I am one of the millions of U.S. citizens and voters reading word for word the Mueller report. Even with redactions, it is interesting, easy to follow, and the redactions are, for the most part, a shrug–eventually I will know what is behind the black bars, for now, the report provides an adequate chronology of what the investigation uncovered.
There is no doubt in my mind that Putin directed cyber attacks and propaganda designed to influence American voters to either abstain from voting or to vote for Trump or someone other than Clinton, and that Russians succeeded in influencing the 2016 election. Someone wrote to a Russian on that fateful night that Clinton conceded the victory to Trump, “Putin has won.” That was the chilling moment for me in reading the Mueller report. Those words, written to a Russian operative, “Putin has won.”
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There are many points of interest in the Mueller report. On page 162 of the searchable PDF file that CNN made available to the public via its website, we learn that when a member of the Trump team met with a Russian in the Seychelles on January 11, 2017, nearly two weeks after new sanctions were imposed by Obama and nine days before the Trump inauguration, the “topic of Russian interference in the 2016 election did not come up.” I find that odd. And implausible. The truth is, we have no way of knowing what Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev discussed. We have only the word of someone who was willing to secretly take an inappropriate meeting with a foreign policy influencer.
Why must the meeting be done in secrecy?
Why was the meeting worth the risk?
Why was it inappropriate?
My understanding of the latter, what about the meeting was inappropriate, is that you have an unsanctioned meeting by a member of a transition team before inauguration, before Senate confirmation, and without any vetting by the intelligence community.
My perspective of the Trump team overall, throughout my reading of Volume I of the Special Counsel’s Report, is that they were incompetent, arrogant, and just plain stupid.
What is blatantly obvious is this: After decades of opposition research, there is no evidence incriminating Hillary Clinton. Most assuredly, if Russian intelligence activities had a single document that made her look bad, it would have been given to Donald Trump, Jr., at the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting. Instead, Russia had nothing whatsoever to offer. China had nothing to offer. Iran had nothing to offer. The UAE had nothing to offer. There was no dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The only thing Russia could do was to hack our election process and try to influence voters. It is interesting that the propaganda machine worked to favor both Trump and Sanders–the latter, presumably, because it divided Democratic voters.
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In his Introduction to Volume II, Special Counsel describes “the considerations that guided our obstruction-of-justice investigation” as well as the reasons for declining to prosecute the President. Basically, as has been widely reported, Mr. Mueller accepted the OLC’s opinion that a sitting President cannot be prosecuted while in office [by a DOJ attorney due to separation of powers]. In other words, the duty of holding a President accountable for crimes sits with other constitutional authorities because the DOJ is controlled by the Executive Branch. Simply put, Mueller did not indict Trump because that would be over-reaching his authority and infringing on the authority and responsibility of Congress to check a president’s abuse of power.
Trump can be and will be held accountable for his many attempts to obstruct the investigation into himself and his family members. This is good news, not because it is Trump, but because it is precedent. We The People do not want any president to get away with witness intimidation, dangling of pardons, or firing of DOJ officials as part of a cover-up.
This is another key point that stopped me in my tracks as I read the Mueller Report: “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.”
I read that sentence several times. They did not so state. What this means to me is that people who care very deeply about law and order, about our constitution and democracy, were unable to exonerate the President.
President Trump claimed to have been exonerated. Even on the suspicion of collusion with Russians to influence the election in Trump’s favor, he was not exonerated. Instead, a careful reading of the facts indicates that Campaign officials successfully concealed communications via encrypted apps and deleted messages. There was evidence that communication had occurred, but the content of that communication cannot be known because it was either deleted or encrypted. There were also many instances of pleading the Fifth Amendment (refusal to answer a question on the basis of self-incrimination) and “do not recall” responses to questions. Therefore, it cannot be said that no collusion occurred. Indeed, because of these facts, it is likely that crimes did occur–otherwise, what was the purpose of concealing the conversation or refusing to answer on the basis of self-incrimination?
What is also evident is that Donald Trump and all of his Campaign officials were well aware of the disdainful nature of cozying up to Putin, which is why they repeatedly concealed their coziness. Why didn’t they come right out and admit their position with regards to Russia, Ukraine, Crimea, and NATO? Why did they fire Campaign officials whenever news broke of their active connections to Russian interests? Why did Trump himself deny that he had any business or interest in Russia, while he was actively pursuing a Trump Moscow project that would add millions of dollars to his portfolio? Wasn’t that colluding with Russians? I mean, he himself was actively directing his people to develop a deal while he publicly stated he had nothing to do with Russia–Russians knew he was lying to the American voters and there was a tacit agreement to keep the Trump Moscow pursuit a secret, even after the Republican convention when he was the official nominee! Is that not a conspiracy to defraud the people of the United States?
If it was a perfectly reasonable, ethical, moral, and legal thing to do, why not be transparent about it? Imagine that Donald Trump was forthright in his business interests and stated publicly that he was interested in developing a real estate deal in Moscow that he would follow through on if he did not win the election, and that he would abandon if he won the election. Imagine that. Imagine that he was forthright with the American voters about his views that his campaign was one long “infomercial” for the Trump brand. Imagine a business candidate that transparent. “Yes, I am interested in doing business globally and I am pursuing possibilities while I campaign…if I win, I will abandon all such activities and these are my beliefs and the positions I will take in my foreign policies…” Why does it seem necessary to conceal? We all knew he was getting free publicity by running for office. We all knew he was networking and taking advantage of the system, and that he didn’t expect to win. Why did he think it was necessary to hide the fact that he was pursuing a business deal with Russia?
Perhaps it is because there is an obvious conflict of interest.
So in essence, he himself was colluding with Russians. He himself was actively pursuing the Trump Moscow real estate deal and hiding that conflict of interest, and the Russians knew he was hiding that fact. He was compromised. This made him all the more their favorite candidate. This explains his need to meet in secret with Putin. He is compromised. He is unfit. He is incapable of putting the American people first.