Mueller Report: If the president clearly 'did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state'
The great independent and liberal journalist I.F. Stone once wrote: “All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.”
It’s not a secret that all governments lie. The history of Indian Country is a story by story chart that reflects that very idea.
And there is a lot of smoking going on.
The Mueller Report lays out the facts in a redacted two-part, 448-page report. It makes the case that the president did everything he could do to stop the investigation itself, what the special counsel described as a "pattern of conduct" that included the firing FBI Director Jim Comey.
(The report was released Thursday by Attorney General William Barr. The New York Times posted a searchable version of the report here.)
The president repeatedly lied to the country. He lied to Congress. (And he likely would have lied to the special counsel had he answered direct questions.) The report documents similar testimony under oath from White House officials who admit to telling lies as part of their job.
President Donald J. Trump maintains the report clears him. He tweeted Thursday: “As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION - NO OBSTRUCTION!”
Friday morning the president went further. He called the report "the Crazy Mueller Report ... written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated and totally untrue."
The report by Robert Mueller reaches a different conclusion. “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.”
The president called this investigation an outrage and said no other president should be subject to such acts. But the report detailed the outcome beyond the report itself, more than a hundred criminal cases including many that have yet to be made public. “During the course of the investigation, the Office periodically identified evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Counsel’s jurisdiction established by the Acting Attorney General,” the Muller report said. “After consultation with the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Office referred that evidence to appropriate law enforcement authorities, principally other components of the Department of Justice and the FBI.”
Indeed, the Mueller report raised more political and moral failings than criminal activity. For example: “Substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the president’s decision to fire Comey was Comey’s unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation, despite the president’s repeated requests that Comey make such an announcement.”
Now what? The Brookings Institute's Elaine Kamarck writes that the real test will be whether the report changes American opinion enough to move President Trump’s supporters and opponents out from their highly partisan corners. "Barr’s comments today will be greeted as complete vindication by the president’s supporters and as a whitewash by his opponents," she said. "But what everyone, supporters and opponents alike, seem to agree on is that they want to make their own decision." She concluded: "let’s see if anyone comes out in the weeks to come."
In the short run, the outcome of the report is up to Congress. The House Chairman of the Judiciary Rep. Jerry Nadler tweeted: “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings.”
But the problem in Congress is that Republicans and Democrats are reading the report quite differently. House Democrats say they will subpoena the entire document and will hold public hearings. On CNN, the House’s majority leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer said impeachment would not be "worthwhile." He said: "Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment."
"The acts of obstruction of justice, whether they are criminal or not, are deeply alarming in the president of the United States," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Thursday. "And it's clear that special counsel Mueller wanted the Congress to consider the repercussions and the consequences."
Some Democrats say the Constitution requires Congress to go forward. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex tweeted: “Mueller’s report is clear in pointing to Congress’ responsibility in investigating obstruction of justice by the President.It is our job as outlined in Article 1, Sec 2, Clause 5 of the US Constitution.”
There are two impeachment resolutions, H.J. 13, and H.R. 257, that have been introduced in the House. Under that process the House would act as a prosecutor and the Senate would act as judge and jury. Republicans control the Senate.
Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, R-Oklahoma, said the report “doesn’t change the prior conclusions of the 22-month investigation. Redacted or not, the report confirms that there was no collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign, nor was there sufficient evidence to justify indictment for obstruction of justice. The thorough investigation is over. The results are clearly in. Now it’s time for Democrats to also conclude with their politically motivated investigations and their dubious charges against the president.”
“Republicans have long known there was no collusion or obstruction and the release of the Mueller report makes that even clearer,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee Nation, R-Oklahoma. “It is beyond time for Pelosi Democrats to move on from this ridiculous charade and witch hunt. Earlier this year I voted to publicly release the Mueller report so that everyone has the opportunity to read the findings for themselves. As Americans, we should all rejoice in the fact that the Mueller report found that no American conspired with the Russian government to influence our open and free elections.”
Given the divide between Democrats and Republicans, impeachment is unlikely. But what about official acts of lying? The Muller report asked the question in an indirect way, a “pretextual reason to the press and the public for Comey’s termination … to support an inference that the President had concerns about providing the real reason for the firing.” In other words: why all the lies?
There is now documented evidence that the White House press office, including the current occupant, Sarah Sanders, made up a story to protect the president. In total the report documents at least seven instances of Trump’s press secretaries lying in their official capacity. Four such lies were spread the hours following Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017.
The president, basically, found a fall guy in the government when he wanted to fire one of his officials. When officials objected, they were ignored. And the White House press office went ahead and told the press a lie. As Vox pointed out: The Mueller report proves “that there were people in Trump’s orbit who were capable of mitigating the president’s temptation to lie all the time. Those people just weren’t the ones in charge of talking to the press.”
Sanders, the president, government officials, and many of his supporters, are quick to chant “fake news” when they disagree with the reporting in a news story. Could be it’s because they’re smoking the same hashish they put out.
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports
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