He col­lab­o­rated, he ob­structed, he’s im­peach­able

The News-Times - - OPINION - By Stephan Lesher Stephan Lesher is a re­tired jour­nal­ist and a res­i­dent of South­bury.

We may never know what mo­ti­vated Wil­liam Barr to sac­ri­fice a pos­i­tive rep­u­ta­tion as an at­tor­ney and a devo­tee of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and in­stead be­come Don­ald Trump’s Roy Cohn, the one-time Trump men­tor, mob at­tor­ney, and right-hand man to Sen­a­tor Joe Mc­Carthy.

What­ever the rea­son, Barr has clearly signed on to the ap­proach that Trump so loves — treat­ing any­thing, in­clud­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, that does not serve Trump’s per­sonal in­ter­ests as an ur­gent threat; pro­ject­ing Trump’s own ve­nal mo­tives onto his crit­ics and op­po­nents; deny­ing and stonewalli­ng. In any event, Barr made his bones with Trump by do­ing his best to white­wash the Mueller Re­port, start­ing with a four-page let­ter to Con­gress pur­port­ing to sum­ma­rize its find­ings but Barr took Mueller’s words out of con­text and omit­ted all men­tion of the damn­ing ev­i­dence that cour­ses through the re­port. He sub­se­quently held a press con­fer­ence in which he again dis­torted its con­clu­sions, stat­ing that it found no col­lu­sion with the Rus­sians and no ob­struc­tion of jus­tice by the pres­i­dent — both as­ser­tions pro­foundly mis­lead­ing.

I pur­chased a copy of the re­port for my Kin­dle and it is dense read­ing. It is nonethe­less avail­able for free at www.jus­tice.gov/stor­agere­port.pdf. A num­ber of lead­ing pub­li­ca­tions have printed high­lights of the re­port — but my rec­om­men­da­tion would be the blog, Law­fare, edited and writ­ten by the writer and le­gal ex­pert Ben­jamin Wittes along with a stel­lar staff. The May 10 blog of this year pro­vides what the team calls its first im­pres­sions of the Mueller re­port. It is thor­ough and easy-to-read.

Be­cause of Barr’s de­lib­er­ate ef­forts to mis­rep­re­sent the re­port, some read­ers may have bought into the fic­tion that the re­port some­how ex­on­er­ates Trump. It does noth­ing of the kind.

First, the re­port did not ad­dress “col­lu­sion,” a term with­out le­gal def­i­ni­tion, but the nar­row ques­tion of crim­i­nal con­spir­acy. It found no ev­i­dence the Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials con­spired with the Rus­sians’ dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns or hack­ing of computers be­long­ing to the Demo­cratic com­mit­tee and the Clin­ton cam­paign, but it de­scribes ex­ten­sive con­tacts — 140 by one count — be­tween the Trump cam­paign and the Rus­sians, many of which Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials lied about. And it found sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence both “that the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment perceived it would ben­e­fit from a Trump pres­i­dency and worked to se­cure that out­come, that the cam­paign ex­pected it would ben­e­fit elec­torally from in­for­ma­tion stolen and re­leased through Rus­sian ef­forts.”

In some of these cases, the re­port says there was a clear “meet­ing of the minds” — or an ef­fort to es­tab­lish one — be­tween mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign and agents of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, but the ob­ject of that agree­ment was not a fed­eral crime. If these episodes fall short of crim­i­nal con­spir­acy, they nonethe­less re­veal an ob­vi­ous ef­fort to work with a hos­tile for­eign power in or­der to achieve the White House.

If Trump weren’t Pres­i­dent, he’d be in jail. That’s the view of a bi­par­ti­san group of some thou­sand for­mer fed­eral prose­cu­tors who signed an open let­ter stat­ing that Trump’s con­duct would war­rant crim­i­nal ob­struc­tion of jus­tice charges if he lived any­where ex­cept in the White House. Nonethe­less, it ap­pears to be the cur­rent ac­cepted wis­dom of House Demo­cratic lead­er­ship is that start­ing im­peach­ment hear­ings may not be worth the risk.

That seems to be based on three as­sump­tions: First, im­peach­ment would make Trump more pop­u­lar, sec­ond, that im­peach­ment is worth­while only if it ac­tu­ally ends with re­mov­ing a pres­i­dent from of­fice — and with a Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated Se­nate, con­vic­tion of im­peach­ment is es­sen­tially im­pos­si­ble. The third as­sump­tion is that the vot­ers in 2020, rather than Con­gress, will re­move Trump from of­fice.

But im­peach­ment is just not a tool to re­move the pres­i­dent — it’s also a way to stamp this Pres­i­dent with his­toric dis­ap­proval and de­ter sim­i­lar con­duct by fu­ture pres­i­dents.

The re­port es­tab­lishes be­yond doubt that a for­eign ri­val en­gaged in a sys­tem­atic ef­fort to sub­vert our democ­racy, an ef­fort the Rus­sians them­selves re­ferred to as “in­for­ma­tion war­fare.” One would think that any Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, re­gard­less of party or ide­ol­ogy would sup­port a fullscale in­ves­ti­ga­tion to un­der­stand the ex­tent of such in­ter­fer­ence and try to pre­vent fu­ture threats to our na­tional sovereignt­y and se­cu­rity.

In­stead, Mueller’s re­port shows that Trump’s con­cern was not for Amer­i­can democ­racy, but for sav­ing his own skin.

Don­ald Trump is a crim­i­nal and de­serves im­peach­ment as soon as pos­si­ble.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.