Imagining Mueller's secret thoughts on Trump, Russia, Democrats & GOP | News Coverage from USA

Imagining Mueller’s secret thoughts on Trump, Russia, Democrats & GOP

opinion

Former special counsel Robert Mueller has said that he won’t go beyond his 448-page report in testimony scheduled Wednesday before two House committees. But imagine the drama if he were to let loose and say whatever he wants: 

Think of me as a hostage, tied to this chair, my wrists in handcuffs, a gag stuffed in my mouth.

I can’t help you. Do you understand? You will have to help yourselves.

If I could stand up to raise my right hand, I’d swear to tell the truth. And it would be this: Of course I would have indicted Donald Trump if I could have. What don’t you get about “if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that”? Or 10 textbook cases of obstruction of justice? Or the difference between “no collusion” and insufficient evidence to nail down a criminal conspiracy with the Russians? 

We are in a crisis that demands clarity

Regrets, I have a few, starting with letting Attorney General William Barr take over public relations for my painstaking report. He called me “snitty” — Me! Snitty! — for objecting to the way he tried to clear this president of wrongdoing and mislead the public about why we didn’t indict him. We couldn’t! Our hands were cuffed! I mean, tied! I could go on. But I want to avoid a heart attack and enjoy my retirement. So let’s move on. 

I regret being overly considerate of the president and his right to a “speedy and public trial.” We faced so many limits on our investigation and obstacles in our path, I should not have added more restrictions of my own free will and out of a sense of good sportsmanship. We are in a crisis that demands clarity and, alas, I did not recognize just how dire our circumstances — Barr’s perfidious misrepresentations, maddening Democratic caution, scandalous Republican indifference — until too late.

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As for Russia, I thought I spelled it out (“The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation”). Let me be even more clear: We might have been able to pin down a conspiracy if we had been able to get testimony from people who refused to talk to us, or invoked their right to remain silent, or were unavailable to us due to Justice Department guidelines or attorney-client privilege or news media source protection, or who had deleted relevant communications before we got to them.

What did we miss? Vast troves of evidence and facts, no doubt. For instance, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen testified this year that in early June 2016, the same month as the Trump Tower meeting with Russians about “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, he heard Donald Trump Jr. tell his father that “the meeting is all set” and concluded later that Trump Sr. knew all about it. But both men declined to be interviewed. The president responded to written questions — and said more than 30 times that he did not recall or remember or have an independent recollection. More than 30! 

Why aren’t you listening to me?

If I were an ex-president, like Jimmy Carter, I could tell you exactly what was on my mind. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Russia elected Trump and that he is an illegitimate president, which is what Carter said. And yet it’s a definite possibility that should be explored. 

After all, on top of all the hacking of computers associated with the Clinton campaign and various Democratic Party entities, we found evidence that Russians hacked into computers belonging to state election boards, secretaries of state and voting technology manufacturers. We said this in our report. We also said, in an indictment we flagged in the report, that their goal was to “steal voter data and other information.” And we said they were successful.

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Why isn’t attention being paid? Where are these investigations? And why do some conservatives deny this happened? What is more important, appeasing Trump’s ego and party and base, or protecting the integrity of our elections?

Frankly, as a Marine veteran and a Republican and a former FBI director, it makes me sick to see Trump laughing with Russian President Vladimir Putin over election “meddling” and ridding themselves of “fake news” journalists (which in Putin’s case sometimes means having them killed).

Take off the partisan blinders

Does it not make you sick, Democrats and Republicans of the House?

I am 74 years old and never expected or wanted to spend two years of my life digging into the kind of foreign intervention and influence that kept the Founders awake at night. I never expected or wanted to investigate a president who was even more overt than Richard Nixon in repeatedly trying to obstruct an investigation into his campaign.

To Republicans, I hope you can take off your partisan blinders sooner rather than later and come to terms with the damage this legally challenged president is doing.

To Democrats, I am at wit’s end. I have done all I could, but it’s never enough for you. So with apologies to O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran, here are my final words: Don’t just teach; you must impeach. Don’t give a speech; you must impeach. If there’s a massive breach, you must impeach. If it’s not a reach, you must impeach. If it’s no day at the beach, and it won’t be, YOU STILL MUST IMPEACH.

Am I clear? Do you finally get it?

You know what, I’m going to Europe for six weeks and growing a beard.

Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY and author of “The Art of the Political Deal: How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock.” Follow her on Twitter: @JillDLawrence

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