Wednesday, 24 April 2019 08:25

Congress's turn since Russia interfered, Trump obstructed and Barr misled

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by Dr. Albert Samuels, Professor of Political Science, Southern University

I have read the Meuller Report. I wanted to refrain from opining until I read it for myself. I deliberately turned away from all media coverage because I didn't want my.views contaminated by the pinditocracy. Here are my takes:

 1. The Russians systematically interfered and undermined the 2016 elections. That fact cannot be reasonably denied - the Meuller Report documents that fact exhaustively. And while it is clear that the Russians had a clear preference for Donald Trump, it is important to note that they laid the foundation for their disinformation campaign in 2014, long before Donald Trump became a candidate. In other words, their actions were not just about helping Donald Trump; rather, this is what Russia does. And, given their successes in 2016, there is no reason to believe that they won't try again in 2020, or 2022, or 2024. That fact should concern every American.

2. It is an important finding that no Americans willingly conspired in Russia's hacking of the DNC, its social media offensive, or in the release of the stolen emails. It was worth it to the country to find that out.

3. However, it's a pretty low bar to discover that a presidential campaign did not technically violate the law. One would hope that we would have leaders who have some concern for the national interest. Yet, the campaign, by repeatedly showing its willingness to accept help from a foreign adversary, shows how willing they were to put their self interests over those of the nation.

4. The Meuller Report paints a damning portrait, not just of the Trump campaign and administration, but Donald Trump in particular. At no point in this entire saga is this president not obsessed with himself. Trump is incapable of putting any interest above his own - and this foundation is key to understanding everything he does. His willingness to subvert every convention, norm, or institution of our system makes him an existential threat to American democracy. The impeachment mechanism in the Constitution was designed specifically for an individual who threatens to undermine our constitutional order. Donald Trump is that sort of leader that the Framers feared.

5. Donald Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation at every turn. Volume II documents example after example of Trump's attempts to obstruct justice. AG Barr simply lied when he insinuated that Meuller did not have enough evidence to charge obstruction and that the Trump administration cooperated extensively with Meuller's investigation. Trump repeatedly tried to shut down the investigation; when that failed, he tried to narrow its scope; he encouraged his associates to lie to investigators and to the press and he attacked the probe relentlessly in public and in private. It is simply not true that the case for obstruction was not made.

6. Meuller does not indict the president, but it is not because there is not enough evidence. It is clear that he does not believe (or alternatively, does not believe it is a settled question) that a sitting president can be indicted. Thus, he devotes a large part of his report to arguing why the federal obstruction statutes SHOULD apply to the president. He also lays out a road map for Congress to hold the president accountable. This is another instance in which AG Barr lied about what.was actually in the report.

7. It is clear that AG Barr deliberately misled the country in an attempt to (a) softpedal the.report's conclusions (and assure Trump supporters that there's nothing to worry about here) and (b) to shape the narrative about the report in order to minimize its political damage to the president. We have an AG who acts like the President's personal attorney rather than the Attorney General of the United States.

8. If, after all this, we do nothing about this, it will be a sorry commentary on the politics of our times. History will not be kind to us. Nor should it.

I am sure many of my friends will disagree with my conclusions. That's OK. But I encourage you to at least read the Meuller Report. It is a worthy civic exercise.

Opinion first appeared on Albert Samuel's Facebook page; Published with permission

Read 781 times Last modified on Wednesday, 24 April 2019 19:34
Albert Samuels

Dr. Albert Samuels, Ph.D.m rofessor and Chair, Department of Political Science and Geography at Southern University

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