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24 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Mueller report: When did the bar on presidential conduct sink so low?

AHussein Ibish
Mueller report: When did the bar on 
presidential conduct sink so low?
US President Donald Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin

The redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 US election has resolved nothing. Both sides in a deeply divided country have found vindication in its pages. And neither will budge an inch. US President Donald Trump hotly denies "collusion" with Russia but that is not a legal term, and therefore was not a subject of  Mueller's investigations. Instead,  Mueller investigated whether the Trump campaign illegally conspired with Russians, or the president subsequently obstructed justice, or both.
He documented an extraordinary pattern of interactions between Trump campaign operatives and a dizzying array of Russians, while Moscow meddled and Wikileaks published Hillary Clinton campaign emails, apparently illegally hacked by Russia, all to help elect  Trump.
 Trump publicly urged both Russia and WikiLeaks to hack and publicise such documents, going so far as to say during a press conference in July 2016: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Within five hours, Russian intelligence launched their first attack on s Clinton’s accounts.
Although Wikileaks dealt directly with both the Trump campaign and the Kremlin,  Mueller could not complete the triangle by substantiating an illegal Trump-Russia conspiracy.
The president and his supporters claim this adds up to "no collusion" and “total exoneration", although they seem more enraged, and concerned, than ever. Nonetheless, the report lays bare how  Trump repeatedly lied, and ordered officials to lie, to mislead investigators and tried to derail probes with other actions, such as firing FBI director James Comey.
The White House narrative has become bewilderingly self-contradictory.
 Trump continues to denounce the investigation as a "witch hunt", fuming that the “crazy Mueller report” was “written by 18 angry Democrat Trump-haters” while simultaneously citing it as a vindication.
That makes no sense but his supporters won’t notice or care.
If there was no unlawful collaboration, it wasn’t for lack of trying by campaign officials such as Donald Trump Junior. He welcomed an apparent offer of dirt on s Clinton from Russian operatives by gushing: "I love it" and arranging a meeting.
The Mueller report doesn’t explain why there were so many Trump-Russian contacts, why the president and his associates persistently lied about them, or why he takes a strangely deferential attitude towards Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Those perturbing questions remain unanswered. Attorney general William Barr exonerated  Trump in part because of his controversial belief that US presidents cannot commit obstruction while exercising their constitutionally mandated functions, such as firing officials or directing investigations. He thinks only extra-constitutional malfeasance such as suborning perjury or ordering destruction of evidence could amount to obstruction.
In a four-page summary released on March 24,  Barr misrepresented the report as exculpatory. He distorted its findings and quoted passages out of context, sometimes even inverting their original meanings.
That created a widespread false perception of exonerating the president, especially among Trump supporters, in spite of the actual findings of the report, which did no such thing.
Because the justice department holds that a sitting president cannot be criminally indicted but only impeached by Congress, the Mueller probe deliberately avoided “an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the president committed crimes”.

The writer is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute
in Washington

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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