Master of the No Deal

Alan Zendell, May 28, 2019
The Master of the Deal flew off to Japan this holiday weekend to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, one of his few reliable allies in east Asia. When North Korea was firing ballistic missiles over Japan in 2017, Abe needed to ensure that he could count on the American military to defend his country, but it was more than just garden variety saber-rattling. Abe knows his own history. He is aware of the atrocities committed against Korea by Japan during World War 2, and even two generations later, people, especially paranoid North Koreans, remember things like that.
While other world leaders ridiculed Trump behind the scenes, Abe held his nose and did what he had to. Like his counterparts in other countries he understood that the price of assured support was uncompromising loyalty, and no matter what outrageous things Trump said or tweeted, Abe always agreed and never contradicted him.
The Memorial Day visit to Japan was a natural choice by a president who feels under siege at home and privately, in most of the rest of the world. A bilateral trade agreement was in the works, and Trump’s ego badly needed a win. It should have been a slam dunk, but Kim Jong Un changed the game.

Understanding full well that Trump is unnerved by Joe Biden’s popularity and likability, Kim directed his state media to attack Biden as “a fool with low IQ.” At about the same time, Abe, with support from John Bolton, Trump’s war hawk National Security Advisor, was accusing North Korea of violating their agreement to stop testing missiles, and Trump was again proclaiming to the world that he is a stable genius. How did Trump react?

He shot himself in both feet. First, he shocked everyone by ignoring his real agenda and agreeing with Kim’s assessment of Joe Biden. It was a perfect storm for Trump, sucking up to Kim and attacking the man most likely to unseat him in a single photo op. But what about Abe’s concern over those missiles? No problem for Trump. He disagreed with both Abe and his own people, announcing that Kim’s missile launches didn’t trouble him a bit and humiliating Abe in the bargain.

Just when it seemed that Trump would return home leaving everyone shell-shocked, he seemed to recall that he was there to strike a trade deal with Japan. He still had one bullet left, and he used it to kill whatever faint hope remained for a successful outcome, threatening Abe with massive tariffs on Japanese automobiles. The Master of the Deal left Japan with no trade deal and no end to his tariff war with China in sight. Waiting for him in Washington were angry, shocked politicians of both parties because the main headlines following his trip were that he used the international stage to attack Joe Biden, and that he incomprehensibly continued his love affair with Kim at the expense of everything else.

Even Trump supporters must ask themselves what that was all about. Does anyone believe that Trump making nice again with Kim against the advice of virtually everyone improved the situation with North Korea? It’s been clear to everyone that a successful negotiation with Kim will only happen if China uses its influence to push him toward an accommodation. Yet Trump continues to antagonize China seeming to believe that he can take on the entire world single-handedly while alienating his own advisors and allies as well as his own Congress.

This goes way beyond style and dispensing with political correctness. The president describes himself as a brilliant deal maker, but absent the advantage his money gives him in business, his approach to negotiation based on misdirection and chaos isn’t working. There is no evidence that any real progress has been made in improving our relationship with any of our adversaries – Russia, China, North Korea, Iran – and as for our allies, most of them hope that if they simply ignore Mr. Trump, there’s a good chance that he will be gone by the end of next year, and the world can return to “normal.”

Trump’s bullying tactics in the world of business don’t work either on the international stage or in dealing with Congress and the courts. Rather, they paint a picture of Trump as someone who has no respect for truth or any form of correctness. Why would anyone, either a foreign head of state or a Congressional leader, deal with someone who can never be trusted to follow through on anything he says or promises unless they had no alternative?

One of my favorite children’s stories is the emperor’s new clothes. Trump has shown clearly that the master deal maker he promised he would be must feel quite chilled whenever the wind blows.

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Founders’ Wisdom

Alan Zendell, May 21, 2019

It’s fashionable, these days, to focus on what the Founders got wrong, and there’s plenty of fodder to feed that trend. Writing nearly two-and-a-half centuries ago, they couldn’t possibly have gotten everything right.

The most glaring example is the Electoral College. It made sense in the 1770’s when only white, male landowners could vote, and both transportation and communication were limited by the speed of a horse. To be fair, though, we can’t blame the winner-take-all thing on the Founders. That horror was a machination of the state legislatures.

Other glaring errors involve the Bill of Rights. The tortured wording of the Second Amendment, which was clearly intended to assure that citizens could be counted on to uphold order when militias were required, has allowed the unfortunate interpretation that individuals may own their own personal arsenals, unrestricted by local statute or common sense. And the First Amendment, which spells out which specific rights and freedoms Thomas Jefferson meant when he referred to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has a huge hole in it that we’re still fighting over today: the right to basic health care. But to be fair, no one imagined there would be much health care to be entitled to back then.

There’s no doubt, however, that the Founders got the most important things right. The two things that set our republic apart from the monarchy it divorced itself from are the separation of powers and the procedure for removing an unfit president.

The Constitution clearly defined three co-equal branches of government. The checks and balances we learned about in fifth grade were intended to assure that the executive (president) could never become a tyrant. They also recognized that circumstances might arise in which a president was found to have committed treason or other “high crimes and misdemeanors” serious enough to disqualify him from continuing in office.

We’re seeing the power of the Founders’ wisdom on both these points play out every day. It’s painful to watch, and many people take that as a sign that the system is broken, but they’re wrong. The process by which two entities as powerful as our Congress and our Executive Branch share power and balance each other is necessarily complex and laborious. Behemoths and battleships weren’t meant to turn on a dime, and neither can our government. If all that inertia against change results in argument and struggle, so be it. The other side of the coin is coup or revolution – there’s really nothing in between…

…which brings us to impeachment. It’s time we stopped all the irresponsible blather. Democrats wring their hands and pull their hair over the partisanship that makes impeachment nearly impossible. They rail about the unfairness of having to deal with a Republican majority in the Senate which has joined ranks to form a human shield around the president. Republicans ignore subpoenas and use every political and procedural trick to prevent Trump’s foes from gathering ammunition against him. The resulting anger and frustration are made worse by the juvenile tirades of the president.

With all that, the clear statements in the Mueller report that Trump likely committed acts that rise to the level of obstruction of justice, and the Justice Department’s opinion (that’s all it is) that a sitting president may not be indicted all seem to be a perfect storm driving us toward a constitutional crisis.

Ohmygod, the sky is falling, it’s the end of the republic! Except that it isn’t. This is the way the process is supposed to work. Removing a president from office shouldn’t be easy. If it were we’d soon be a banana republic. And as awful as it looks and smells, partisanship actually assures that the process works. A president should not be convicted of impeachable offenses unless the need to remove him or her is so clear that even his political allies agree.

We faced a very similar situation forty-five years ago. President Nixon was accused of obstructing justice in the Watergate investigation, and the country lived through crisis after crisis as a Republican controlled Senate staunchly defended him. I believed at the time, that the future of the United States was at stake. But when the smoking gun was found, and it was clear that the president had committed felonies, partisanship gave way to statesmanship. The process worked as the Founders intended, and it will this time.

The leaders of the Democratic Party understand this. That’s why Speaker Pelosi and her Committee chairs who are working hard to find evidence to prove Trump’s guilt or innocence avoid talking about impeachment. They know the process will work if they persist. In any case, 532 days from now the people will have an opportunity to decide if Trump should continue in office.

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Impeachable Behavior?

Alan Zendell, May 20, 2019

There are many ways to look at Saturday’s extensive tweets by Republican Justin Amash, who represents Michigan’s third district in the House of Representatives. Amash accused Attorney General William Barr of deliberately misrepresenting the conclusions reached by Robert Mueller, asserting that Mueller detailed several instances in which Amash thinks President Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice. He was the first House Republican to endorse impeaching the president.

When the (redacted) report was released, Senator Mitt Romney (R, Utah) said he was sickened by the actions attributed to Trump by Mueller, but there wasn’t enough evidence of obstruction of justice to justify impeachment. As usual, Romney started out looking and sounding statesmanlike, but quickly dissembled into meaninglessness. If there wasn’t clear evidence of obstruction, exactly what sickened the Senator sufficiently to make him speak out against Trump on his own? What was the point?

When S. E. Cupp, conservative commentator turned Trump-hater reacted to Mr. Amash’s tweets by exclaiming, “This is big!” I could only think, “Really?” Amash represents a “safe” Republican district in a state Trump won by the narrowest of margins, and if there was any reason to believe Amash’s tweets would influence a sizable number of voters, they might be a big deal. But since he and Romney are the only two Republicans in Congress who’ve said anything negative about Trump, and no one seems to be rushing to join the flood of criticism, I’d file the incident under interesting but insignificant.

Remember Jeff Flake? He not only spoke out early against Trump’s dishonesty and generally immoral behavior – he even published a book about it. Flake was generally praised as a man of integrity, but did a single Republican stand up for him when Trump took him down?

Amash seems like a decent guy, a libertarian Republican of the Ron and Rand Paul variety. He’s honest, and he speaks his mind, but he’s hardly a consensus builder. He’s frequently out there on his own, much like his idols the Pauls, a lone wolf who doesn’t much care if anyone agrees with him. Not exactly someone to build a movement around, S. E., and as Romney correctly noted, impeachment can’t go anywhere without the Senate, and the Senate isn’t there.

With Barr in place, the Department of Justice won’t be changing its policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted any time soon. We have to accept the fact that Trump is presently not impeachable. Nor is he chargeable while he’s in office.

Does that mean all the tantalizing hints in the Mueller report should be ignored? Absolutely not. It would be unconscionable to not follow up on what Mueller said and implied. Every president can and should be held accountable. If Trump can’t be arrested or impeached, he can be dealt with the old-fashioned way. With an election in less than eighteen months, the current fight between the White House and the People’s House is really about whether every American deserves to know the truth about Trump on Election Day.

If you need a reality check, one thing everyone seems to agree on is that Mueller, a life-long Republican, is a responsible investigator. It’s inconceivable that he would have filled his report with unsupportable red herrings and allegations. The evidence is out there, as they used to say on The X-Files, only this time it really is. Mueller’s staff produced thousands of pages of interviews, analyses, carefully supported conclusions, and other related work products. The House of Representatives, knowing they exist, has a constitutional responsibility to study them.

If that weren’t clear enough, no administration has ever asserted that Congress does not have the right to investigate the President as aggressively as Trump has. Ask yourself why. Is it just that Trump’s narcissism sends him into a rage whenever anyone challenges him, or do his people know there’s great potential political damage lurking in Mueller’s files?

Trump’s personal attorney, Rudi Guiliani has said many times that the strategy of blanket refusal to comply with all subpoenas is a delaying tactic. Trump’s allies believe they can stall the process in the courts long enough that nothing damaging will affect the election, and they might be right. Judging by how gridlocked and partisan our entire government is, it’s clear that stalling and preventing anything from being done is what most politicians do best.

Still, it’s the only way we’ll ever know the truth. The House Chairs must keep pressing or Trump will get off scot free and might even be re-elected. That simply cannot happen.

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The Tweet Fairy

Alan Zendell, May 10, 2019

Stop a hundred people at random and ask each of them which adjective pops into their heads when they hear the name Donald Trump. For those not wearing MAGA hats, words like insulting, immoral, unscrupulous, insensitive, and dishonest will come up pretty often. It’s not just that the majority of Americans feel that way about him. He cultivates that personality cult.

At first, we were shocked by the way he refers to people and institutions he doesn’t like. Before the Trump era, we’d been told that to get along, much less to be successful, we had to behave with decorum, exhibit self-restraint, respect other people, and empathize with their problems. When Trump attacked political correctness during his campaign, we didn’t realize that he was really assailing truth, fairness, courtesy, and decency – all the things we’d been taught to venerate and aspire to.

Our next mistake was to assume Trump was a social illiterate, a boor, an awkward, sometimes raging bull who leaves chaos and destruction in his wake because he doesn’t know any better. It took us a long time to realize his persona is carefully crafted and thought out. Don’t ever confuse his lies and misstatements of fact with incompetence or stupidity. He knows exactly what he’s doing at all times. It’s diabolical.

Trump uses insults as a tactic to put people on the defensive, and despicable as that is, it’s remarkably effective. He’s a master at baiting people who oppose him because he has a predator’s instinct for their weaknesses. He succeeds with such antics because he’s absolutely shameless. Nothing embarrasses him. No action is too base or vulgar for Donald Trump.

Remember all the nicknames he coined? Lyin’ Ted (Cruz), Crooked Hillary (Clinton), Liddle Marco (Rubio), Pocahontas (Elizabeth Warren), Liddle Bob Corker, Liddle Adam Schitt (Schiff), Little Michael Bloomberg, Low Energy Jeb (Bush), Crazy Maxine Waters, Leaking-Lying-Slimeball James Comey, Fat Jerry (Nadler), MS-13 Lover (Nancy Pelosi), Dumb as a Rock (Rex Tillerson), Mad Dog (James Mattis), Fake-Failing-Crooked-Pathetic-Dishonest (any media personality or entity that criticized him) – and they’re just a few.

The nicknames worked because we and the media took his bait and reacted exactly the way he wanted us to. His Republican primary opponents were defenseless because they weren’t adept at playing Trump’s nasty games. Decades of education and experience in public life conditioned them to hold back, at least publicly.

We were taught to play by the rules, even fight by them. How many times did our parents, teachers, and counselors admonish us to “fight fair”?  That’s the crux of it. If you fight fair with someone who has no respect for rules, guess who wins?

Three years after Trump’s bullying and baiting dismantled the Republican Party, the Democrats seem to have learned from watching. Trump regularly insulted Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of things that were over the top, but she never quailed under his attacks and never acted in kind. The Democratic Committee Chairs also seem to have learned a thing or two. What we hear from all of them are calm, quietly reasoned rebuttals.

They may lose in the end, but they realize that grounding themselves in the defense of the same Constitution Trump swore to protect is their best course of action. It’s, “Do your worst, Donald. See you in Court. The law’s on our side.” We won’t know if it really is until Trump’s Supreme Court says so, but it’s the strongest hand they have to play.

Enter Joe Biden, who was immediately dubbed “1% Joe” by you know who. Biden said he wouldn’t get involved in the name-calling game, but last week he called Trump a clown and a no-good S. O. B. The media called that a classic Biden gaffe. Seriously?

In an era in which the President gets away with anything that spouts from his mouth, do we really want to muzzle a man like Joe Biden? When, during the last campaign, Trump boasted of his sexual exploits, Biden said, “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” Forgive me, but I cheered. Who doesn’t love to see a bully taken down? How about letting them settle things one-on-one instead of putting the country through another excruciating election season? Donny versus Joe, winner takes all.

My advice to Joe is to find the perfect nickname for Trump, one that addresses all of his insecurities that will get under his skin and infuriate him whenever he hears it. I have one that I’ve scientifically test marketed with at least seven people.

Henceforth, let Donald Trump be known as “The Tweet Fairy.”

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He Solemnly Swore to Defend the Constitution

Alan Zendell, May 8, 2019

Every president’s first official act is to take his oath of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Pretty simple, isn’t it?

The oath doesn’t talk about wars, tax cuts, immigration, or the economy. It states clearly that the President’s primary responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. From the moment he or she is sworn in, the Constitution must guide and shape every presidential action. That’s what defines our country and sets it apart from monarchies and autocracies.

From the day he took office, Donald Trump has demonstrated that his oath means nothing to him. Some of his critics say he doesn’t understand the difference between a president and a king. They claim he has no idea how government works and is ignorant of the laws he is sworn to enforce. But that’s nonsense.

The president has a huge staff of talented advisors whose sole responsibility is making sure he understands his legal responsibilities. Trump fully comprehends what the Constitution requires of him. He simply doesn’t care. His disdain for law and precedent, his attempts to politicize the courts, the Justice Department, and the Federal Reserve Board, and his willingness to lie about anything and everything when it suits him tell us all we need to know about whether we can trust him to honor his oath.

Whether or not he’s guilty of obstructing justice or there is some sinister reason behind his refusal to criticize adversaries like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping, there is a more serious issue looming that we will all have to face. Nothing in the Constitution is more sacred than our election process. Yet, through his actions, inactions, and statements it’s clear that Trump doesn’t get that, because to him, nothing is more important than his own power and personal gratification.

Throughout the 2016 election campaign, he claimed the process was rigged. He threatened to challenge the outcome if he lost and even today, based on no evidence of any kind he still claims that millions of votes cast for his opponent were fraudulent. Truth and evidence don’t matter when Trump’s feelings are hurt. He continually stokes crowds at his rallies to frightening frenzies with his lies and distortions.

You won’t ever hear Trump explicitly call on his more rabid supporters to take up arms in revolt, but he will do everything short of it. He loves the lynch mob-like screams of 20,000 voices chanting “Lock her up.” If you doubt his intentions, think back to his refusal to disavow KKK leader David Dukes, or even to admit knowing who he is, while winking and smirking his secret message to all of Duke’s followers. Think back to Charlottesville, where Trump saw fine people where the rest of us saw a dangerous, murderous mob. Consider that he still will not publicly acknowledge that Russia meddled in his election.

Many people were shocked when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly suggested that Trump might not relinquish power peacefully if he lost his bid for re-election. The country has spent more than two years believing that no matter how radical and incendiary his words, surely when push came to shove he would be constrained by law and decency. But time and again he proved us wrong, and his tweets in response to Pelosi’s fears only made them more credible.

Trump claimed the two-year-long Mueller investigation was a conspiracy by Democrats that stole two years from his presidency, then retweeted Jerry Falwell’s absurd assertion  that two years should be added to his term. So what if that would subvert the most important provisions of the Constitution?

Would Trump go as far as rallying his supporters to violent insurrection if he loses? Probably not directly, but that’s not how he operates. Instead, with varying degrees of subtlety, he enables and encourages the behaviors he wants. People who know him well testify that while he never explicitly orders heinous acts, his people always know what he wants them to do.

As election season heats up, if the polls show Trump in trouble or in a close race, expect more accusations of election fraud, more appeals for his supporters to defend his office. If the Democrats in the House continue to investigate his actions as President as the Constitution requires them to, expect more whining about how his presidency is being stolen. And expect more and more violence springing from his out-of-control rallies.

Nancy Pelosi would not have expressed her fears publicly if she didn’t take them seriously. We should too.

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To Impeach or Not To Impeach

Alan Zendell, April 28, 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren said during a CNN Town Hall last week that the House of Representatives should immediately begin impeachment proceedings to remove Donald Trump from office. She wasn’t just making a political statement. She fervently believes it’s the right thing to do for the country.

Senator Kamala Harris seemed to support impeachment too, though she hedged a bit, saying only that Democrats should take steps toward impeachment. They both want Trump out of office, but there’s a huge difference in their approaches. Warren spoke like an impassioned law professor defending the Constitution, while Harris was pragmatic. She believes America’s soul is at stake in 2020, and while she supports impeachment, she won’t make it a central point of her primary campaign.

Whether or not you agree with her ideology, Senator Warren is a brilliant, highly principled woman. If she has a failing, politically, it’s that she never compromises her beliefs – pragmatism is not part of her repertoire. But to her great credit, she was the only prominent figure who was not afraid to take Donald Trump on directly in 2016. She minced no words warning us about who he was. And unlike Bernie Sanders, once Hillary Clinton won the nomination Warren supported her loudly and continuously right up to the election,.

Senator Warren got it right in 2016, putting her own personal agenda aside and focusing on trying to defeat Trump, and she’s right now that Trump deserves to be removed from office. But she’s wrong about what the Democrats’ current priority should be. Senator Harris hedged the impeachment question because she understands that if it’s a partisan fight, the Democrats will lose.

By now every American should understand the process, but I’ll review it anyway. The removal of a president by impeachment is initiated by a majority vote in the House, but the House vote is only step one, the political equivalent of an indictment. Step two is a trial by the Senate, where a conviction requires sixty-seven Senators to agree. Since  Republicans hold fifty-three Senate seats, that can only happen if Trump is shown to have committed acts so heinous, his own party has no choice but to convict him.

That’s what happened in 1974, when a delegation of Senators led by Barry Goldwater informed President Nixon that if he were impeached he would lose in the Senate. They urged him to resign the presidency to spare the country the ordeal of a trial. Donald Trump can only be removed from office by bipartisan agreement. If the Democrats focus on impeachment without Republican support they will fail. Worse, they will assure his re-election.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands this, and she is the only prominent politician who is not burdened by self-interest. She has already agreed to step down as speaker at the end of the current term, and as Speaker, she has achieved her life’s ambition. Like Senators Corker and Flake in the last Congress, she is now free to follow her conscience.

Pelosi does not support impeachment. Her only goal is to assure that Donald Trump is held accountable for his actions and that he is not re-elected in 2020. To those ends she will aggressively pursue House Committee hearings into Mueller report findings that imply the president may have attempted to obstruct his investigation. The hearings are essential because official Justice Department policy prevented Mueller from directly addressing possible crimes committed by a sitting president. Americans need the truth.

The president has declared that he will fight every subpoena issued to former White House staff, claiming his administration has been the most transparent in American history. Even his supporters know that’s laughable, and we need to hear the people involved in this administration testify under oath. Trump has threatened to invoke Executive Privilege, but lies told to the American people are not threats to national security. Will Trump’s Supreme Court see it that way?

We must be clear that seeking the truth from the people who were directly involved is completely different from beginning impeachment proceedings without having clear evidence of misconduct in hand. By conducting open hearings, Pelosi’s committee chairs will assure that the House executes its constitutionally required oversight obligation. Checks and balances on the Executive by a co-equal branch of government are fundamental to our political system. 

We don’t know what witnesses like former White House Attorney Don McGahn will say under oath. If Trump is shown to have committed high crimes and misdemeanors, ordinary Americans will decide his fate at the ballot box. Impeachment, and the turmoil it will cause is almost moot when there’s a much cleaner way to remove him from office.

Vote him out, and assure that nothing diverts us from that goal.

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What the Mueller Report Tells Us About Trump

Alan Zendell, April 19, 2019

The redacted Mueller Report told us four important things, none of which is a shocking revelation.

First, we learned that a thorough investigation by highly competent interviewers and researchers found that Russia, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, definitely attempted to hack our 2016 election. The intent of the hacking was to help Donald Trump win the election and to sow discord and confusion among Americans. As I said, not exactly a startling revelation.

Second, those same competent investigators found no evidence that Trump, his family, or his campaign staff acted directly to assist the Russians in their attempt to influence the election. They may have behaved stupidly and incompetently, but there was no direct collusion with Russia. Again, not a startling result. No matter what people may have hoped the report would say, even Trump’s most ardent detractors didn’t really believe he had secretly plotted with Putin.

To the extent that suspicion was raised it was largely as a result of Trump’s own public statements and tweets. Remember when he begged Russia to release more of Hillary Clinton’s emails and praised Wikileaks and Julian Assange? Corollary conclusion: if you run your mouth irresponsibly, don’t complain when people question your motivation.

Third, despite all the claims of Fake News and attempts by Democrats to undermine the president, Mueller confirmed that most of the things reported by The New York Times and the Washington Post were correct. The Trump White House was filled with people who were so upset by the actions of the President and his senior staff, that there was a steady stream of accurate leaks.

Fourth, while there were numerous events that suggested the president wanted to kill the Mueller investigation, there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for obstruction of justice under the definition in federal statute. Again, it was mostly the president’s own public ranting that created the appearance of obstruction, beginning with the NBC News interview in which Trump said he fired FBI Director James Comey to make the Russian thing go away.

To the average non-lawyer, that sounds pretty clear, even if it doesn’t rise to the bar of a federal crime. Attorney General William Barr nearly broke his back bending over to explain that while Trump may have wanted to obstruct justice he never actually did, therefore there was no crime. Barr also argued that since there was no collusion with Russia, there was no underlying crime; thus, Trump’s attempts to obstruct the investigation were not motivated by a desire to cover up criminal activity.

Most Americans can be forgiven for finding that confusing if not unbelievable. Maybe we’ve been watching too many legal dramas, but most of us believe that conspiracy to commit a crime is a crime in itself even if the conspiracy doesn’t result in a criminal act. If someone plots to murder you but you aren’t killed, the perpetrator is still guilty of either an attempt or a conspiracy to commit the crime. The fact that the underlying intended act (murder) never occurred doesn’t absolve the perpetrator.

Perhaps the most surprising statement made by AG Barr was that since Trump’s attempts to kill the investigation were motivated by his anger and frustration over fears that his presidency would be undermined, that excused all of his actions. Barr’s defense effectively said it’s all right for the president to throw public tantrums whenever he’s upset. 

The unstated conclusion of the Mueller Report is that Donald Trump did everything possible to kill the investigation. His clear intent was to obstruct justice. The report cited ten different instances in which Trump acted to either create a groundswell of public opposition to Mueller’s investigation or in which he threatened to stop it himself by ordering that Mueller be fired, but was deterred by his own legal staff. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, a level-headed attorney with no obvious political agenda, said, “If that’s not obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is.”

It’s clear that Trump’s presidency was probably saved by then White House Counsel Don McGahn who refused to follow Trump’s direct order to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mueller and then to lie about it. That was part of a pattern of lies and obfuscation that continued for two full years.

Despite exonerating the president of collusion with Russia, the Mueller Report couldn’t be more damning. It paints a picture of a president who continually lies, shoots irresponsibly from the hip, and displays both a lack of knowledge of, and total contempt for law. The most important thing the report does is confirm that Donald Trump is absolutely unfit to be president.

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