According to many former officials in the FBI and our U.S. intelligence agencies, virtually every Democrat in Congress, and a growing number of respected Republicans, the saga of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is a story that is now well understood.
The long awaited Mueller Report, a monster of an investigative report that totals a bit over 400 pages, is finally out and it’s a best-seller. With the exception of a portion of the report that is blacked out, incredibly in a color-coded manner, everyone can now read the details about what happened on the lead-up to our last presidential election and the immediate aftermath of the voter’s decision, as well as the transition period into Trump’s new presidency and his first year in office.
In my last column, I talked about the Cliff Notes summary of this report given by U.S. Attorney General Barr a couple of days after Mr. Mueller and his team released the report. At the time, all we knew was what was covered in the press, a growing number of books on the subject, and of course the president’s continuing claims of innocence. In that column, I pointed out that our Constitution clearly defines a way to get rid of a sitting president who misbehaves.
The House of Representatives is supposed to impeach a misbehaving president — a step that is somewhat equivalent to a grand jury’s decision to press charges. The Senate is then supposed to organize and execute a trial of the president — a step that requires a two-thirds majority to remove a president from office.
So what is going to happen next? The leadership in the House of Representatives and various committees in the Senate now feel it’s their duty to investigate this thing further and defer any actual impeachment proceedings until after they dig a bit deeper. Do they not believe that the Mueller Report is incriminating enough?
After reading major sections of the Mueller Report, I’ve got mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, the report clearly contains enough evidence to argue for impeachment. On the other hand, impeachment proceedings and the likely Senate trial that will follow will be televised. We can actually see and hear former government officials give sworn testimony that our president has broken some laws, primarily by attempting to obstruct justice.
There seems to be a distinct absence of Republican members of Congress who are willing to voice an opinion on this report. Perhaps, like Trump himself, some of them prefer to get a one-hour vocal summary of this report because they don’t read. I doubt that is the case, since a lot of congressmen and women are experienced lawyers or came from backgrounds where they actually had to read some fine print.
My sense is that the current Republican Senate majority is scared. Anyone who can read can follow what happened. They know full well that the House will vote to impeach if there were enough Republican Senators willing to help Vice President Mike Pence move into the White House. It makes no sense these days to impeach a president if the Senate is not going to convict.
I must give credit to former presidential candidate and now U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, who has stood forward and voiced total disgust at what our current president has done to his office.
Prior to reading the first 100 pages of the Mueller Report, I was of the opinion that the Russian election interference impacted, but probably was not enough to swing the 2016 election to Trump. Now I know it did. Facebook found 470 fake accounts operated by the government-controlled Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) that reached an estimated 126 million people. Twitter actually found 3,814 fake IRA accounts disguised as accounts owned by U.S. organizations.
The Russians have done this before. They have swung elections in other countries the same way, and they can do it again, if we let them. As for the 10 areas listed in the report as candidates for obstruction of justice, all one needs to read is one or two to be convinced that our president personally attempted to obstruct this investigation.
When high-level officials in the White House and Trump’s own chief of staff have testified that they had to refuse Trump’s request to have Mueller fired, this appears to be a solid case of obstruction. The Mueller investigation was no witch hunt.
I simply do not understand how our congressional representatives can stand by and let this president remain in office. The United States has never removed a president from office following impeachment, but Congress should take the necessary steps to make it happen soon. Should our congressional representatives refuse to go down this road, we need to collectively inform them that we disagree.
While Vice President Pence, should he be promoted, may indeed follow some of the same policies Trump has taken or even retain most of Trump’s cabinet, there is a real question as to whether he can be re-elected. As we move on to the heart of the 2020 election, the American electorate will have to make a historical decision. Will they continue to support Trump’s party and vote for Pence (or even a last minute nominee by a political party that is petrified of the future), or the strongest of the very diverse and impressive field of 20 now hoping to be the Democratic nominee for the office of president of the United States.
David Yost is a retired Bell Labs engineer with a BSEE and MS in Engineering. He is now living in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and Silverthorne, Colorado.