates with conspiring with the Russians to influence the 2016 election, he directly stated he did not clear (exonerate) Trump of obstruction of justice and lies were key in reaching that conclusion.
The Mueller report contained a list of those who were Trump aides and associates, indicted for lying: Mike Flynn, Michael Cohen, Alex van der Zwaan, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and Paul Manafort. The lies they told were either about contacts with Russians or obstruction of justice.
How many times have we heard the President claim that Russian interference in the election was fake news or that the Mueller investigation was a witch hunt.? This was no BS, as Trump’s most loyal supporters would like to believe. Most of Volume One of the Mueller report is laying out the evidence of Russian interference. Mueller concluded, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
One of the lines Donald Trump repeats most frequently is “There is no collusion” with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 campaign. If that was no outright lie, it was because he was committing deception by semantics. Attorney General Bill Barr perpetuated this deception in his March 24 infamous exoneration letter and claimed numerous times Mueller found Trump did not “collude” with the Russians. Mueller went to pains in his report to point out that he did not even investigate “collusion” since that was not a legal term. Per Mueller: he investigated the “conspiracy,” which has a standard of people plotting together. “In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of ‘collusion.’”
Rudy Guiliani, the president’s lawyer and public advocate, unintentionally agreed Donald Trump did collude. Guiliani just redefined “collusion” on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Monday as tried to make a case that there was nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians to help Trump win. Come on, Guiliani, there is plenty wrong even with that when Trump’s foreign policy was in synch with Russia’s national interest, but not ours. Trump has been making Russia Great Again. It may or may not be a tit for tat exchange of something of value, but Russia has gotten their payback in Trump’s foreign policy goals, weakening NATO, recognizing Russia’s takeover of Crimea, forgiving Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine, and lifting of sanctions against friends of Putin. The Russians did more than just exchange information, they also used that information to target their social media propaganda to shape gullible voter opinions in ways that helped Trump get elected.
The first half of the game, whether Trump conspired with the Russians, may be over, but the second half is yet to be played. Much of the second volume of Mueller’s report presents evidence and examples of lies regarding the obstruction of justice issue. (Obstruction of justice is a legal term meaning obstruction of the investigation.) Per Mueller Trump himself lied various times about his orders to fire Mueller and claimed falsely he did not demand loyalty from FBI director Comey. His spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders added her two bits claiming the FBI rank and file was OK with Comey’s firing when she never even contacted them. Trump lied about the Trump Tower meeting and his role in shaping public characterization of the meeting.
Mueller’s report left much grist for the impeachment mill since at least ten instances of obstruction of justice were listed. Per Mueller, “Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, including the Russian-interference and obstruction investigations,” … “The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the President sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.”
In a footnote on page ten, Mueller noted that due to a legal opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel and Department of Justice rules, though he could not indict a sitting president, Congress could still impeach the president or Trump could be prosecuted after he left office.
The use of those facts and evidence regarding the obstruction issue will become the subject of House investigations conducted in public. Even more evidence could come to light if the redacted portions of the report or if the grand jury findings were published. Negotiations are now ongoing on the release of the full unredacted version to select members of Congress However grand jury findings may result in a long legal battle.
Whether the impeachment process will begin will be more of a Democratic concern about strategy than a sense of duty to provide oversight or the fact presented by Mueller. The Senate in GOP hands will make removal of the president due to impeachment a nonstarter. At the least, expect the drama of the House committees to educate the public through public hearings and the witnesses they will call to testify. As a burning campaign issue in 2020, the Mueller Report could have limited value. There are many more issues of concern to voters than the Russian interference and Trump’s role in it. Timing is also a factor. There are only 18 months until the 2020 election.
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