Jason Sattler, Opinion columnist Published 5:50 p.m. ET April 18, 2019 | Updated 8:38 a.m. ET April 19, 2019 We have to decide if we’re willing to go on with a president who was elected with Russian help and tried 10 times to obstruct a probe into that help. Even before special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was
We have to decide if we’re willing to go on with a president who was elected with Russian help and tried 10 times to obstruct a probe into that help.
Even before special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released, anyone who had a TV knew that President Donald Trump was too corrupt and compromised for his office. Now we know the same is true for his attorney general, William Barr.
For weeks, Barr has been trying to sell us a Mueller report that simply does not exist.
The actual Mueller report, beneath all the redactions, details one of the most successful foreign disruptions of an American election in the history of the republic. It reveals a presidential campaign eager to suck up the benefits of this “sweeping and systematic” interference, and it unmasks a president who attempted to commit multiple crimes to cover the whole thing up.
But beyond all those revelations, this process has shown we are in an emergency unlike anything we’ve seen since Watergate. Barr has proven that he is determined to help Trump get away with some of the most unpatriotic and corrupt acts ever committed by a president.
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Minutes before Mueller’s 448-page report was released Thursday morning, Barr held a press conference for his second attempt to describe the fictional report he wishes Mueller’s team had written. As if he had been hacked by Trump’s Twitter feed, he repeated some version of the phrase “no collusion” over and over and over.
We soon learned that Mueller’s report couldn’t possibly clear Trump of “collusion.” Why? It clearly states with the first few pages it does not even address the “concept of ‘collusion.'”
A shocking sentence about Trump and Russia
Barr also repeated the sentence fragment that played a starring role in his memo that attempted to exonerate the president: ” … the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Soon, the world finally saw the whole big shocking sentence:
Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
In other words, both sides were working toward the same goal. Mueller merely couldn’t prove that they had coordinated their efforts in ways that specifically violated the law.
For instance, the famed “Trump Tower meeting,” where the “Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump Campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary (Clinton),” didn’t lead to any prosecutions. This isn’t because it wasn’t illegal. It’s because “the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”
Congress can apply obstruction laws to Trump
Barr also lied to the public when he stated in his press conference that Mueller did not “indicate” that he was leaving the question of obstruction of justice to the Congress.
The report lays out 10 instances of possible criminal obstruction ranging from “Termination of FBI Director Comey” to “The President’s Conduct Involving Michael Cohen.” It then explicitly says “we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.”
The report then also reminded us why Congress has this power: “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President ‘s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”
Checks and balances. Remember those? They come from something else Barr expects you to never read: The Constitution.
Democrats can’t choose politics over duty
Trump’s singularly corrupt approach to politics is perfectly in line with his approach to avoiding taxes and running a fake for-profit college. Likewise, the Republican Party’s firm belief that a Republican president is incapable of committing crimes was confirmed in the report. Instead of leading an impartial investigation, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. — the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — was leaking information to the White House.
America now has to decide if we’re willing to go on with a president who was elected with Russian help and then tried to obstruct an investigation into that help — 10 times. What we’re learning for sure is something Russia has known for years: Trump is eager and willing to accept its help, even if that means lying to the American people.
The Republican Party and Barr have made their decision — to let Democrats carry this burden alone. They know the responsibility to impeach a president will be a distraction for a party that just took over the House by campaigning on issues voters care about, like health care and corporate tax cuts.
But with an attorney general willing to do almost anything to protect this president, the question isn’t “What’s politically advantageous?” It’s what will be left of our democracy if Congress doesn’t do its job.
Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and host of “The GOTMFV Show” podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP
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