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Well, not quite.

We learn from the just-released, redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller that:

  • The Russian government really did intervene in multiple ways to impact the US election of 2016, and intended to hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton and help that of Donald Trump.
  • The Trump campaign, and Trump himself welcomed, indeed invited such intervention.
  • There were numerous contacts by the Trump family, and his campaign, with Russians closely linked to the Kremlin.
  • Just hours after Trump publicly asked the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails, they did just that.
  • The Russians collaborated with Wikileaks for dissemination of Clinton’s hacked emails.

Nonetheless, the report concludes that none of this provides a strong enough basis to charge anyone, including the president, with conspiracy. “Collusion,” it should be remembered, is not a legal concept.

We learn further:

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  • Trump did ask James Comey for his personal loyalty, and did ask him to go easy on his former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
  • When Comey refused these requests, Trump fired him, and later made clear that he intended by that action to end the investigation into Russian involvement in the election.
  • Trump repeatedly condemned Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, a step Sessions took because of his own contacts, during the campaign, with the Russian ambassador.
  • When, after the firing of Comey, the Special Counsel was appointed, Trump repeatedly condemned the investigation as a “witch hunt,” repeatedly threatened to fire Mueller, and successfully resisted testifying under oath.

Impeachment is only on the table should the House Democrats decide they want to make a symbolic statement. 

The report does not reach a conclusion about whether all this activity by Trump constitutes criminal obstruction of justice. It explicitly states that while the decision was made not to charge him with obstruction, he is not exonerated.

In short, this president could well channel Richard Nixon: “I am not a crook.”

Whether he is impeachable is another question. The Constitution simply gives “high crimes and misdemeanors” as the grounds for impeachment. It is in essence a political judgment by Congress as to whether an office-holder (including the president) is fit to hold their office. The House of Representatives must first, by majority vote, impeach the president, then the Senate must try the case and vote on whether to convict. Conviction requires a 2/3 majority of the Senate.

Given the solid Democratic majority in the House, it is conceivable that the House would vote to impeach. But with a Republican majority in the Senate, with Republicans notoriously unwilling to challenge Trump in any way, and without revelations from Mueller that would cause large numbers of Republicans to abandon Trump, the prospects of a conviction in the Senate are essentially zero.

So impeachment is only on the table should the House Democrats decide they want to make a symbolic statement. They would be better advised to work on holding or increasing their majority in the 2020 election. There is a very good chance that Democrats can win back the Senate in 2020, and a united party should beat Trump and elect a Democratic president.

So Trump is not a crook, in a narrowly legalistic sense. That he is a heedless, compulsive liar, that he is pathologically impulsive, that his policies, foreign and domestic, are fatally incoherent, that he is blatantly racist and sexist, that he only knows how to divide us, that he has no clue how to operate successfully in Washington, none of this makes him a criminal. But it makes him an unacceptable, a disgraceful president.

impeachment unavoidable

John Peeler