AP NEWS

No Mystery In Mueller Report; Protect Vote

May 3, 2019

When the attorney general twice attempted to summarize the content and conclusions of the so-called Mueller report before its release it struck me that something nefarious was afoot. Given William Barr’s efforts to whitewash the legal fallout from the Iran-Contra scandal in his previous term as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, I was not surprised. It also struck me that I would have to slog through the 440-page report for myself. Within a day or so of the release of the redacted report it was available on-line for $8 or less. While the going is tedious it is nevertheless an effort entirely worthwhile. Every American interested in our democratic system of government should undertake to read it and to consider its implications. After all, we paid for it. Special counsel Robert Mueller established beyond question that Russian entities, the Internet Research Agency and the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, undertook a massive, sophisticated and expensive campaign, beginning as early as 2014, to interfere with and to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. The means by which this attack on our democracy was carried out included the use of fake accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and by direct hacking into private computer networks to steal files from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. He further established that, once the major party nominations were made, the Russian efforts were intended to promote the candidacy of Donald Trump and to thwart Hillary Clinton. Prior to the Trump nomination Russian operatives approached Trump’s son offering “dirt on Clinton.” This overture resulted in the now-famous Trump Tower meeting. The Trump campaign did not alert the FBI or any other investigative agency that this overture had occurred. (In 2017, upon published reporting of the meeting, Trump dictated a statement for release by his son claiming that the subject of the meeting was adoption policy. Trump’s involvement in the drafting of the statement was at first denied.) Mueller concluded that, not only was the Trump campaign aware of the Russian activity to help its efforts, it “expected” it. Trump was elected although he lost the popular vote by about 3 million votes. He carried three crucial “swing states” (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) by about 100,000 votes, resulting in victory in the Electoral College. (Interestingly, third party candidates received more than 500,000 votes in those three swing states, or more than five times Trump’s margin.) The Justice Department began an investigation into the Russian election meddling prior to the 2016 election. Upon taking office Trump took several actions to hinder the ongoing investigation, including firing the director of the FBI. These actions are discussed in great detail in Volume II of the Mueller report. Whether those actions are grounds for impeachment is now under consideration in the House, which was returned to Democratic control in 2018. Russian actions resulted in the criminal indictment of nearly 30 Russian entities and individuals. Mueller obtained indictments against Trump campaign officials, the administration’s first national security adviser and Trump’s personal attorney. While the report does not address the issue of whether the Russian attack had any influence in the election results, to suggest that it did not, particularly in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, is absurd. The absurdity of such a conclusion explains Trump’s paranoid obsession with the Mueller investigation. To acknowledge even the possibility that the Russian effort was successful undermines the legitimacy of his presidency, which is, of course, Trump’s worst nightmare. One can assess for one’s self the weird relationship between Trump and Putin and the absolute secrecy surrounding their personal interactions. In one instance Trump obtained, and evidently destroyed, the notes of his own translator after meeting with Putin. Trump is behaving like a grateful child on Christmas morning obviously unwilling to offend Santa Claus, especially when there remains plenty Moscow real estate to develop in the future. But what of the future of American democracy and the next presidential election? Americans should be highly concerned by the evident fact that no plan to protect our election system has been announced, let alone implemented. If recent reporting is accurate, the DHS secretary was discouraged from raising the subject in the presence of Trump, truly an “emperor has no clothes” scenario. Trump’s approach to election meddling is the same as his approach to climate change: if you deny the existence of the problem you have a perfect excuse to do nothing about it. Please contact your elected representatives to urge them to insist that the responsible federal agencies take immediate action to safeguard the integrity of our election systems. This is an issue of national security.