In Trump’s America, reality takes a backseat to fantasy rooted in deceit, built on lies and buttressed by bombast. Into that caldron the Mueller report fell.
No collusion, no obstruction is the fanciful takeaway from the report by the obdurate, infamous Trump base, their fallacy reinforced in the media they consume, led as ever by Fox News. The pronouncements of Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr to the same effect prior to the report’s release prepared the soil for the bad seed.
Few Americans will read the 448-page report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and thereby free themselves from the interpretations of others. The report requires no interpretation. It is stark, factual and damning for the president. Assertions to the contrary are pure fantasy.
Volume One is the heavily redacted dime-store spy novel that chronicles the Russian government’s manipulation of American voters in favour of candidate Trump, and the Trump campaign’s delight in those efforts.
Collusion is a term devoid of legal meaning, so Mueller looked for evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Russians. That, he said, would require proof that there was a tactic or expressed agreement between the two malicious actors.
Mueller couldn’t find evidence that the Trump campaign fully consummated the relationship, but the heavy petting was all too clear from the “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.”
“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller writes.
Mueller acknowledges that the standard he set “requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other's actions or interests.” Two parties so engaged might be said to be cooperating or, if their purpose is nefarious, colluding.
If volume one is a spy novel, volume two is a crime story. It is here that Mueller makes the case for obstruction of justice against President Trump, whose conduct in office, as described by Mueller, elicited comparisons to a mob boss.
Indeed, Trump’s presidential persona resembles the boss of one of New York’s legendary five families — the Mafiosi who carve up criminal enterprise across the city. But, Trump is the idiot boss of an inept crime family — kind of a Keystone cosa nostra — whose soldiers disregard his orders because, in the words of Trump’s former White House counsel Don McGahn, they tended to be “crazy shit.”
Mueller does not level an allegation of obstruction, rather he lays out the case and, in deference to the U.S. Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, he punts the case to Congress where the Constitution says it belongs.
And therein lies the political dilemma.
Does the Mueller report make the case for impeachment? Certainly the contents of the report would end any presidency in living memory, if not in the history of the American republic. But — and most will agree on this — Trump’s is unlike any previous presidency.
In the days ahead, Democrats, who control the House of Representatives where the power to impeach resides, will correctly assert that they have a constitutional duty to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump. They would do so knowing that the Republican Senate will not remove the president from office.
Impeachment is a political process, and in this case the outcome is preordained. The Democratic House would impeach, and the Senate would acquit. Trump would stay in office, his base more motivated than ever by an impeachment they’d view as an illicit, partisan attack on their president.
Impeachment would make Trump a living martyr, a victim of the Washington swamp he pledged to drain.
A failed impeachment will only improve Trump’s re-election chances, by bolstering his phoney image as a guy who stands up to the awful power of Washington.
Conversely, Democrats could use their control of the House to put Trump’s misdeeds and endless lies — past, present and future — under the constant glare of congressional oversight; to chip away at the rational fringe of his base and build the electoral coalition to defeat him at the polls in November 2020.
America needs to recover from Trump and reconnect with reality. That process can begin with his electoral defeat because — unlike impeachment — that’s an outcome most of his supporters will accept, eventually.
It’s not right, but it’s better politics.
Journalist and writer Jim Vibert has worked as a communications advisor to five Nova Scotia governments.
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