Legal expert stresses that Mueller’s final report doesn’t make Trump's behavior during Russia probe any less appalling
After 22 months, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has delivered the final report for his Russia investigation. The report, according to Attorney General William Barr, showed insufficient evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government—and the president has been touting the report as “total exoneration.” But in a new op-ed for the New York Times, legal expert Bob Bauer (a White House counsel under President Barack Obama) stresses that the report doesn’t give Trump the moral high ground and that he behaved shamelessly throughout Mueller’s probe.
Trump's actions during the investigation, according to Bauer, “marked a low point for more substantive norms of presidential conduct.” Trump, Bauer asserts, launched an “all-out assault on” the U.S. Justice Department as well as “the special counsel and the Federal Bureau of Investigation”—although Trump “did not prevent Mr. Mueller from completing his investigation and reporting his conclusions.”
Attorney General William Barr, as of Monday morning, March 25, has yet to make Mueller’s report public, but he has written a letter summarizing its key points. Analyzing the letter, Bauer writes, “the Barr summary reveals that the special counsel uncovered not just a couple but ‘multiple offers’ of support from the Russians, and yet, neither Mr. Trump nor his campaign reported them to counterintelligence or law enforcement authorities. Mr. Trump went further still: while in office, he dictated a statement for his son and campaign aide, Donald Trump Jr., that falsely represented the purposes of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior campaign representatives and a Kremlin-connected representative —and others—offering assistance in the 2016 election.”
Bauer writes that Mueller’s investigation showed “that a demagogic president like Donald Trump can devalue or even depart radically from key norms, just short of committing chargeable crimes, so long as he operates mostly and brazenly in full public view. For a demagogue, shamelessness is its own reward.”
During Mueller’s probe, Bauer asserts, Trump’s “obstructive behavior” was in “public view”—and this “was apparently a significant consideration in the decision” by Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “not to prosecute.”
Bauer concludes his op-ed by praising Mueller and emphasizing that the contempt Trump showed for his investigation should not be forgotten.
“We have reason to salute Mr. Mueller,” Bauer writes. “As a prosecutor, he did his job conscientiously, and the process generally worked as designed. But we now have cause to worry about the future of the norms that Mr. Trump could trash on a calculation that he could get away with it. It was a good moment for the demagogue.”