Saturday Night Live will continue Alec Baldwin’s ham-handed send up of Donald Trump but it doesn’t look like Robert DeNiro will long reprise his role as a menacing Robert Mueller. The Special Counsel has filed his final report and closed shop on his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and, particularly, of whether there was any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in that effort and any Obstruction of Justice by the President.
Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel two years ago on the heels on the controversy over the firing of FBI Director James Comey. (See Comey’s Revenge). Mueller picked up the existing investigation, which had been started during the campaign a year earlier. Mueller’s office interviewed over 500 witnesses, including 30 hours of interviews with White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn with the President’s assent. The Special Counsel convened a grand jury and issued over 2,800 witness subpoenas and 500 search warrants. 34 people and three companies have been indicted on 199, none, it should be noted, alleging any illegal conspiracy involving the Trump Campaign. The investigation cost $25.2 million.
Attorney General William Barr is currently reviewing the Mueller Report. There are materials included in it, which he is obliged to keep confidential. These include grand jury testimony, some raw information in FBI “302 reports” of interviews, material relating to pending criminal cases and, possibly, data revealing sources and methods of intelligence gathering. The report is likely hundreds of pages in length and the reports and transcripts underlying it would probably fill a room. Barr has committed himself to public disclosure of as much of the report as possible. Necessary redactions will take some time. In the meantime he has provided Congress with a four-page summary of its “Principal Conclusions.”
Barr quotes the Mueller Report as stating: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Mueller has a well-deserved reputation as an aggressive, hard-nosed, not to say unscrupulous, prosecutor. It’s certainly next to impossible to argue with his conclusion.
Mueller did, however, conclude that there was Russian interference in the in the election by means of both manipulation of social mediation to stimulate dissension and of hacking of emails from Democratic sources. This is undoubtedly true. Trump’s original dissension from this view was to the conclusion, argued by Democrats and their acolytes in the media, that the outcome of the election was altered by this activity. At the outset three years ago in Did the Russians Hack to Help Trump? So what? I pointed out how unlikely the Russian activity was to have affected the election results. I also noted in A Primer: the Election, the Russians, Spies & Leaks that there we two conflicting groups of Americans looking for investigations: those who suspected Trump of conspiracy with the Russians and those wondering how and why the Obama Justice Department and counterintelligence agencies started an investigation into an opposing Presidential campaign.
These conflicts, fanned by the media and unprincipled politicians, have persisted. See Donald Trump, “The Manchurian Candidate?” (Edited). Only one of the desired investigations has been completed. The Trump Campaign did not conspire with the Russians. However, attempts to investigate the question of how and why the investigation into “Russian Collusion” was initiated have been met with outraged howls that the latter investigation was designed only to obstruct the first.
Now that the Mueller Report is in, it’s time to investigate how the “Russian Collusion” investigation was begun and presented under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to the FISA Court. We also need to investigate the “unmasking” by Obama administration officials of Americans spied upon and the leaking of classified information to the media for political ends.
The sources of this conspiracy theory – Comey, Brennan, Clapper, McCabe, Strzok, Page and Ohr – did not succeed in preventing the election of Donald Trump or bringing him down. They did, however, cause an unfounded, disruptive investigation, which has greatly hampered Trump’s ability to function. That may have been their intent all along. If the Russian goal was to create disunity and disruption, this gang has well served the Russian purpose.
Politicians of every stripe have responded to the Mueller with expected, shameless hypocrisy. Trump who had lambasted Mueller as running a “witch hunt” now says he is “honorable.” Democratic Congressmen claimed that Mueller was the Gold Standard of investigators and demanded legislation to protect him from Trump’s inevitable firing. Now they claim more investigation on the subject is needed.
Obama National Security officials James Clapper and John Brennan, who were complicit in the original “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition personnel and leaking of classified material, have since been fixtures on Cable TV News networks, proclaiming Trump to be an asset of Russian President Putin. Clapper now claims that he was speaking only of Russian interference rather than collusion with the Trump Campaign. In December 2017, however, he told CNN that Russian President Putin “knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with” Trump. Brennan who had predicted indictments that would prove collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia, as well as Obstruction of Justice, has walked back his earlier comments saying, “I don’t know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was.”
The mandate of the Special Counsel included investigation of whether President Trump committed Obstruction of Justice in firing FBI Director James Comey and other activities. Mueller in his final report did not reach a conclusion on that subject. He reported the evidence on both sides in detail and left the conclusion to Attorney General Barr. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” More on that next time.
Next: “It’s Mueller Time 2; Obstruction of Justice?”