Author's Note: Although, unfortunately, many on both the Right and the Left are going to treat it as a joke, this column is deadly serious, even though it was originally posted on April Fool's Day. For a really good one of those see https://www.opednews.com/articles/Twitter-Bans-The-Donald-by-Josh-Mitteldorf-Political-Satire-190401-574.html, right here at Op-Ed News.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------In the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2ndEdition Unabridged, "collusion" is defined as "a secret agreement, especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy." According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, collusion is defined as: "1. agreement between people to act together secretly or illegally in order to deceive or cheat someone: 2. agreement, esp. in secret for an illegal or dishonest reason: 3. the act of doing something secret or illegal with another person, company, etc. in order to deceive."
In terms of these definitions, there is ample, out-in-the-open (maybe that's the problem with it, it is so obvious) evidence that Trump, members of his family, and members of the Trump campaign committed simple collusion, in re the Russians, ranging from the famous "Trump Tower Meeting," to, during the campaign, working on a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and lying about it to the public, to Jared Kushner's attempt to establish a "back channel" connection with Russian officials during the Transition, to various secret connections, at various times, between such folk as George Papadopoulos, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and others, with various Russians, some of whom have been indicted by the Mueller investigation, in absentia. In terms of his charge (see below), the only question for Mueller about what the Trumpites did in terms of collusion was, did it rise to the level of criminality, provable beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now of course we do not know what is in the Mueller Report (which has been reported to range in length from 300 or so pages to, with attachments, 700 or so pages). What we do have is the 3 ½ page "Barr Report" (on which I have commented previously, on March 25).
I began that column by saying:
"As is widely known, Donald J. Trump hired William Barr as his personal lawyer inside the Justice Department (oops, I mean Attorney General) for one reason only: to try to shut down the Mueller investigation entirely and prevent any of its findings/reports from reaching the light of day. Lacking achievement of that objective (and it could have existed only in Trump's head, and perhaps the heads of one or more of his children and his acolytes at Fox"News"), Barr's assignment was: a) to short circuit Mueller's work to the extent possible and b) to make as light of the findings as possible."
Further, in a cover note to a distribution of that column four days later I said:
"I published this column the day after the 'Attorney General' (otherwise known as Trump's personal lawyer at the Justice Department) published what will become known in American History as the 'Barr Report,' on the extensive report on the work that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller did over a two-year period looking into, as is well known, connections between Trump, various family members and campaign officials, with 'The Russians.' (Also, it looked at possible obstruction of justice by the Pres. --- couldn't be, could it?) The 'Barr Report,' all four pages of it, with no supporting evidence, came to the conclusion that there is no there there. Of course, that may or may not be in sync with what the Mueller Report actually says."
For what is critical here is what definition of "collusion" Mueller used. According to his charge from then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he was to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump." And then "the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters." Of course, we have no idea what definition of "collusion" was used in either the Barr Report or the Mueller Report.
If the definition used by Mueller was one that included the word "crime" --- in the Random House definition the word "conspiracy," which can be a crime, appears, and in the Cambridge definition the word "illegal" appears thrice (remember that's an English definition) --- then it might be that Mueller found what has appeared out in the open over and over again in terms of "agreements" or attempts to reach them (see both definitions). But then, and this is critical, it is very possible that he did not conclude that any of them rose to the level of crime, the commission of which could be charged, and then proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
If that is the definition of collusion he used, and if that is the criminal law standard that Mueller required to be met, it is possible that in that narrow sense Barr is telling the truth when he says that Mueller found no "collusion." Further, the charge used the term "Russian government." And we know, for example, that Julian Assange, a very important source of "dirt" on the Clinton campaign, was always very careful to say that his source was not the Russian government. BUT, there were a variety of non-government actors (and I'm not naming names here; they are well-known --- some of them indicted in absentia) who had contacts with the Trump campaign, as well as Russian government personages who could have been claiming to speak informally (some of them showing up on FBI wire-taps).
And so, it is impossible to know what the Report might say about collusion --- as defined above --- other than the type that could be proven in a Court of Law, beyond a reasonable doubt. For collusion is not an illusion necessarily: it's just a matter of how it is defined. The "delusion" in the title of this column is that Mueller found no collusion of any kind, when it is lying about in plain sight. It's just whether or not it rose to the level of provable criminality.
As for the matter of obstruction of justice, Barr tells us in his Report that in his Report Mueller lays out evidence on both sides of the question, but that Barr and Rosenstein concluded that it did not rise to the level of obstruction that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But then, if Mueller did find some evidence of the attempt/intent to obstruct justice on the part of Trump and various Trumpites, one question that arises is, over what matters were they attempting to obstruct justice. Couldn't be the matter of collusion, could it? And if not, what was it?
And so, a whole bunch of folks, on both the Right and the Left have jumped to a whole bunch of conclusions, for a whole bunch of motivations. I will not go into the latter here. Except to repeat that that whole bunch of conclusions have been arrived at, in my view, way prematurely.