John Colson: Trump’s troubles certainly are not over yet
Hit & Run
Well, the foxes have declared that the henhouse is secure, the chickens are safe and we can all breathe easier.
At least that is the way I took the announcements over the past few days that special counsel Robert Mueller did not find convincing evidence that President Donald Trump colluded with or conspired with Russian hackers to influence the 2016 presidential election.
As I write this, I’m still digesting the news, but I must admit that I’ve always felt it never was very likely that Mueller would find actionable, undeniable evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians in any direct way.
It also must be noted that collusion itself is not a crime under U.S. law, and that proving collusion by a U.S. official working with a foreign power against America’s interests is a very tricky thing.
I never really expected much on the collusion front, for those and other reasons.
Taking the Mueller report (or at least Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the report) at face value, we may be able to concede that Trump committed no overtly treasonous act to undermine the sanctity of the 2016 election.
But I believe absolutely that he is morally culpable for doing his best to cripple our democracy, our government, our social welfare systems … the list is long, and growing. But these are not crimes, they are acts based in a type of political cynicism that, to me, seem mere steps removed from a deeper criminality.
According to a Time magazine summary of the Mueller probe, the special counsel’s team has indicted, convicted or gotten guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies, including Russian spies and hackers and top advisers to Trump, for crimes ranging from interfering with the election and hacking emails to lying to investigators and tampering with witnesses.
That, as they say, sure ain’t chicken feed.
Admittedly, the Russians indicted by Mueller may never be brought to heel in a U.S. court. Rather, they likely will live out their lives protected from any U.S. retribution by the mere fact that they can hide in Russia and giggle at our efforts to make them pay for their treacherous machinations.
But the U.S. citizens implicated by Mueller’s team are a different story — Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and a cast of more minor characters have been chopped down by the Mueller team’s prosecutorial blade, and have faced jail time for their misdeeds.
It has been noted by many that Mueller, whose investigation ran for 22 months, did not specifically exonerate Trump from accusations that he obstructed justice through his attempts to take the spotlight off his subordinates, such as the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and to undermine the investigation into others in his inner circle.
To be clear, when I referred above to “foxes” at the henhouse, I was specifically pointing at our president, whose childish, shaky relationship with the truth is well known and who sure acted guilty throughout the investigation process.
I’m also looking at Mueller, who is a Republican, after all, though his careful comportment and apparent integrity is generally acknowledged as a sign that he, at least, should be viewed as an adult and a committed public servant.
And then there is Mueller’s new boss, Barr, whose recent appointment came from a president who has gone to great lengths to undermine, belittle and generally trash Mueller, his investigation and his team, and anyone who gave any credence to the idea that Trump might be American democracy’s worst enemy. It is difficult to imagine that Trump did not exact promises from Barr to try to limit any damage that might come out of the special counsel’s probe.
It is Barr, I should point out, who got the first look at Mueller’s report, who drew up a summary letter telling Congress about the report, and who will be deciding how much of the report should be made public. And so far his revelations, predictably enough, have been pretty much all that Trump could want.
As soon as it became known that the Mueller report was finished, Democrats in Congress and around the nation began demanding access to the full findings in the report, and to the underlying documentary evidence that yielded those findings, and I expect that they will get what they want. Even Republicans will recognize that to try to hide any part of the findings would be political dynamite in the hands of fired-up Democrats; at least I hope that is the case.
Because whether Trump ever faces criminal proceedings or not, it is quite clear to roughly half of this country that he has been hacking away at our governmental checks and balances, at our environmental protections and our social safety net for the less fortunate, and at just about anything he can find that does not fit in with his warped, narcissistic world view.
And it is not certain, anyway, that Trump will not face criminal prosecution for his behavior while in office and before he was elected.
Because even though Mueller apparently is finished and done, there are a number of state-based investigations into allegations of corruption that grew out of Mueller’s work and represent an even greater threat to Trump than the collusion investigation ever did.
Alleged campaign finance violations, the shady fiscal shenanigans of Trump’s inauguration committee and continuing questions about the hacking of the emails of Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff — all of that and more remains on the table.
This ain’t done yet, folks.
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