Mueller’s 30 million dollar punt

April 21, 2019

After almost two years and $30 million plus of taxpayer dollars spent, the Mueller Report has been released and the general public now knows what those of us following the Russia, Russia, Russia charade from the beginning already knew: there was no “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

How we got here.

As Russian meddling was being exposed in October 2016 and candidate Trump was talking “rigged elections” President Obama made it clear that “”no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections.” and noted “One way of weakening America and making it less great is if you start betraying those basic American traditions that have been bipartisan and have helped to hold together this Democracy now for well over two centuries,”.

In a rare moment of the past eight years, I found myself agreeing with Mr. Obama. Russia had been peddling propaganda and meddling in our political process for decades and the U.S. had been doing same. The Obama administration had most recently meddled in Israel’s election of 2015 against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In essence, they do it, we do it, everyone does it, deal with it.

But then Hillary Clinton lost and staffers needed a scapegoat. And according to the book “Shattered” the strategy “had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

Sympathetic media outlets picked it up, and the rest as they say is history. A sad, sordid history of failed journalism, partisan hyperbole and former intelligence agency heads screeching “treason”, but history none the less.

Where are we now?

While volume 1 of the report is clear on collusion, volume 2, obstruction of justice is anything but.

In a move that makes James Comey’s 2016 press conference delineating Hillary Clinton’s transgressions look like a kindergarten play, Mueller lists ten instances that “could” be Presidential obstruction of justice but then disregards his duty. The duty of clarity: to prosecute or not to prosecute.

My issue isn’t with what the report says, it’s what it doesn’t say. Mueller had an obligation to put down the dogs, with a simple yea or nay on obstruction. Instead he threw them the red meat of “maybe”. After months speculating that his investigation was less about collusion and more about a map to impeachment my speculation was over.

By punting to the political winds Mueller ensures that the second half of President Trump’s first term will be as clouded as the first and the Americans who voted for change in the status quo of Washington D.C. are again disenfranchised.

Where do we go?

Where the nation goes from here is anyone’s guess right now but there’s no guessing on where the media is headed. CNN, MSBC and their former partners in “collusion” have already switched to “obstruction”.

No need for discussions of Article II powers or that Mueller was not an “independent” counsel but a “special” counsel and therefore a subordinate employee within the Executive Branch. No debate on the context of events or that the President is now in the position of having to prove his innocence based upon statements in a list of possibles. (See Kavanaugh, Brett confirmation hearing.)

Speaking of context, of the over 400 pages in the report, the quote making the rounds is from notes written by Attorney General Jeff Sessions Chief of Staff Jody Hunt regarding a White House meeting when the President was first informed that Robert Mueller had been appointed as Special Counsel.“Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f*cked”.

What is not making the cable news panels and the printed pages is the end of that statement: “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

And just how does anyone, President or otherwise, “obstruct justice” when there was no crime in the first place?

Trump knew he was innocent of collusion and had every reason to be angry of being falsely accused.

The President’s remark Thursday morning is spot on: “This should never happen to another President again, this hoax, it should never happen to another President again.”

This nation is more divided today than at any time since the Civil War. If there is any hope of reconciling, the standard going forward must not be the Clinton model of undermining us all because one candidate couldn’t accept defeat.

Editors Note:  This column first appeared in the April 21, 2019 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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