Now that the “suitable for the public’ version of the Mueller Report has been released, and we’ve had time to read it and mull over the contents, what have we learned?
First, it seems that we were overreacting about the possibility of Attorney General William Barr going overboard with his redactions. The amount, where they came in the report, and the general reasons for them, seem to actually be reasonable. Most of them were in the section about Russia’s cyberattacks and interference in the 2016 election campaign. And given that those threats are still active and being fought by the relevant intelligence agencies, it’s reasonable that one would not want to let any of the details be made public. Making them available to important members of Congress is entirely justified, though.
Second, aside from some salacious details, we really didn’t learn much that the press hadn’t already made known, or that we had good reason to suspect. It’s good to have a formal confirmation of what we already knew.
Third, the whole thing is Very Much Not Good for the president. If Congress wishes to take action, from fixing legal or procedural loopholes in presidential campaigns and security to impeachment, there’s plenty of information to start the ball rolling.
It should be noted that the disappointment felt in some quarters over the lack of any indictments or other such recommendations against the president is overblown. Robert Mueller is an investigator, not a prosecutor. His task was to collect information, and make suggestions for further action where warranted. And indeed, we have seen several indictments and guilty pleas and prison terms arise from the investigation. It has not been a waste of time or money. And given the assets that have been forfeited in the sentences, it may have even paid for itself. About a dozen matters that were discovered during the course of the investigation have already been referred to various lower court districts for further work – and there’s no telling what prosecutions may arise from them – and they are completely out of the reach of the president.
We’re already hearing more and louder calls for impeachment.
I’m ambivalent about it at the moment. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to start the process. And there are also plenty of reasons to hold off on it, or at least take things slowly.
Everyone should know that impeachment is a political process, not a criminal one. So one has to consider politics when calling for it.
Right now, there’s not a chance in heck that the Senate, controlled as it is by Majority Leader McConnell and the GOP, is ever going to vote to convict. Every single Democratic senator could vote in favor, but there’s no way enough Republican senators will ‘cross the aisle’ to bring the total ‘Yes’ votes up to the required sixty. It might happen in the future, but not today.
There’s also the matter of the 2020 election to consider. The ultimate goal for the left is to win not just the White House, but the Senate, the House, and as many governorships and state legislatures as possible. It’s not just the matter of the president’s cult going out for revenge. If the president is booted out too soon, the GOP will have enough time to recover, regroup, and nominate candidates who are apparently reasonable and will be difficult for the Democrats to defeat. The president and his enablers must be so soundly defeated next November that even his most slavish followers will have to concede.
In the meantime, is there anything that can be done?
Of course. There are still plenty of ongoing investigations into the president’s regime. There’s no telling what they may find. The House of Representatives can still conduct their inquiries with patience and diligence, never giving the president a break for even a weekend of golf. Keep him on edge, while uncovering and collecting all the evidence they can. And when enough Republicans in Congress decide it’s better to cut loose than to go down with the ship….
There’s also an intermediate step that the House can do: censure.
Censure is a formal condemnation of an individual’s actions by a group with some oversight of that member. It’s more than a slap on the wrist, but less than an impeachment (the censured party gets to stay in office). It’s done in public, with a full publication of the reasons for the censure.
And it only takes a simple majority to pass a resolution of censure.
There have already been two resolutions of censure against the president introduced in the House (one for his “both sides” comment after the Charlottesville riot, and one for his “shithole countries” comment during a White House meeting on immigration policy). Neither went anywhere. This time, though, there’s a lot more real evidence of unpresidential conduct. I think a censure resolution, if properly worded, would gain a lot more traction – as well as state the case for beginning the hearings on impeachment.