For the last two years the Democratic Party has been engulfed in hysteria over charges that Trump’s shambolic campaign “colluded” with the Russian government to tilt the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor. Add to this some breathless reporting (by the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN among others), that implied a “bombshell” was just around the corner that would establish once and for all that Trump, either wittingly or unwittingly, was a Russian “asset”. And if that were not enough, John Brennan, former CIA Chief under President Obama point blank accused Trump of treason. At the same time House Intelligence Committee Chair (then ranking member) Adam Schiff (D, CA) insisted that there was plenty of evidence of collusion, not available to the public, that he had seen in his role as a committee member.
All that came crashing down this past Sunday when Attorney General William Barr summarized the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the charges. AG Barr reported that Mueller’s investigation did not find sufficient evidence to support the charge that either Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russians. Quoting the Mueller report, Barr’s summary said “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
In addition, AG Barr together with Assistant AG Rosenstein determined that there was insufficient evidence to charge the President or anyone in his orbit with obstruction of justice. This determination, which was made by Barr and not Mueller, is correct on the face of it. (It was altogether appropriate for Barr to make the decision because political accountability demanded it. In this case he showed courage, unlike Loretta Lynch in her handling of the Clinton e-mail affair).
In the event it is instructive to look at the legal definition of obstruction to put all this in context. 18 U.S.C. § 1503 defines “obstruction of justice” as an act that “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.”
In point of fact, the Mueller report makes clear that the Trump administration never interfered with the investigation. Rod Rosenstein, who supervised the investigation, never refused a single request that Mueller made. Moreover, the White House turned over 20,000 pages of documents to Mueller; the Trump campaign turned in over 1.4 million pages; 20 people from the White House including 8 from the White House counsel’s office, and 11 other individuals were interviewed by Mueller’s team. So how, exactly, was the administration of justice impeded?
Partisans will be quick to note, correctly, that Trump fired James B. Comey, director of the FBI. But that action was fully within the scope of Trump’s constitutional powers acting as President. A charge of obstruction would have required the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intent behind the firing was (1) corrupt and (2) designed to impede the administration of justice. That would be virtually impossible since (1) there was no underlying crime (2) predictably enough, firing of the FBI director accelerated the appointment of a special counsel, and (3) the Trump administration provided all the evidence that the Mueller investigation demanded. That’s a pretty strange way to impede the administration of justice.
Not that any of this will dissuade Democrats from their quest to delegitimize the Trump presidency, which is what all this has been about from the very beginning. For better or worse, Trump won the 2016 election, and the Democrats still refuse to acknowledge it.