Wednesday, March 27, 2019

After Mueller

Perhaps only President Trump (and presumably his Republican party acolytes) could have the effrontery to claim "Total Exoneration" based on Attorney General Barr's summary of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Report - given that one of the very few sentences actually quoted by Barr from Mueller's report states: "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

It is, of course, completely unsurprising that in our post-fact, post-truth world, each faction simply goes to its respective corner and reproduces its talking points. All the more reason, therefore, why the entire report (or, at least, those parts which are legally able to be released) should be made public immediately. Furthermore, the House should subpoena, Barr, Rosenstein, and, above all, Mueller himself to testify under oath about the report's conclusions.

Based on Barr's summary, it seems we can conclude that:
1) there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election;
2) "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities" [Mueller's words]; and
3) as already quoted from Mueller above, "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Granted that the President and his associates have been cleared of any explicit conspiracy with the Russians, that still leaves plenty for Congress to investigate.

Congress also has other things to do, however. One of the many unfortunate consequences of Watergate (besides journalistic self-righteousness) has been our epidemic of obsession with political scandal. Just as legislation should not primarily be done by the courts, neither should our politics primarily be fought out in judicial proceedings. The Democrats did not win so overwhelmingly in 2018 because voters were obsessed with White House scandals but because voters were justifiably worried about protecting their health care and other such issues. And the Democrats will win the presidency in 2020, if they win it, not by obsessing over White House scandals but by offering voters an alternative to the present Administration which addresses the issues voters care about, something Democrats used to be rather good at and could still become good at again.

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