Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report is full of bombshells about Trump pressuring subordinates to lie and engaging in a truly staggering amount of obstruction of justice. Besides that, though, the report made nearly everyone in Trump’s orbit look terrible.
Their bad behavior ranged from the banal to the genuinely corrupt, and it was omnipresent. Many Trump team members, of course, have already been indicted or found guilty of serious crimes thanks to Mueller’s investigations.
But the Mueller report also included damning new details about these seven people who haven’t been indicted:
Sean Spicer. Thanks to being deceived by then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, Spicer ended up lying during his very first press conference. He stood up and told the world that Flynn’s conversations with Sergey Kislyak weren’t about sanctions. Of course, they were totally about sanctions. Spicer also helped Trump shape the false narrative that Rosenstein had decided to fire Comey, and dutifully lying to the press about it.
Ivanka Trump. Ivanka helped cover up the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. She sort of had to, given her husband was one of the attendees. The report also confirms something Michael Cohen had told Congress: Ivanka was one of the people he kept in the loop about the Trump Tower Moscow plans. Covering up those plans was mission critical to Trump because he knew it might look bad that he kept pursuing the deal even when he was running for president.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Aside from the people who actually got indicted, Sanders might look the worst here. She blithely lied to the press and spun an absurd story about James Comey being fired because “countless FBI agents” were mad at him. When called out on it by investigators, she admitted her comments had no foundation at all. Expect Sanders to hide from the press for a while, as that is her usual behavior when scandal erupts.
Reince Priebus. The Mueller report brought to light the fact that Priebus was feverishly workingbehind the scenes to support Trump. He and Steve Bannon tag-teamed to try to convince K.T. McFarland to lie for Trump. They needed her to draft an email that said Trump didn’t direct Flynn to call the Russian ambassador about sanctions. Priebus and Bannon dangled an ambassadorship to Singapore in front of her, but McFarland didn’t budge. And on the night in January 2017 when Trump chose to dine alone with James Comey, it was Priebus who tried, in vain, to tell the president not to talk about Russia at dinner.
Donald Trump Jr. It’s unfathomable that Trump Jr. isn’t indicted right now. The report makes clear that he lied about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. With his father’s help, he issued a statement that the meeting was “primarily” about the adoption of Russian children. That’s an outright lie. The subject of that meeting was to obtain derogatory information about Hillary Clinton and for the Russians to complain about sanctions. There’s a highly credible case to be made that Don Jr. should be indicted for campaign finance violations, given that either soliciting or accepting a thing of value — in this case, opposition research — from a foreign person or entity is a crime.
William Barr. Barr isn’t in the report, but the report still makes him look bad. It didn’t have to be that way. Barr could have offered a neutral explanation of the contents, but instead he tried to spin the report before it was released in order to protect Trump. Barr did so twice: first in a four-page letter that purported to summarize the report but did no such thing, and second in Thursday’s press conference, where he lied and lied and lied. It was a disgraceful performance, but it was for an audience of one: Donald Trump.
Donald Trump. He escaped being indicted only because Mueller is a rule-follower who wouldn’t indict a sitting president. But the entire report is breathtakingly bad for him. He thought, when the investigation started, that it would be the end of his presidency — and it should have been. Instead, he survived — but he’s in trouble. Mueller’s report is a roadmap for impeachment and more. Mueller kindly dropped a footnote that is full of dense legalese masking some serious menace:
A possible remedy through impeachment for abuses of power would not substitute for potential criminal liability after a President leaves office. Impeachment would remove a President from office, but would not address the underlying culpability of the conduct or serve the usual purposes of the criminal law. Indeed, the Impeachment Judgment Clause recognizes that criminal law plays an independent role in addressing an official’s conduct, distinct from the political remedy of impeachment.
What Mueller is saying is that impeachment is separate from criminal charges, and if Trump survives impeachment, or impeachment proceedings are never started, he could still face those charges. Mueller is even going a step farther: Even if Trump were impeached and removed from office, those criminal charges would remain as a separate matter.
This is a far cry from total exoneration. It’s an unsubtle reminder to Trump that the presidency can only protect him so long. Eventually, he’ll have to face the consequences for his actions.
Published with permission of The American Independent.