PRESIDENT Donald Trump has been doing interviews and political events spreading even more lies that he has been exonerated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
He continues to call the Russia probe a “hoax” and a witch hunt, despite the fact that members of his campaign, Russian nationals had been indicted, given guilty pleas, sentenced and imprisoned as a result of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Mueller probe likewise definitively confirmed the extent of Russia’s assault in our democracy using cyber warfare, including helping Trump win by hurting the campaign of Hillary Clinton, hacking into her emails and that of the Democratic National Committee, as well as spreading fake news to sow discord among the American people and institutions.
The Mueller probe report, as summarized and presented by Trump’s political appointee Attorney General (AG) William Barr, stated that the probe did not find sufficient evidence beyond reasonable doubt to conclude that Trump and his campaign committed a crime by wittingly conspiring with Russia to assault the 2016 elections.
However, Barr summarily concluded that Trump was exonerated in the obstruction of justice allegations against him, contrary to Mueller’s statement that he could NOT EXONERATE Trump for obstruction of justice.
This summary created more questions than answers, doubts instead faith among the American people, especially in light of the fact that Barr had been very public in discrediting the Mueller probe in the possible case of obstruction of justice even BEFORE he was appointed AG, adding fuel to speculations that Trump appointed him primarily because of this reason.
This, of course, was part of Trump’s pattern of hiring people whom he deemed would and should be loyal to him, would defend him at all cost, despite the Department of Justice being mandated by the Constitution to be an independent law enforcement body and the Attorney General to be the attorney of the American people, and not of the president.
Prior to Barr’s confirmation as AG, Trump appointed Matt Whittaker as acting AG, who prior to his appointment, also made public statements that a sitting president should not be indicted. Whittaker took Trump’s appointee Jeff Sessions’ post after he was fired by the President because he recused himself from any investigation related to Russia out of delicadeza and possible perception of conflict of interest — something alien to Trump’s character.
After Barr’s summary of the Mueller probe exonerating the president, more than three in four Americans, including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats, think the full Mueller report should be released to the public, a new CBS poll revealed.
Bad news for Trump — despite Barr’s summary of the Mueller probe — almost half of Americans think Trump colluded with Russia, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos report.
On Friday, March 29, AG Barr wrote to Congress announcing that a redacted Mueller report will be made public in mid-April; if not sooner, citing national security concerns if the full report containing classified information is revealed.
Moreover, Barr explained that redacting is inevitable for parts of the report that contain information that may undermine cases that are under investigation now in courts, and in protecting the identity and safety of private citizens who came out to help in the probe.
Barr also said Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be part of the process, which is a good thing. But the attorney general should also include the leadership of the House and Senate Committees related to the probe — Judiciary, Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees as representatives of the American people in our quest for the truth.
Trump and the Republicans in Congress have now been asking for the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to resign not only from the Committee but from Congress for his stand to continue with the probe on collusion. This was Schiff’s response on March 28, 2019:
My colleagues might think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what’s described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s okay. My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help — no, instead that son said he would ‘love’ the help with the Russians.
You might think it was okay that he took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public. You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.
You might think it’s okay that, when it was discovered a year later that they had lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the president is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.
You might think it’s okay that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay. I don’t.
You might think it’s okay that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data, to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.
You might think it’s okay if that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, if they were listening. You might think it’s okay that, later that day, the Russians in fact attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.
You might think that it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back-channel of communication with Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.
You might think it’s okay that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say, in terms of dirt on his opponent.
You might think it’s okay that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI.
You might say that’s all okay. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt, and evidence of collusion.
Now, I have always said that whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime was up to the special counsel and that I would accept his decision, and I do. He is a good an honorable man and he is a good prosecutor.
But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is okay. And the day we do think that’s okay is the day we will look back and say, that is the day America lost its way.
And I’ll tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today. I don’t think it’s okay that during a presidential campaign Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune.
According to the special counsel, hundreds of millions of dollars. I don’t think it’s okay that he concealed it from the public. don’t think it’s okay he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians, even as he was seeking the Russian’s help, the Kremlin’s help, to make money.
I don’t think it’s okay that his attorney lied to our committee. There is a different word for that than collusion and it’s called compromise. And that’s the subject of our hearing today.
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.