Long-time readers know that I am no fan of Willard “Mittens” Romney. He is as phony as a three dollar bill. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. Sen. Romney’s statement last week about the redacted Mueller Report got one thing exactly right:
[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—including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.
Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders.
The Russians (previously the Soviet Union) had sought to interfere in U.S. elections in the past during the Cold War. In each publicly known instance, those offers to assist a presidential candidate were rebuffed and reported to law enforcement. Here’s every time Russian or Soviet spies tried to interfere in US elections.
Over the course of 11 presidential elections between the end of World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union, we identified three secret attempts to influence an election.
• 1960: Through his ambassador to the United States, Mikhail Menshikov, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev offered Adlai Stevenson help from a secret propaganda campaign. However, Stevenson declined the offer. He lost in the Democratic primary to John F. Kennedy. [Also, Why Russian Officials Tried to Help John F. Kennedy Win the Presidency: Russian operatives even attempted to contact Kennedy campaign officials during the 1960 election, only to be denied.]
• 1968: The Soviet Union’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Dobrynin, offered to secretly fund Hubert Humphrey’s campaign against Richard Nixon. Humphrey declined the bribe.
• 1976: Fearing that anti-communist Democrat Henry “Scoop” Jackson stood a good chance at winning in the wake of Nixon’s resignation, the KGB began a smear campaign. Soviet spies forged FBI paperwork to make it appear Jackson was secretly gay and sent the fake reports to newspapers around the United States during the election and for years after.
Jared Yates Sexton writes at Salon, Mueller’s report: A profile of a president willing to sell out his country:
Having finally had a chance to look at an initial, redacted version of the report, Americans got a chance last Thursday to see for themselves just what horrors Attorney General Barr had been trying to bury for his president. In Mueller’s 448-page detailed narrative of his investigation, we saw the story of a campaign deeply steeped in Russian efforts to undermine our free and fair elections and a president attempting to or actively breaking the law to cover it up.
Though Barr’s continued misinformation campaign was meant to spin the report and Trump flip-flopped from trumpeting the investigation as totally exonerating him to characterizing it as “bullshit” on Saturday, Mueller leaves little doubt in his report as to just what he found. It’s as bad as anyone could have imagined, and, in many cases, so much worse.
The first volume of the report details the Russian hacking of the 2016 Presidential election, its many operations that intended to aid Donald Trump’s election, and a troubling account of interactions between Trump’s campaign and those Russian operations. Though Mueller wasn’t able to prove there was an explicit conspiracy between Russia and the campaign, what he did find was a slew of interactions wherein the campaign and Russian individuals communicated and cooperated, every instance toeing the line between conduct that was technically legal but disturbing, and outright criminal.
As the Washington Post further explains, “A reconstruction of the laborious effort by Mueller’s team to determine whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia shows why it was often a maddeningly difficult task.” Inside the special counsel’s long hunt to uncover whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia:
Their witnesses were not ideal. A few key players, prosecutors would contend, lied in interviews. Many were loyal to the president and echoed his rhetoric that Mueller’s team was acting in bad faith. Some used encrypted applications with disappearing messages that could not be reviewed. Others were overseas, unreachable to American investigators.
In some cases, their statements were only loosely tethered to the facts.
In other words, witnesses lied, obstructed, and destroyed relevant evidence. Other witnesses were never interviewed. Mueller’s investigation was thwarted at every turn, and is incomplete.
It’s here that we see a clear picture emerging of the Trump Campaign as an organized crime cell where those involved are either so versed in shady activities that they’re able to skirt the line or else so incompetent that they couldn’t possibly be aware where the line was. In the case of Donald Trump, Jr., his meeting with Russians in Trump Tower fell into the latter territory as Mueller could not determine that he knew what he was doing was illegal and wasn’t sure he could successfully prosecute the president’s son.
In a disturbing incident, the Trump Campaign was not able to carry out conspiracy, but seemingly not for a lack of trying. Ordered by Trump to track down Hillary Clinton’s “missing emails,” Michael Flynn, the disgraced former National Security Advisor, contacted now-deceased operative Peter Smith, who attempted to reach foreign spies in Russia, China, and Iran. Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary force Blackwater and brother of current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, was involved in trying to find the emails and also attempted to meet with Russian individuals.
Another disturbing incident involved Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager who is currently in prison for a spate of crimes, who maintained ties with Russia after years of fixing relations for them in Ukraine and effectively instituting puppets for Vladimir Putin. Manafort provided Russian intelligence figure Konstantin Kilimnik with campaign polling numbers and discussed the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota, states that played an integral role in the election, thus raising the question: Did this conversation guide Russian interference in that direction?
That question remained unanswered, along with a slew of others, including how Trump and his campaign learned exactly when WikiLeaks would release the stolen DNC emails it had obtained from Russia, an anticipation that included an extensive media plan by the Trump Campaign that would capitalize on the problematic reveal of Democratic communiqués. Also, Mueller reaped no judgment as to whether it amounted to conspiracy when Donald Trump asked Russia on live television to find Clinton’s emails, a call that was actually met by Russian actions five hours later to do exactly what the Republican candidate asked them to do.
* * *
Overall, what was found within the report is a damning incrimination of a president willing to sell out his country, turn his back on duty and loyalty, and win at all costs, even if that meant cooperating with a foreign power in undermining free and fair elections. What’s more, it tells the tale of a man so unfit for office that those around him are constantly betraying his orders in an attempt to avoid their own prosecution.
Despite William Barr’s irresponsible spinning, this is the story of a prosecutor communicating to the American people and their representatives that the evidence is clear and critical. There are elements of both sections, conspiracy and obstruction, where Mueller was stymied by either eyewitnesses stonewalling or ongoing investigations yet to yield information, but Congress should act on this investigation and launch their own inquiries, more than likely opening the door to impeachment.
It’s hard, following a long and critical look at this report, to come to any conclusion other than Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Some will argue Democrats should not pursue this course because an impeachment would undoubtedly fail in a Republican Senate, but what Mueller has presented to the American people is a textbook case of an executive committing high crimes. Regardless of what Trump and his crony Attorney General claim, not to mention what his sycophantic news network and media orbit will scream from primetime to sign off, this story isn’t an exoneration, it’s a tragedy.
The “tragedy” is that we have a political party so in thrall to the personality cult of Donald Trump that “colluding” with a foreign adversary that waged a cyber war against our electoral process to undermine our democratic institutions is no longer viewed as an unpatriotic traitorous or criminal act.
Donald Trump’s TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani aka Bat Boy, best personifies the ethical and moral depravity of the Party of Trump. Giuliani Says There Is ‘Nothing Wrong With Taking Information From Russians’:
President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, insisted on Sunday that it was acceptable for a political campaign to use hacked information about its opponent obtained from a foreign adversary — though he personally would have advised against it.
“There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” Mr. Giuliani said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that he would have argued against using it, “out of excess of caution.”
“It depends on where it came from,” he said, adding on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a political campaign’s decision to use stolen information from foreign adversaries “depends on the stolen material.”
“They shouldn’t have stolen it, but the American people were just given more information,” Mr. Giuliani said on “Meet the Press.”
Bat Boy did not address why Donald Trump and members of his campaign actively sought assistance from a foreign adversary, and had no problem with receiving stolen property from the Russians or their cutout WikiLeaks. Bat Boy also did not address the fact that, despite receiving intelligence briefings as the GOP nominee that the Russians were actively interfering in the campaign, not once did Donald Trump nor any member o his campaign ever report any of the numerous contacts they had with Russian individuals to law enforcement. Nor did Bat Boy address the fact that Donald Trump was pursuing a Trump Tower Moscow during the campaign, and lying to the American public about his business interests in Russia that could serve as “kompromat” by the Russians.
Donald Trump is the first and only presidential candidate ever to have sought and accepted assistance from a foreign adversary. Donald Trump has yet to acknowledge what our intelligence agencies have unanimously assessed, that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — and they are still actively interfering in our electoral process.
On Saturday night, Mr. Trump, ostensibly in response to a scathing statement from Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, shared a video mocking Mr. Romney’s unsuccessful presidential run in 2012.
Mr. Giuliani added to the criticism of the Utah senator, calling Mr. Romney a “hypocrite” for his statement. Mr. Romney had said he was “sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection” from administration officials, “including the president.”
Appearing right after Rudy Giuliani ranted and raved to Jake Tapper about the Mueller Report, Preet Bharara obliterates Rudy Giuliani after Trump advisor melts down on CNN’s Jake Tapper:
“On the question of whether or not it’s okay to take information from the Russians, I appreciate Giuliani’s role is to defend the president at all costs, whatever argument he can put forth, whether it makes sense or not,” he continued. “He should pause and think about what he’s saying, not just an advocate for a president who he claims was exonerated in the report. The idea that it is okay — separate and apart from it being a criminal offense — we should be telling future candidates in the run-up to an election in 2020 if a foreign adversary is offering information against a political opponent, that it’s okay and right and proper and American and patriotic, to take that information? That’s an extraordinary statement and I would hope he would retract it.”
If the Party of Trump now believes that it is perfectly acceptable to seek and to receive assistance from a foreign adversary whose goal it is to undermine our democratic institutions and to reduce American influence in the world, what’s to stop them from doing it again in 2020? They are unpatriotic and traitorous fellow travelers of Putin’s puppet, “useful idiot” Russian asset Donald Trump.
As Sen. Romney said, “how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders.”