By William Dodd
On May 29, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his only and final public comments on his Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. Following Mueller’s remarks, John Brennan, director of the CIA under President Obama, commented that Mueller’s “public statement today is going to give momentum to those who want to move forward with impeachment hearings. I think there can be no doubt about Mr. Mueller’s message that the obstruction of justice issue is not resolved and that there needs to be a follow up action on it.”
Let there be no doubt that President Trump, ever since the charge emerged that he and Russia may have colluded with each other to help him win the 2016 election, did everything within his power to impede — yes, “obstruct” — the spreading of that lie (the “Lie”). We now know from the Mueller Report what Trump knew all along: that there was no collusion. The charge was untrue. Donald Trump had a clear responsibility to defend himself against the personal defamation of the Lie, and more importantly, he had an absolute obligation to protect the Office of the President against such a false accusation.
A private citizen, falsely accused of any illegal act or misdeed, can appeal to the legal system and seek public correction of the falsehood and retribution. But as a public official and with no recourse to the courts while the Mueller investigation was in progress, Trump had no choice but to defend himself in the public arena by denying the Lie in tweets, at rallies and press conferences, and to the media.
So yes, Trump made every effort to obstruct efforts by those in the Congress, in the government, and in the media to spread the Lie. Now, as congressional hearing testimonies are declassified, we find that the Lie may have been part of an orchestrated plan by government officials together with leaders of the Democratic Party to destroy the Trump presidency. Trump must have suspected that the Lie may have had sinister origins, but he never had proof of such a conspiracy. That proof could be forthcoming in the months ahead.
The most bizarre backdrop to the legacy of the Lie is the sheer silliness of such an obvious non sequitur as political collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. World powers are still engaged in a century-old struggle between two polar-opposite economic philosophies: communism and capitalism. To believe that Mother Russia, the world’s dominant communist power, the great showcase of atheistic Marxism, would want to help elect to power a dedicated anti-communist and pre-eminent capitalist in the country that opposes all that Russia stands for is beyond ridiculous. That so many would follow that Lie down the rabbit hole is quite astonishing for a nation that prides itself on its common sense.
So as to the “obstruction” accusation against the president, yes, he is guilty as charged. But the object of his obstruction is the injustice of the Lie. Obstruction of injustice, AKA warranted self-defense, is not a crime. However, if there are those within the government who created the Lie as part of a plot to remove Trump from the presidency for fear that he might uncover crimes at high levels in the prior administration — they are ones who would be guilty of obstruction of justice.
As for Mr. Brennan, he may regret his call for follow-up action on possible obstruction of justice. It could be time for Mr. B. to heed Will Rogers’s advice for those in his situation: “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”