Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Deflating Trump's Bombast about the Mueller report

Although Trump is claiming complete exoneration from the Mueller report, I confess to more than a little skepticism, not least because the basis of Trump's triumphant claims is not the report itself, reputedly close to 400 pages long, but the four-page letter Attorney General Barr wrote summarizing that report. According to one account, Trump was told the contents of that letter over the telephone, and, given he is not a reader, it is altogether possible that he hasn't even read Barr's four pages. If he had, he couldn't boast that Mueller exonerated him on obstructing justice: Barr's letter is crystal clear that Mueller did not exonerate Trump on that charge.

The other question Mueller examined is whether Trump and his associates conspired with Russian agents. Barr's letter says they didn't, so there is no case to be made for criminal conspiracy. And that may be accurate. But a more nuanced opinion might well be that there was lots of conspiracy, but either it never rose to criminal conspiracy or, if it might have, it would be too difficult in court to prove conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fourteen (14!) of Trump's associates had been in contact with Russian nationals, among them Donald, Jr.; Jared Kushner and Ivanka; Michael Cohen, Trump's fix-it attorney; Paul Manafort, at one time Trump's campaign manager; and Michael Flynn, a campaign adviser and, briefly, Trump's National Security Adviser.  We also know that not only during the campaign but after he was elected, Trump was pursuing a multi-million building project in Moscow--even though he repeatedly lied about that fact.  And when Donald, Jr., began to get some heat about meeting with a Russian to obtain Hilary Clinton's e-mails, Trump himself wrote while flying in Air Force 1 an entirely false account of that meeting's purpose and had it disseminated over his son's name.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. These meetings and many more did take place.  One question is, Were they the result of intentionally conspiring with the Russians or merely the bungling efforts of political novices to win the election by any means?  The latter may well be the case:  conspiracy could exist on the Russian side, but on Trump's side his people could have been clueless: stupid, perhaps, but without corrupt intent.

I'd like to think there was no conspiracy. Trump says there wasn't, but he lies so often and so outrageously that only a cretin would believe him. I keep coming back to a simple question: Given that fourteen individuals had over 100 contacts with Russians, if these encounters were indeed innocent, why then did a number of these individuals lie to the FBI or to Congress about what took place? We know they lied because subsequently they either pled guilty or were convicted in courts of law. So, why did they lie?

We won't know what really went on until we read the Mueller report. Barr has promised a mid-April date for releasing the report with some needed redactions. Let's hope he makes that date, and that the redactions are as minimal as possible.

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