The Mueller report: ‘No person is above the law’

President Donald Trump stands during a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

President Donald Trump stands during a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

After wading for hours in the Trump regime’s sewage, as detailed in the redacted Mueller report, I’ve decided that this passage is arguably the most important of all:

“Congress has the authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” in accordance with “our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

In other words, Robert Mueller says that Congress — the Democratic House, elected by voters last fall to provide checks and balances — is free to determine whether his amassed evidence contains potential grounds for impeachment. Only a Trump cultist, or a deluded internet troll, or William Barr could possibly believe that it does not. And even if Congress does not move on impeachment, the amassed evidence, at minimum, contains a veritable trove of reasons why Trump is manifestly unfit for re-election.

This passage in the report is a good place to start:

“The investigation identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign…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 from through Russian efforts.” (my italics)

Ask yourself whether a guy who expected to benefit from what Mueller calls “sweeping and systematic” Russian sabotage of a democratic election — and whose minions, when approached by the Russians, never called the FBI — is someone who deserves a second term.

On page 140, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort surfaces to sicken us with his deeds. During the summer of 2016 — while the Russians were busy hacking and cyber-invading on Trump’s behalf — Manafort met secretly with a Russian who had ties to Russian intelligence.

The report says:

“Manafort briefed (the Russian) on the state of the Trump campaign and his plan to win the election. That briefing encompassed the campaign’s messaging and its internal polling data … It also included discussion of ‘battleground’ states, which Manafort identifies as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.”

Is that proof that Trump personally conspired with the Russians prior to the election? Nope.

Is that proof that Trump’s campaign chairman personally conspired with the Russians prior to the election? Yup. The report points out – oh, perhaps it was sheer coincidence – that two pro-Trump rallies in Pennsylvania were organized by the Russians.

Is there any proof that Trump tried to discipline any subordinates who conspired or communicated with the Russians? Nope, not in the Mueller report.

Ask yourself whether a guy who played so fast and loose with our national security — and who, at the Helsinki summit, endorsed the Russian dictator’s denial of election interference — deserves a new lease on the Oval Office.

And with respect to the subsequent coverup, here’s an apt passage in the 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.”

But Mueller could not “so state,” for a plethora of reasons, some of which are listed on page 370:

“The president launched public attacks on the investigation and individuals involved in it who could possess evidence adverse to the president, while, in private, the president engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the (Mueller) investigation. For instance, the president sought to remove the Special Counsel; he sought to have Attorney General Sessions un-recuse himself and limit the investigation; he sought to prevent public disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016, meeting between Russians and campaign officials; and he used public forums to attack potential witnesses who might offer adverse information, and praise witnesses who declined to cooperate with the government.”

Ask yourself whether a president who so flagrantly flaunts the rule of law deserves to skate.

In the report, not surprisingly, some of Trump’s hired liars are humiliated. There’s a delicious passage featuring Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Page 248 reminds us that Trump supposedly fired James Comey because — according to Sanders — “countless members of the FBI” had lost confidence in Comey. Sanders said that to the press on two occasions.

But when confronted by Mueller’s investigators, and sworn to tell the truth under penalty of perjury, she changed her tune.

From page 248:

“Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from countless members of the FBI was ‘a slip of the tongue’ … a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything.”

No, it’s not a criminal offense to lie to the press in order to buttress the boss (who’d told NBC News that Comey was fired to ease the heat of the FBI’s Russia probe). But it’s fresh evidence of a regime that lies as it breathes, a regime that covets a second term.

And, no, the redacted Mueller report does not nail Trump with criminal proof beyond a reasonable doubt (which is perhaps why Trump lawyer Jay Seklulow calls the report “a very big win”). But it gives Congress, and the electorate, ample ammo to determine whether Trump — by welcoming Russian electoral help, lying daily to Americans, and repeatedly trying to obstruct justice — has debased his office and failed to take care that our laws are faithfully executed.

Those political judgments are likely to be made at the ballot box in 2020. And, lest we forget, Mueller may further influence those judgments in the year ahead — because he has farmed out investigations of all things Trump to the Southern District of New York (which has already implicated “Individual-1” in federal campaign finance crimes), the Eastern District of New York, the Eastern District of Virginia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. , the Central District of California, and the Mueller grand jury, which still sits. And those are just the federal judicial entities.

The Mueller report released Thursday is merely the tip of a treacherous iceberg.

So perhaps Trump was accurate (for once) when he freaked out in the spring of ’17 upon learning that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel. According to the report, he told aides, “This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I am f—-d.”

Ask yourself whether he deserves to be proved right.

Dick Polman’s column appears weekly on WHYY.org/News. He also contributes to The Atlantic online and is a writer-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania.

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