Reading the Mueller Report

This week I've been reading the actual Mueller Report. It's been well worth it. The takeaways so far: the United States was the victim of "information warfare" conducted by "Russian military units" in the 2016 election (and continues to be). The President benefited from this attack (the Report notes that the Trump campaign shared detailed internal polling data with Russian intelligence about the same Midwestern states that gave Trump his Electoral College margin), knew about it before the public did, used it to help his campaign, lied about it, and has abused the powers of his office to try and stop it from being investigated since.

Mueller: "the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign," and those individuals "lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russia-affiliated individuals" and "those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian interference." As a result, Mueller says, we still don't know the full nature of what went on.

The Report paints a narrative of two teams working in parallel: Trump working to get elected, and Russia working to help him. Whatever Russia could do to help Trump, they wanted to. They saw him as a friend of Russia and saw Hillary Clinton as its enemy. Trump welcomed their support, but isn't recorded as offering anything explicit in return. Russia and Putin come across almost like godparents to Trump. Mother Russia cares about you, Donald.

While Russia's intentions were warm towards Trump, they were acts of war against the United States. The Report notes that while they were helping Trump, Russia was systematically hacking election machine manufacturers, state and local election board offices, and their employees. Presumably many of those machines and offices are still compromised. And potentially the Presidency itself. To what ends we still don't know. But they are acts of war.

The Russian social media campaign — which involved Russian agents creating fictional Americans and posting on various platforms (including Tumblr — go Tumblr!) as them — reached an audience of more than 120 million people. Almost a third of the population. Russian agents pretended to be militant activists and everyday Americans. They helped shape opinions. They Googled words like "Illuminati" before using them in posts. If we one day learn that QAnon is a Russian troll conspiracy I will be not at all surprised.

Whatever Trump's dirt was and is, he appears to be getting away with it. By stonewalling the Mueller investigation (Trump never consented to an interview, and even in his written answers he refused to respond to many Russia questions), convincing those around him to lie on his behalf (many close advisors have been charged with lying in one form or another), and keeping anyone from squealing (offering pardons if people keep quiet), the Teflon Don appears to have dodged the rap.

That is unless Democrats, who are suddenly holding a very hot potato of The Last Hope for Responsible Governance, take charge and act on Mueller's findings, as the report clearly suggests they should. It lays out a string of potential obstruction of justice charges, all clearly impeachable in a normal universe. In this uniquely corrupt moment, however, it's harder to tell.

So far, the Mueller Report hasn't seemed to change many people's minds. Mitt Romney is possibly running for President again and a few Republicans have gone on the record saying that investigations and/or impeachment are warranted. Beyond these voices though, the battle lines remain the same. Despite their professed patriotism, few Republicans are stepping up to defend their country. It's too politically inconvenient to do so.

Whatever happens next comes down to the Democrats in the House of Representatives, who have the Constitutional authority and duty to launch an impeachment investigation if warranted. Elizabeth Warren was the first Presidential contender to call for impeachment proceedings. I agree with her. This isn't going to just end on its own. And even if Trump gets the full eight years, his name needs an asterisk in the history books so that no one can ever mistake this for an acceptable form of governance.

But note that the Trump* administration has yet to provide a single piece of paper that Democrats have lawfully subpoenaed, despite the Constitution requiring they do so. He is defying the law and daring someone to stop him.

We're three years in, and no one has yet.