Now that the nation has had a chance to read the redacted Mueller report, the evidence is incontrovertible that President Trump lied during repeated episodes of possible obstruction of justice, that Attorney General William P. Barr distorted Mueller’s findings and that the mainstream media’s coverage of the scandal has been largely accurate.
On page after page, Mueller confirms the hundred-plus contacts the Trump campaign had with Russians, and he elaborates on 10 episodes of possible obstruction of justice by the president himself. Taken together the report confirms much of the reporting by mainstream news organizations the president has branded as fake.
Those who plan to vote in 2020 should read the report – which flies by like a spy novel – starting with the second volume on obstruction. Forget about all of the legalities about conspiracy and obstruction and collusion. Ask yourself one question:
Do I want my president doing the things that Donald Trump has done?
Trump calls McGahn to fire Mueller
Start on page 85 of the second volume. If you still are wondering whether the president or the press creates “fake” news, you’ll find the answer.
Mueller reports that on Saturday June 17, 2017, while at Camp David, Trump twice called White House Counsel Don McGahn at his home. Trump instructed McGahn to remove Mueller as special counsel. “Call Rod (Rosenstein), tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel,” he said.
McGahn didn’t want to create a “Saturday Night Massacre” – the night Nixon forced the Justice Department to fire Archibald Cox during Watergate. So McGahn told his lawyer and top aide he planned to resign instead of carrying out Trump’s command. He even prepared to clear out his office. He held off though and Trump didn’t renew the command.
Then, in late January, 2018, the New York Times and Washington Post reported on Trump’s instruction to McGahn to fire Mueller (page 113). Trump responded to the Times story by telling reporters it was “Fake news, folks. Fake News. A typical New York Times fake news story.”
Trump then ordered McGahn to create fake news, instructing him to deny the story to the press and create a record that Trump had not ordered the firing. McGahn refused and Trump threatened through aides to fire McGahn. At one point he challenged McGahn for always taking notes of his meetings, remarking that “I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.”
Trump lawyer tells Cohen to stay on message
If that’s not convincing enough, turn to another episode of possible obstruction on p-143 where Muller describes why the president’s lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen lied to Congress about how long the Trump Tower Moscow talks continued. Cohen told Congress the talks ended by January, 2016, when they actually continued to June. He also keep secret a 2016 conversation he had with an aide in Putin’s office in which the aide encouraged the project.
Before testifying falsely to Congress, Cohen had repeated conversations with Trump’s personal lawyer and told him there was more to the Russia negotiation than had been revealed. Cohen said Trump’s lawyer told him the president “appreciated” Cohen and he should “stay on message and not contradict the President, that there was no need to muddy the water.”
Cohen followed the guidance and ended up pleading guilty to lying to Congress.
Trump wants K.T. McFarland to create false email on sanctions
Now go to p-42, the episode titled – “The President Attempts to have K.T. McFarland Create a Witness Statement Denying that he Directed Flynn’s Discussions with Kislyak.”
A month after the inauguration Trump fired McFarland but also sent word she would be appointed ambassador to Singapore. The following day, the chief of staff told her the president wanted her to create an internal email stating that the president had not told National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador about sanctions.
By this time Flynn had already been forced out as national security adviser for falsely denying he and the Russian ambassador had discussed the sanctions the Obama administration leveled against Russia for its interference in the presidential election.
McFarland didn’t know if the president had told Flynn to talk about the sanctions. The White House counsel’s office advised her not to write the requested email and McFarland wrote in a note for her records that she feared the email Trump requested would have looked like a “quid pro quo” for her ambassadorial appointment.
Russia, if you’re listening….. They were
Finally, flip back to p-42 of the first volume on Russian collusion. On July 27, 2016, Trump famously called on the Russians’ to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. “Russia, if you’re listening,” he said, “I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be mightily rewarded by our press.”
Many people took that as a joke or hyperbole. But five hours later the Russian GRU hackers from Unit 26165 began to probe 15 email accounts they had not previously tried to hack. Mueller doesn’t know how the Russian spies got the details about the accounts. In addition, the Mueller report states that Trump asked Flynn during the campaign to try to obtain the missing emails and checked back to see if he had success.
Barr’s misleading summary
The release of the Mueller report also demonstrates how Barr mischaracterized it in his original summary to the nation in March – the summary that Trump claimed was a full exoneration.
Barr reported Mueller had said his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government its election interference activities.”
Missing was the first half of that 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….
Barr’s press conference before releasing the report also tried to put an unconscionable and false spin in the facts by claiming, “The White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation.”
In fact, Mueller highlights the refusal of the president to answer questions in person, to respond to any questions about obstruction of justice and to provide follow-up answers. In the written answers his lawyers provided, Trump said 36 times that he either couldn’t remember, didn’t recall or didn’t have an independent recollection of events.
The press’ account of the Mueller report has sometimes been misleadingly generous to Trump. It is widely stated in the news that the report found no evidence of collusion. Even though Barr misleadingly used the term collusion in his press conference – apparently to get his syntax in line with the president’s – Mueller took pains to make it clear he was not investigating collusion but rather evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Although Mueller could not prove a criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign beyond a reasonable doubt, the report brought to 140 the total number of contacts that Trump and 18 associates had with the Russians.
Common sense questions
Once again, it’s important to get past the legalities and ask the common sense questions.
It’s legal for a presidential candidate to try to make hundreds of millions of dollars on a hotel deal with the nation’s leading adversary, but do you want a president who lied about it?
It’s legal for Trump’s son to excitedly await dirt on Clinton at the Trump Tower meeting. But he should have called the FBI instead. And his father shouldn’t have dictated the inaccurate press statement about the meeting.
It is legal for the president to call the press the enemy of the people and brand stories he doesn’t like “fake news.” But do we want a president who claims true news is fake and fake news is true?
Trump aides told reporters a day after Mueller’s release that few people would read the long report so there wouldn’t be much impact on the election. It’s a citizen’s duty prove that cynical prediction wrong – to read the report and make your own decisions about what kind of behavior you expect in the White House.