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2019-08-01 12:17:30 -
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Charles Laffiteau’s Bigger Picture

Now that Robert Mueller has finally testified before Congress on live TV about his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, as well as President Trump’s obstruction of his investigation, has anything changed? Well, hopefully most of the Democrats who were agitating for impeachment will finally realise that instead of wasting time and resources impeaching a president that the Republican-controlled Senate will never convict, they should develop a new strategy to thwart Trump’s re-election and win control of the Senate.

Having said that, I actually believe Robert Mueller’s Congressional testimony did serve several other useful purposes. For one thing, Mueller made it very clear that an abundance of incontrovertible evidence proved the Russian government had expended a lot of money and cyber resources on a systematic and widespread campaign to interfere in the 2016 election, for the purpose of electing Trump. While a number a Republicans attacked Mueller and the reasons for his investigation, none of them disputed his evidence of Russian interference.

Furthermore, Mueller reiterated that the Russian campaign of interference in America’s elections was still actively being waged and remained an ongoing threat to the security of the 2020 elections. He pointedly told Congress that “they’re doing it as we sit here”. Unfortunately, just two hours after Mueller testified, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde Smith blocked the Senate from considering three election security bills the House had recently passed. 

Mueller also stated that his investigation did not address “collusion”, which isn’t a legal term, but instead did not find enough evidence to charge any member of the Trump Presidential campaign with criminal conspiracy. In other words, Trump’s claim that Mueller found “NO COLLUSION” is another falsehood. However, Mueller’s responses to Representative Adam Schiff firmly established that the Russians made many contacts with Trump campaign officials who welcomed their help, never reported these contacts to the FBI and later lied about them to cover them up.

Rep Peter Welch followed up Schiff’s questioning by getting Mueller to clarify that just because there wasn’t enough evidence to charge anyone on Trump’s campaign with conspiracy, it did not mean his investigation failed to uncover evidence of such conspiracy, only that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge anyone. He also replied “problematic is an understatement” when asked about Trump’s praise for Wikileaks’ release of Democratic emails stolen by Russia.
After refuting President Trump’s “fake news” that Mueller’s investigation had found “NO COLLUSION”, lawmakers turned their attention to rebutting Trump’s other piece of “fake news” — that the Mueller investigation had also found “NO OBSTRUCTION”. With respect to the charge of “obstruction of justice”, several Republican lawmakers tried to take Mueller to task for a lengthy and expensive investigation that neither charged nor exonerated the president of attempting to obstruct Mueller’s investigation.

But those Republican lawmakers were consciously trying to deceive voters into believing the Mueller inquiry should have come to the same ‘prosecute or don’t prosecute’ conclusion that an investigation of any other citizen or lawmaker would lead to. They purposely chose to ignore the clearly stated reason Mueller gave for not charging Trump with obstruction of justice. As Mueller noted from the outset of his investigation, the Justice Department had taken a position that neither he nor any other justice official could file criminal charges against a sitting president.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with it, the Justice Department’s reasoning is that a sitting president would be unable to devote his full attention to national security issues and other affairs of state if he were forced to defend himself against criminal charges. In other words, no matter what crime he may have committed before or during his time in office, he cannot be prosecuted for it while he is president. While there are legal scholars who disagree with this line of reasoning, it has never been tested in Federal Court or ruled on by the US Supreme Court.

So even if Mueller had enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice, the Justice Department guidelines he must adhere to prevented him from charging Trump with this or any other crime. From Mueller’s perspective, the only recourse America has to prosecute a sitting president for any crime, including murder or rape, is to be tried and impeached by the US Congress. Since the Republican-controlled Senate will never vote to convict Trump (unless, perhaps, Trump is discovered in bed with a dead body) there is no point in Democrats impeaching him.

Since Congressional lawmakers knew this, Democrats focused on the ample evidence of Trump trying to obstruct and undermine Mueller’s investigation on multiple occasions, including ordering his firing. Mueller also refuted Trump’s “fake news” of “complete and total exoneration” by forcefully stating his report didn’t exonerate Trump, and Trump could still be charged after he leaves office. So even though Trump and the Russians won the White House in 2016, I believe the American people and our democratic values will prevail over Trump and Russia in 2020. 

Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.
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