Conservative Washington Post columnist explains why Trump’s legal woes are far from over
After the long-awaited arrival of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report for the Russia investigation and a letter from Attorney General William Barr summarizing some of its key findings, President Donald Trump responded with a celebratory March 24 tweet saying, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.” And that assertion has been echoed countless times by Trump’s ardent supporters in the right-wing media. But Washington Post columnist Max Boot is one person on the right who vehemently disagrees with Trump’s assessment of Mueller’s findings, and his April 4 column offers a long list of reasons why the president’s legal woes and scandals are far from over.
“The way that the Trump Administration tried to spin the end of the Mueller investigation was a sign of its unscrupulousness and ineptitude,” Boot declares. “Having Attorney General William P. Barr issue a four-page summary of Mueller’s nearly 400-page report, purporting to clear Trump, must have seemed like a good idea at the time. But it now looks like a clumsy cover-up that is blowing up in Barr’s face, doing serious damage to the reputation for integrity that he has spent a lifetime cultivating.”
Boot cites an April 3 New York Times report in which members of Mueller’s U.S. Justice Department team take issue with Barr’s summation of the report. According to Times reporters Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti, those Mueller investigators believe that Barr has “failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry” and that their findings on obstruction of justice are “more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated.”
Boot emphasizes that considering how close-lipped Mueller’s team was during the Russia investigation, the fact that they are “now leaking for the first time in 22 months is an indication of how upset they are” and “how seriously” Barr has “blundered.”
That New York Times report, Boot adds, hasn’t been the only bad news for Trump this week. “The normal witches’ brew of administration scandals continues to simmer along,” Boot writes, pointing to everything from the ongoing controversy over White House security clearances (whistleblower Tricia Newbold alleged that 25 people were given clearances despite “disqualifying issues”) to Trump “tolerating serious security lapses in his eagerness to profit from his Mar-a-Lago resort” in Florida (a Chinese national, suspected of spying and identified as Yujing Zhang, was arrested after entering Mar-a-Lago carrying, among other things, a thumb drive with malware).
On top of all that, Boot notes, are concerns over Trump’s tax returns, which the president has not made public—and which Democrat Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has requested from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“We have yet to learn what is in Trump’s tax returns or even whether he is genuinely under audit,” Boot observes. “But we took one giant step closer to unraveling that mystery when the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wrote to the IRS on Wednesday to demand, as his right under a 1924 law, access to the last six years of the president’s tax returns. Clearly, Trump has something to hide; otherwise, he would not have refused to release his returns.”
Boot concludes his column by asserting that there is not a single “hoax” to be found among all the negative headlines Trump has been bombarded with this week.
“Whether the president broke the law—or, more accurately, whether investigators can find evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that he broke the law—remains to be determined,” Boot stresses. “But by now, there can be no serious doubt that Trump has violated ethical norms, sullied his office and betrayed the trust of the American people.”