Last week the public finally got to see much of what special counsel Bob Mueller found after months of investigation, numerous indictments and convictions, and plenty of speculation.
On the big questions... Did Pres. Trump collude with Russia? No, though the Trump campaign tried to pair up with them. Did the president obstruct justice? According to his attorney general William Barr, the answer was “no” because when he tried to his people blocked him.
The detail beyond those determinations is important.
It is irrefutable that Russia meddled extensively in the 2016 campaign. Through a group called the Internet Research Agency based in St. Petersburg, they set up thousands of fake accounts, fake groups and posted information designed to sow discord in the United States. Facebook reports they reached 126 million people. By the last half of 2016, they were focused on taking down Hillary Clinton and boosting Trump.
The Russians hacked the DNC and then leaked information to WikiLeaks at key moments in the campaign. For instance, John Podesta’s emails were leaked to wash out reports of Trump’s sexual advances toward unwilling women.
The Russians also reached out to the Trump campaign offering to help, and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort willingly gave them Trump polling data. People in the Trump orbit ham-handedly tried to work with the Russians,
The bottom line is we had a hostile foreign power trying to manipulate the U.S. election and a presidential campaign that was open to it.
Trump’s response to the investigation was shameful. He repeatedly lied about it and engaged others, including his own family, in that effort. On at least 11 occasions he took steps to block Meuller’s investigation. The president and the White House repeatedly lied to the American people over and over the past couple years about every aspect.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney released a blistering and, I believe, accurate statement: “I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office in the land, including the president. I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia . . . . Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders.”
Where do we go from here?
House Democrats will bring in Mueller to testify and investigate all the multitude of lying associated with the White House. I doubt they will move to impeach given the partisan split in Congress, but the might try.
Trump is exposed for what he is: A liar, who attracts people of limited skill and low ethics. Our standing in the world is crippled and will be until he is escorted off the scene.
Republicans need to think beyond Trump. He is a temporary figure and many Americans (including me) will be glad when he eventually leaves office. They need to focus on developing appealing policy prescriptions to spread economic opportunity, protect our country and improve the lives of Americans.
Post-Mueller, we need to move forward. We need to tone down our excessive partisanship and mean-spirited tone and refocus on a battle over which ideas are best.
For instance, on healthcare, we need to have a serious discussion of how to reduce health costs. I am a big fan of the Swiss system which requires everyone to buy basic private insurance, with subsidies for the poor.
Rep. Mike Simpson tackled the big issue of immigration before the Boise Chamber last week by proposing green cards for illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. and tackling the current border emergency.
Idaho’s other federal officials should also step up their game. Sen. Crapo is a leader on Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac reform, a wide array of trade and banking issues, and has a track record on fiscal reform. Sen. Risch is in the catbird seat on foreign policy issues as the Senate chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. Congressman Fulcher has been fairly quiet but needs to find his niche.