Mueller report – as real as it gets?
Sir, – Your editorial Mueller Report: Open Questions (March 26th), reflecting on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, in itself raises, perhaps unwittingly, some valid questions.
The article rather flatly declares that “we do know that the Russian government interfered repeatedly” in the US elections. That might be an article of faith (as well as useful political tool) in some quarters in Washington, but otherwise looks like a hollow allegation, not supported by any fact. What kind of evidence is there to support such a claim? We certainly know the answer – there is none, since it has never been a policy of the Russian government to meddle in the US president elections, nor, for that matter, in the elections in any other country of the world.
One should respect the right of The Irish Times to hold an opinion of the US president and his policies. But is it not an interference in the US elections to make an outright claim that a legitimate president of a foreign country – whether you like him or not – is “unfit for office and must be replaced”? – Yours, etc,
of the Russian Federation
Sir, – Paul O’Beirne writes that President Donald Trump “has been exonerated” by the Mueller report (Letters, March 27th).
In fact, the report explicitly says that, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime it also does not exonerate him”.
In other words, Robert Mueller was unable to find evidence reaching the legal threshold required to convict. This is not the same thing as not finding evidence of wrongdoing. Indeed, several members of the Trump campaign have already been tried and convicted, and during the course of the investigation we learned that Donald Trump jnr enthusiastically responded to what he believed were Russian government entreaties to assist his father’s campaign.
These facts appear to have disappeared down the memory hole over the weekend.
Moreover, it should be noted that the Mueller report has not been made public. What has been made public is a four-page summary of the report by a member of Mr Trump’s cabinet, who gained the job in part by writing an unsolicited memo attacking the investigation itself, and whose previous service in the first Bush administration involved assisting in pardoning persons involved in the Iran-Contra affair.
His summary is crafted so as to say little legally meaningful, particularly by relying on a highly narrow definition of what constitutes “official contact”, the “Trump campaign” and “the Russian government”.
While the media has endured endless criticism for allegedly hyping the Mueller report before this, I would argue that it has been far more derelict in the uncritical acceptance of US attorney general Robert Barr’s portrayal of it. Why did Mr Trump fire James Comey to prevent him from investigating the allegations, which was the reason Mr Mueller was appointed in the first place? Why the serious breaches of normal protocol in barring aides from attending his bilateral meetings with Vladimir Putin, extending even to literally seizing the translator’s notes? Why the lies about the length and duration of the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations? Why the constant, personal attacks on Mr Mueller and his team?
To be clear, none of this should be read as an accusation that a conspiracy existed. Mr Barr’s summary may be entirely accurate. But given the complicated relationship this administration has had with the truth so far, and its reliance on “alternative facts”, I would argue that accepting its declarations that a report no-one else has had the chance to see clears it of wrongdoing would be imprudent and premature, to say the least. – Yours, etc,