Special counsel Robert Mueller was hired to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
All of the U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Putin and his circle had tasked the Russian military to attack the U.S. and destabilize its political system. The FBI was investigating this when Trump fired its director.
By doing so, the president brought the suspicion that he was actively obstructing justice into clear focus. Mueller investigated allegations that the Trump campaign directly conspired with Russians agents and that Trump had engaged in behavior designed to obstruct this ongoing investigation with the intent of avoiding justice.
Volume I of his report deals with the possibility of conspiracy and Volume II with allegations of obstruction.
By Page 2 of the conspiracy volume, we know there were numerous links between the government and the Trump campaign designed to improve the outcome for Trump and to injure Democrat Hillary Clinton. While proof of legal conspiracy in court would be unlikely, there was no doubt that Putin’s Russia and Trump’s campaign shared the same goal.
There are scores of details left outstanding in the investigation of outright conspiracy that we would understand better if the White House had cooperated.
For example, George Nader, a Lebanese who has been an informal adviser to the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, helped arrange a secret meeting in the Seychelles on Jan. 11, 2017, between the crown prince, the head of Russia’s state-controlled wealth fund associated with Putin, and Erik Prince, the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Nader also met regularly with Steve Bannon, a senior adviser to the president at the time of this meeting, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. Via phone records, Mueller’s team found about 300 text messages exchanged between Bannon and Prince during the period of time surrounding this meeting. Neither man was able to retrieve any of these messages. Nader is now behind bars for transporting child pornography.
Volume II (obstruction) is a litany of inappropriate interventions by Trump demonstrating “corrupt intent.” Ten possible instances of obstruction of justice are detailed.
In the sections about Trump’s repeated efforts to remove Mueller and his extraordinary witness tampering involving Michael Cohen, there is really no room to doubt that this is impeachable behavior.
For example, Trump sought to have his White House counsel, Don McGhan, bring about Mueller’s firing. He has lied about having done so.
He tried to get McGhan to lie about doing so, and he has lied about that, too. McGhan said that he resign before doing so. On July 9, the White House forbade McGhan’s assistant, Amy Donaldson, from answering more than 200 questions about these events. The obstruction of justice continues.
Mueller has made it clear that a sitting president cannot, in his opinion, be indicted. Having said that, Mueller specifies in no uncertain terms and at great length, the precise laws that Trump has violated under our code of laws. He has given Congress a road map to impeaching Trump.
Impeachment will, of course, be incredibly divisive, and many people believe that pushing for it now will lead to failure. These concerns are more than fair.
Mr. Trump’s insatiable lust for power has reached deep into the American psyche. Many people want to be like him. They want him to be on their side. They want to be on his side. He justifies a lot of bad thought, speech and behavior.
He scares a lot of people. He’s lucky and usually comes out on top. I certainly do not know what demons would be released by trying to impeach Trump.
But I think that something deeper is at stake in the call to impeach that presents a sharp contrast to his bullying and fear: the soul of America. The Constitution established the American project and prospect, that we could have a “government of the People, by the People, and for the People.”
We have an opportunity to perpetuate the evolution in self-government that the signers embarked upon. Maybe, their spirit will help us.
The Rule of Law is at the core of what makes America great. If we know that a lawless person is committing self-interested crimes against our Constitution every day, how can we not act? This is even more the case knowing that he is the most powerful of all of our citizens.
Michael Sales lives in Newburyport.