By Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser
I don’t have much opportunity to read long books (other than math books) during the academic year; teaching, unfortunately, keeps me too busy. But I don’t teach over the summer, and I have time to catch up. These last two weeks I took on the task of reading The Mueller Reportto see what it really says, rather than what all the talking heads on TV say that it says. The report (well over 400 pages long) has two main parts.
The first part investigated whether and how Russia interfered in any substantial way in the 2016 Presidential election. The unequivocal conclusion: yes, it did. Not by causing false ballot counting that might affect election numbers, but rather by spreading disinformation, generally over social media while posing as Americans, and by providing stolen information (“opposition research”) to the Trump campaign. Did Russians violate U.S. law in doing so? Did any Americans? The answer to both, is yes. There have been several cases reported in the press on this score, including members of the Trump campaign. Did candidate Donald Trump himself or the Trump campaign as an organization violate the law, or “collude” with Russia? The answers are a bit muddy. “Collusion” is not a crime, but “conspiracy” is. That offense consists of an acknowledged agreement between the parties intentionally to break the law; the investigators stated they did not find sufficient evidence to prove such a case. They did not conclude there was no conspiracy, only that there was insufficient evidence to prove that there was and therefore to prefer charges. One does not have to “prove innocence” and the report did not do that; under our system, there is a presumption of innocence.
The second part investigated only President Trump himself, not on “collusion” but on “Obstruction of Justice.” The Justice Department’s rules state that a sitting president cannot be charged with such a crime even if the evidence is overwhelming against him. Criminal charges, the rules state, would interfere with any president’s carrying out his Constitutional duties while trying to defend himself in court. Instead, the report implies, the proper venue for preferring such a charge as Obstruction of Justice is the impeachment process laid out in the Constitution. The report then went on to provide very specific details of instance after instance after instance – I counted ten in all – in which there would have been sufficient evidence to charge President Trump with Obstruction of Justice in a court of law, were he not exempt from such charges. The report specifically states that impeachment is a political process and the investigators did not see making such a recommendation as within their purview, just as charging the criminal offense of Obstruction of Justice by a sitting president was not viewed as being within their purview. But the Mueller Report’s conclusion in this regard is striking: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment…. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
With a Republican Senate, whether the Democratic House decides to follow the evidence of Part II and pursue the political process of impeachment is very much up in the air. What do readers of The Edgefield Advertiserthink? Before you answer, I recommend you personally read The Mueller Report. Don’t rely on anybody else to tell you what they think the report says; read it and then you, will know for certain. And every voter should read The Mueller Reportbefore November 10, 2020.