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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/26/19

Five Takeaways from the Mueller Report

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After waiting almost two years, the report of the Special Counsel charged with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election -- the "Mueller Report" -- was made made available on April 17th. Although this 448-page report was edited -- "redacted" -- by pro-Trump Attorney General William Barr, enough was uncensored that we can draw general conclusions.

1.We're at war with Russia and they are winning. The most disturbing conclusion from the Mueller Report is that Russia made a concerted effort to alter the results of the 2016 election. "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion." Vladimir Putin and his cronies wanted Trump to win and engaged in a variety of technical efforts to help him. It's not clear what the overall impact was. Russians operatives were active in key swing states -- such as Michigan,Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- but it's not provable that the Russian efforts resulted in Trump's 78,000 vote margin. What is clear is that the Russians helped the Trump campaign by concerted social-media campaigns and hacking Clinton-campaign emails.

There's no evidence that Russian interference has abated. Indeed, if one looks at the Putin's objectives, there's no reason for the Russians to stop because they are succeeding. Russian efforts have weakened U.S. morale and diminished our role as leader of the "free" world. (They have also weakened the European Union and brought the United Kingdom to the brink of chaos.)

2. Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge Russian subterfuge. Despite abundant evidence, Trump refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of the Russian intrusion into domestic politics. The United States is under attack and Trump won't do anything about it.

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This grim reality has many implications. First, it's very likely that the Russians will interfere in the 2020 election. It's possible that Russian actions will, once again, tilt the scales in Trump's favor.

Second, Trump's recalcitrance has further divided the American public. Trump is promoting an alternative reality that most of his supporters have bought into. Thus, at a time when America is under attack, and should be unified in the face of the Russian onslaught, the electorate is polarized.

3. Donald Trump interfered in the Mueller investigation and continues to interfere in Democratic efforts to understand Russian actions. A possible explanation for Trump's behavior is that he is naive; that he has an unrealistic image of America's relationship with Russia and cannot bring himself to acknowledge that Vladimir Putin has malign intent. If this were to be the case, then Trump -- disregarding the opinion of the National Security establishment -- might be following a path that is sincere but misguided.

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Sadly, that explanation does not explain Trump's numerous efforts to interfere with the Mueller investigation. While the Mueller report did not find compelling evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, it did find evidence of obstruction. (The report notes numerous examples of lying and at least 10 instances where Trump (it would appear) committed obstruction of justice.) For a variety of reasons, the Mueller team did not indict Trump for obstruction but it did conclude: "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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment." (This section of the Mueller Report appears to be a "blueprint" for impeachment.)

Since the Mueller report was made public, Donald Trump has blocked most of the Democratic efforts to elaborate key Mueller findings.

To summarize: Russia is waging war on the United States. We need to mobilize to fend off the attack and Donald Trump is obstructing this mobilization. This is treason.

4. The Republican Party will not restrain Trump. The official Republican response to the Mueller Report has been diversion: "Mueller didn't find collaboration between the Trump Campaign and the Russians, therefore we should move on." In other words, Republican leaders ignore evidence of Russian interference and want to change the subject. (This approach is typified by the April 23rd remarks of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner: "If you look at what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent, it's a terrible thing. But I think the [Mueller] investigations and the speculation that's happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.")

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, said he would ask Attorney General William Barr, "To appoint a special counsel to determine whether the Obama administration's Department of Justice unlawfully obtained a warrant to spy on a Trump associate as a way to help bolster [Hillary] Clinton."

Other Republicans offered a more nuanced response: "Perhaps the Russians did interfere in the 2016 election but so did China and North Korea..." (A variation on this response is "The U.S. interferes in foreign elections so why shouldn't the Russians interfere with ours?"

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Utah Senator Mitt Romney has been the only dissenting GOP opinion: "I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia."

The bottom line: Donald Trump is committing treason and the Republican Party won't do anything about it.

5. It's up to Democrats to save the country. No pressure Dems, but it's up to you to save democracy.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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