The most sobering thing about reading special counsel Robert Mueller's report is how much of what is in it was known already. Anyone willing to see it could. Now there is proof.
The report "is not just another best-selling book based on anonymous sources; it is based on sworn testimony and on contemporaneous notes, e-mails, and phone records that only a prosecutor could have had access to," as Susan B. Glasser perceptively wrote for the New Yorker.
The president lied like a rug about seeking a deal for a hotel in Moscow while campaigning. He lied like a rug about there being no or little contact between members of his campaign and Russians. He lied like a rug about his attempts to shut the special counsel's investigation down and fire Mueller. As president, he ordered staff to do illegal things including lie to investigators. They refused in the worst cases.
The man who would "drain the swamp" was saved from himself by insider establishment types with no desire to go to federal prison.
The president did not provably coordinate with Russian President Vladimir Putin's operatives -- but knew what they were up to and was perfectly willing, even eager, to benefit from their Watergate-style dirty tricks and hacking. The special counsel notes key leaders of the president's campaign either destroyed records of communication or used encrypted devices that erased records automatically. The former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had the closest ties to Putin's government. He lied to investigators repeatedly and took the truth with him to federal prison.
There are redactions in the report, but they are not nearly so extensive and harmful as many Democrats -- including several candidates for president -- say they are. Most redactions from the report are identified as being on "ongoing matters" still under investigation. If that is true, Attorney General William Barr was right to redact those portions. The bulk of the report remains and is quite clear -- and does not square at all with Barr's initial accounts of it.
Barr gets a lot of grief for giving his interpretation, so to speak, before releasing the report. Much of that grief is deserved. Members of Congress -- particularly key committee chairmen -- have a legitimate complaint about getting the results after everyone else. But Barr finally did what he had to do whether he wanted to or not. He released the report, or at least the portion that can be released now.
Yes, Barr's statements before the release tried to spin things in the president's favor. They spun very hard, or tried to. This was a waste of time. Barr's efforts did the president and Barr more harm than good. Those efforts not only look dishonest. Now they look foolish.
Still, cries that the complete, unredacted report needs releasing outside of Congress right now go too far. Mueller's investigation may be over but continuing investigation into Putin's manipulations and hacking are ongoing. So are the manipulations and hacking. There are active investigations of a continuing threat. This continuing threat can only be encouraged by its success so far.
My biggest, constant frustration with discussion about this investigation is how everything seems to center around domestic political impact. We are being attacked. The fact a foreign country's leader is behind it should make no difference. Anyone -- foreign or domestic -- hacking a major party's campaign headquarters and the private email server of a former U.S. cabinet member should cause bipartisan outrage.
"The real target of special counsel Robert Mueller lives in the Kremlin, not the White House." I put that sentence in this newspaper on Nov. 4, 2017. That is as true now at it was then. Now we know what a hindrance this president and his most devoted defenders are.
Michael McFaul, a former U.S. Ambassador to Russian, asked a good question Thursday: "I've been distracted with my day job, so maybe I missed it, but has President Trump made a strong public statement today denouncing Russia's attack on the United States in 2016, as documented in the Mueller report, and vowed to never let it happen again?"
Of course not. This president is only loyal to himself.
Another thing about "ongoing matters." This report may finish Mueller's investigation, but there is undeniably much, much more going on elsewhere and not just about Putin. This report does not close the book. Anyone who says it does and that we should move on is being dishonest. That includes the president.
Commentary on 04/20/2019
Print Headline: A good look at a swamp