As stated time and again in this space, the Trump administration’s obsession with Russia during its first two years of governance has had nothing to do with collusion. The undisputed proof that the President of the United States plotted with a foreign government to help push the election in his favor seems crazy when considering this guy can’t keep two thoughts in his head for five consecutive minutes, much less oversee a Machiavellian scheme of this magnitude. Donald Trump doesn’t possess the mental capacity or the sense of survival techniques inherent in someone who would do anything like this. However, what I have been commenting on now for over two years was this dumbfounding collage of self-incriminating acts that made it look as if the President were guilty of something. He is so delusional to the consequences of his actions, and certainly his comments, that he keeps making things worse for himself. To his credit, Special Counsel Robert Mueller shut the Trump noise out and actually saved the President from himself by coming to the conclusion that despite the mounting idiocy coming from the White House that makes him continuously appear as guilty as sin—weird tweets, incessant haranguing of the special counsel and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a dozen or so colleagues and alleged co-conspirators lying to congress and the FBI, 34 indictments—Trump was not guilty of at least an ill-conceived strategy with a paper trail.
We’ll get to more of Trump’s rampant stupidity that caused all these investigations in the first place, but let’s get to the crux of the issue for which this space has indeed repeatedly stated: Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.
First off, we know nothing about what is in the Mueller Report because right now Attorney General William Barr (the third one in two years under Trump and handpicked by him for his anti-Mueller rhetoric) has not released it. After a day and a half of perusing over 300 pages, Barr summarized Mueller’s findings on collusion and stated quite cryptically that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” This is because Mueller believed he had enough evidence to conclude that Trump had obstructed justice. This has been bared out by Barr’s original statement and, more recently, in a detailed New York Times report, which depicts Team Mueller bitching that it’s starting to smell a cover-up. But unless motivated (and of course Barr is not) there is no precedence in implicating a sitting president on obstruction of justice if there is nothing to obstruct justice from. In other words, in Barr’s reasoning, if there is no collusion then what is Trump exactly trying to protect himself from?
Naturally, this is where Trump’s stupidity comes stumbling in.
Trump of course came roaring out of the gate (or in this case, the golf course) to proclaim himself exonerated on all counts—which ran counter to his hand-picked attorney general’s specific comment about the report not exonerating him. In his usual clusterfuck manner, the President shouted about how much this whole thing was a waste of taxpayer money and time, and put undue pressure on the first two years of his presidency. Startlingly, this is all true, but let’s not forget: this buffoon has said all along that Mueller’s investigation was some kind of plot against him, as if he were a political martyr in the vaunted guise of a Clintonian “vast right-wing conspiracy” defense.
But, you see, no matter how you slice it, Donald Trump caused this whole thing by, again, doing and saying things that implicated him.
First, against the dire protestations of the man who actually helped him get elected, Steve Bannon—then the president’s chief strategist—Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the man who was essentially investigating his possible involvement in an ongoing criminal review of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Not to mention that at that time, Trump bent over backwards to make up stories (counter to the overwhelming evidence gathered by the entirety of the U.S. intelligence community) that it was anyone but Russia who had hacked into his opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails among other illegal and hostile maneuvers.
This single act would have been enough to force Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to investigate the President, but then Trump did something even more incriminating, he admitted guilt. On national television.
Rosenstein, another Trump appointee by the way, was thrown into this steaming pile of shit because his boss—then acting attorney general, Jeff Sessions—had to recuse himself from the case after being one of the hundreds of people around Trump that lied to congress about absolutely never having spoken to any Russian operatives during the campaign. In fact, for the record, Trump repeated for 14 months—from the time this came up during the campaign and well into his presidency—that no one near him had ever spoken to a single Russian, when, it turns out, all of them did: his family, his campaign manager, his associates (both business and political), and many members of his presidential staff.
When Trump told an NBC News anchor that he fired Comey (already a controversial and suspicious move) because of “the Russia thing,” even after his beleaguered staff had gone crazy concocting some bizarre fiction and subsequent written statement claiming Comey was an FBI pariah that needed to be sacked by recommendation of, if you can believe it, Rod Rosenstein, he made it impossible for anyone to ignore it. Said Trump, “He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”
Bingo! Obstruction of Justice 101.
Also, for the record, Trump said this past August that he never said such a thing and that NBC “spliced” his answer to incriminate him, just like he eventually claimed it was never his voice on the Access Hollywood tape, even though he immediately apologized for bragging about assaulting women three weeks before he was elected the leader of the free world.
Thus, Bob Mueller recommended that the DOJ consider Trump’s actions as possible obstruction of justice, (this is apparently what is riling them up enough to reach out to the media to berate Bob Barr), but among other things we have yet to see the entire report, which right now is being held up in the (ahem) Department of Justice. Why? If it “exonerates” Trump and he wins and the media and the Democrats and the FBI eat shit, then release it. No redactions. The whole report—that we paid for. Yet, thus far, given the preponderance of Republican legislators which have worked as this guy’s echo chamber, the DOJ still does not want us to see the whole report, which further raises suspicion on what’s in it. Apparently, no one supporting Trump wants this thing to see the light of day.
Again, all of this makes Trump look incredibly guilty of something, and if that’s the case, then maybe the media didn’t go all that nuts, the Democrats may have a damn good reason to hold this maniac accountable, and the FBI was and is doing its job quite nicely.
Refusing to release this report is again another asinine move by Trump and his zealots, pretty much presuming there is ugly stuff in there. Maybe there isn’t, like there wasn’t collusion. But then why were all those people around the president lying? And going to jail for it? And what’s with all the meetings with Russians? And what about these private “nobody-is-allowed-to-be-in-the-room-and there-are-no-transcripts” meetings Trump has with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin?
If I may offer my humble explanation: Beyond the president’s business dealings with Moscow, which hopefully will be revealed when we finally see his tax returns, Donald Trump’s insecurity and childish knee-jerk reaction about everything from Spike Lee to Saturday Night Live to a dead John McCain reared its ugly head once it became obvious that the Russians had aided and abetted his barely over the finish line election in 2016. He was pissed because Clinton won the popular vote and that his inauguration was far smaller than Barack Obama’s, and all the other facts that run counter to his delusions of grandeur. Therefore, Trump tried to squash it, never realizing it made him look like he was involved all the time. Then when it came down to actual accountability, he did what he has been doing since the nineteen-eighties: attack the messenger (the media) and the source of his headache (Robert Mueller), before finding an alternate culprit (Democrats).
The comedic tragedy of Trump/Mueller comes down to this; over 1,100 times (a count roughly put together this week by the New York Times) the President of the United States framed the special counsel’s attempt to get to the bottom of our nation being attacked by a foreign adversary as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” but now uses it as a questionable summary of his detailed report to defend his sad-sack actions that caused it all in the first place.
No more spot-on event could better describe the first two dismal years of this atrocity of a presidential administration.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of the Reality Check News & Information Desk, and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, Midnight for Cinderella, Y, Shout It Out Loud—The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon, and Accidently Like a Martyr—The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon.