No man is above the law
Now that the Special Counsel’s investigation has been concluded, and it has been announced that no more indictments will be forthcoming from the Mueller team, it can be fairly said that the Special Counsel has left an impressive prosecutorial record. The raw statistics alone are impressive: 34 individuals and three companies were indicted, convicted or plead guilty to felony charges, including many of President Trump’s closest associates.
Reviews of the Mueller Report may be an entirely different matter. This past Friday, Special Counsel Mueller sent his final report to Attorney General William Barr, which did not conclude that the President committed a crime, but also did not exonerate him. In Barr’s view, “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
The puzzling “no collusion” finding by Mueller is particularly troubling since this conclusion was apparently reached without any actual interview or sworn testimony by Trump as to, for example, what was going through his mind when he invited the Russians to hack into the Clinton Campaign’s database to find her “missing” emails or when he appeared to have advance knowledge of one or more of the WikiLeaks data dumps.
Donald Trump Jr. also got a free pass from Mueller when he was not required to answer questions under oath as to what he was thinking when he set up the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians in the hope and expectation that they would turn over hacked emails and other Clinton dirt. Since intent is always a necessary element in a criminal conspiracy, and the silent operation of the mind can only be divined by either the words or actions of an individual, or by asking him or her what they were thinking at the time, it is difficult to reconcile the decision not to interview these seemingly important witnesses and Mueller’s sterling reputation as a thorough prosecutor.
Could Trump have been given a pass on an interview merely because he was a sitting President, and could Don Jr. have been given a pass because he’s a member of the first family? Or is there a more reasonable explanation, which is that Don Jr. is the target of an ongoing criminal investigation, and Mueller did not want to jeopardize that ongoing investigation by interrogating him now while he is still technically a target?
Since the U.S. does not officially believe in royalty, and our system of laws is premised on the concept that no man is above the law, how then can a conclusion be reached that neither Trump nor any of his inner circle conspired with the Russians when neither Trump nor at least one other key player (Don Jr.) were even asked to explain what they were doing when they met with the Russians, talked about getting access to Clinton dirt, and discussed the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Russia.
Mueller’s conclusion of “no collusion” must be carefully scrutinized, since it appears to be based on a very narrow reading of what constituted Russian interference in the 2016 election. As summarized in Barr’s March 24th letter to Congress, the Special Counsel’s investigation focused on two major aspects of Russian interference. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA) to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the U.S., with the aim of interfering in the election, and the second involved Russian government efforts “to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the elections.”
If there was no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and the meetings were completely innocent, then why did so many Trump campaign officials lie about their contact with Russian officials during the campaign and transition period? Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, Don Jr., and many others either lied about their meetings with Russian officials, or they intentionally failed to disclose those meetings on government disclosure forms they were required to file with U.S. law enforcement agencies. The obvious reason for why they lied about these meetings and phone conversations was not to get dirt on Clinton or sabotage the DNC. Rather, these exchanges were more broadly focused on how the Trump campaign, transition team and administration would adopt a pro-Russian policy agenda, such as reducing or eliminating the crippling U.S. financial and economic sanctions on Russia and accepting Russia’s de facto annexation of Crimea, in return for Russia’s independent efforts to damage the Clinton campaign and to get Trump elected.
Although the Barr letter’s summary of Mueller’s “no collusion” conclusion is extremely cursory, and the full Mueller Report itself undoubtedly contains much more detail, there is already a vast reservoir of information that can be gleaned from the Mueller indictments themselves, as well as from the publicly available sentencing memoranda and court filing by the Special Counsel’s office. When these materials are combined with mountain of information publicly disclosed over the past several years as a result of reliable investigative reporting, there is already ample evidence to reach a conclusion that is the direct opposite of what Mueller apparently concluded. The Trump Team coordinated on numerous levels with Russian agents and operatives (including WikiLeaks) in their efforts not only to broadly assist Russia with achieving goals that were contrary to existing U.S. foreign policy and antithetical to U.S. interests, but also to more narrowly influence the 2016 presidential election and to swing it in Trump’s favor.