In Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s remarks yesterday, the facts could not have been presented more clearly. They were summarized in his carefully-crafted statement that affirmed, on the one hand, that the Russians had indeed interfered in a huge way in the 2016 election to encourage the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton, and, with respect to the matter of efforts by Trump to obstruct the investigation into those matters, “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not…”
Mueller’s bombshell destroyed the coordinated effort by the Trump administration, collaborating Republicans in Congress and Attorney General William Barr to cover up the crimes of the Russians, on the one hand, and their own culpability in glossing over those crimes, on the other.
This development puts pressure on all those Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Barr and many others to explain to the American people, and future generations, why they have gone so far to participate in criminal activity of the highest order, of engaging in no less than treason by supporting the scurrilous activity of a foreign adversary to disrupt the democratic process of free and fair elections in the U.S.
It is sad, indeed, that the reaction of the U.S. media has been to interpret Mueller’s remarks in terms of internal friction within the Democratic leadership in Congress about whether or not impeachment proceedings against the president should proceed.
This is not what this is about, dear reader. It is not about what the Democrats do or don’t do. It is about what the President, the Republicans and the Russians have done and continue to do.
It cannot be stressed too strongly that the matter of “obstruction of justice” is not something that stands alone. There is a immeasurable distinction concerning what any obstruction may be, or is, related to. Is it an obstruction to prevent law enforcement from finding out who robbed a cookie jar? Who lied about an office break-in? Who covered up a sexual encounter among consenting adults?
Or, if it is a matter of a hostile foreign power invading our country by an array of methods and means, including but not limited to seeking some level of cooperation with U.S. citizens, including those involved in a presidential election campaign, to meddle with a U.S. presidential election process? That it an entirely different matter.
This is what the real Mueller Report itself is about. It is composed of not one, but two parts. The first part, as Mueller stressed yesterday, is about the evidence of Russian interference, and of a willingness of certain U.S. citizens to be receptive to that interference. The second part is about evidence of the Trump administration to obstructing an investigation into that evidence.
In the 1990s, Republicans thought they could take the matter of a extra-marital but consensual sexual encounter in the White House all the way through an impeachment of President Clinton solely on grounds that he lied about the affair. They failed, but in hindsight, the crime they were accusing Clinton of covering up concerned a meaningless and harmless incident, except for the fact of the cover-up itself.
But come on people, can we make no distinction between a casual sexual encounter and a wholesale assault by a hostile foreign power on the very cornerstone institutions, the election process, of our democracy?
Democrats who took Clinton’s side against impeachment in the 1990s may be remembered for nothing more than a minor partisan play. But Republicans who are engaged in defending the cover-up of a “war by other means” assault on our nation from enemies abroad are guilty of something very serious.
We are talking about the textbook definition of treason. This case marks the most serious direct assault on our national sovereignty since the British invasion of the War of 1812. The British role instigating the insurrection that became known as the Civil War was done through “cut-outs.” But the 2016 Russian intervention was direct and aimed at core institutions of our national interest.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]