Journal of Trump Studies vol 1 #2.

            Before and after Donald Trump’s election as president, the Justice Department was investigating him over allegations that the campaign had links to the Russian government.[1]  Indeed, the FBI team conducting the investigation told judges that there was a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership.”  Trump fought back furiously against the allegations.  In May 2017, Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey backfired by leading to the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate the allegations. 

            In his first year of investigation, Mueller indicted the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) for having bought anti-Clinton ads on Facebook; indicted Russian military intelligence (GRU) for having hacked into Democratic Party internet servers and revealed the embarrassing secret text of Hilary Clinton’s well-paid speeches to industry groups; indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort for financial misconduct while working in Ukraine in the years before he joined the Trump campaign; and obtained a guilty plea from former campaign aid George Papadopoulos for having lied to investigators.  What they failed to do was to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Trump campaign [had] coordinated with Russia…” 

            Then, in November 2017, came a ray of hope.  White House Counsel Donald McGahn told investigators that Trump had ordered him to fire Mueller.  Although McGahn had refused and had talked down the president, perhaps this would serve to charge Trump with obstruction of justice?  Mueller persuaded Trump to be interviewed in January 2018, but Trump refused to follow through.  Mueller rejected the option of issuing a subpoena to compel his testimony. 

            Nor did Mueller try to run down Trump’s alleged financial ties to Russia, or try to get his tax returns, or investigate his personal finances.  In May 2018, his people told the White House that Trump would not be indicted.  “Mueller’s caution and restraint remain an enigma.” 

            Actually, they don’t.  Robert Mueller was a highly experienced prosecutor and former Director of the FBI.  Across a lifetime of distinguished public service, the law has been his guide.            “[W]hat do you do when you uncover acts that don’t explicitly violate the law but that clearly seem wrong?”  Katie Benner identifies this as the recurring stumbling-block of the Mueller investigation.  In her view, Jeffrey Toobin “rightly argues that the investigation was an utter political failure.” 

For Mueller apparently, if not for Trump’s opponents, the investigation was a judicial inquiry, not a political act.  For Mueller apparently, if not for Trump’s opponents, you can’t charge people with crimes or go on fishing expeditions in hopes of finding crimes just because you think someone is a “narcissistic scoundrel.” 

            Benner makes no mention of the Department of Justice Inspector General’s Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation that was released in December 2019.  That report began the official discrediting of the “Steele Dossier” which had under-pinned the conspiracy belief of the Democrats. 

            Investigations continue and may turn up some crime that can be proved.  Until then, while all right-thinking people despise Donald Trump, just being Donald Trump isn’t a crime. 


[1] Katie Benner, “How Mueller Failed,” (review of Jeffrey Toobin, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump (2020)), NYTBR, 23 August 2020. 

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