by Tom Sullivan
One of the few real talents the sitting president possesses is making every story about himself. Even stories that are not about him are about him once he's done grabbing them by the pull quotes.
So focused are we on what Attorney General William Barr's 4-page press release on the Mueller report doesn't say about conspiracy between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, no one is bothering to comment on what it does say about Russia.
Russia likes that just fine (AP):
Russian officials and state media who have vehemently denied that the Kremlin wanted Trump to win and was helping him in the campaign on Monday relished the news.
“The results of Mueller’s investigation are a disgrace for the U.S. and its political elites,” Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the information committee at the Federation Council, tweeted on Monday. “All of the accusations were proved to be trumped up.”
Russian authorities over the past months portrayed the Mueller probe as a witch hunt against Trump and a tool of the Democratic Party to fan the flames of the anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S.
What Barr says Mueller's report did conclude was 1) a Kremlin-connected troll farm, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), "conducted disinformation and social media operations designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with" the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and 2) Russian government actors also "hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations." They hacked Republican National Committee computers too, but who's counting? Russia never leaked those emails.
This is old news, of course. Mueller indicted a baker's dozen of Russian intelligence officers for these crimes in February 2018.
But press inquiries and panel after talk-show panel will focus on whether or not the full report exonerates the obsequious "tough guy" in the Oval Office who dreams Russian President Vladimir Putin will let him into the tough guys club. Despite unprecedented documented contacts between a U.S. presidential campaign and representatives of a hostile foreign power, despite being told by the entire U.S. intelligence community Russia committed crimes meddling in the campaign, Trump denied it. He and his campaign did so for months until, after Helsinki, he was forced to admit, grudgingly, that his buddy Vlad might have had something to do with it.
Now that (according to Barr) Mueller's report confirms what we already knew about Russian interference, what does the U.S. president have to say about that? What does he plan to do about that? Nobody's asking.
Mueller may believe "the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime" involving the data theft. But when the redacted report becomes public, we can expect confirmation Trump did engage is a series of quid-pro-quo deals whereby the campaign exchanged promises of lifting sanctions on Russia in exchange for helping him win and/or awarding him Trump Tower Moscow. That is, we can expect confirmation of what David Corn writes is already in evidence:
Trump and his lieutenants interacted with Russia while Putin was attacking the 2016 election and provided encouraging signals to the Kremlin as it sought to subvert American democracy. They aided and abetted Moscow’s attempt to cover up its assault on the United States (which aimed to help Trump win the White House). And they lied about all this ... Trump and his gang betrayed the United States in the greatest scandal in American history.
Trump will crow about how the report clears him. The Russians just did the same. But if he accepts that, Trump must also be made to address the conclusion that his Russian friend attacked the country he swore an empty oath to defend. He ought not be allowed to move on as though his buddy Vlad is this country's friend. Reporters should ask the would-be tough guy and patriot in blunt terms:
Don't hold your breath waiting for those questions or the answers.
- Vladimir Putin looked you in the eye and said Russia was not involved with "the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections." The Mueller report confirms he lied to your face. What are you going to do about that, Mr. President, and when are you going to do it?
- As a true, flag-hugging, great-making American, will you, the Trump Organization, and its officials, forsake ever doing business with Vladimir Putin, his emissaries, current and former Russian intelligence operatives, and will you commit now to accepting no more money or loans from the Russian government or its affiliated banks, so help you God?