We may never know for sure whether Donald Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin to obtain Russia's help in the 2016 election, in return for, say, Trump's help in weakening NATO and not interfering against Russian aggression in Ukraine.
When he criticized NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, he wasn't really asking that they demonstrate their patriotism. He was disrespecting their and, indirectly, everyone's freedom of speech.
In all these ways, Trump undermined core values of our democracy.
This is the essence of Trump's failure, not that he has chosen one set of policies over another, or has divided rather than united Americans, or even that he has behaved in childish and vindictive ways unbecoming a president.
It is that he has sacrificed the processes and institutions of American democracy to achieve his goals. By saying and doing whatever it takes to win, he has abused the trust we place in a president to preserve and protect the nation's capacity for self-government.
The Mueller report must not obscure this basic reality.
Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.