The Democrats face a huge setback as they may have banked on using an adverse report as the basis to seek the President’s impeachment.
Contrary to expectations, special counsel Robert Mueller’s report didn’t find that Donald Trump had conspired with Russia to swing his election. While not exonerating the US President, the conclusions on the report, as drawn by attorney-general William Barr, have far-reaching implications politically for the United States. The A-G may be the chief law officer, but he’s also a member of the executive branch, and his report to the US Congress claims Mr Trump may be in the clear in the strict legal sense. In fairness to him, however, Mr Barr states: “While this report does not conclude the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Russia’s huge social media army could have worked overtime to try and get their favoured candidate elected through disinformation and may even have hacked Hillary Clinton’s personal emails in order to promote Mr Trump’s candidature.
What the Mueller report may be saying is that Mr Trump isn’t to blame for any of Russia’s actions even if it doesn’t clear Mr Trump of obstruction of justice. The special counsel has said there would be no more indictments in the Russian poll interference probe. The Democrats face a huge setback as they may have banked on using an adverse report as the basis to seek the President’s impeachment. Calls will go out to make the Mueller report public, even as a debate over its contents will rage on. It is, however, apparent that Mr Trump, his kin and aides may have got away with skirting on thin ice with regard to his campaign. There may be a huge chasm between what is legally allowed and what is morally right. But it is unlikely that such considerations have ever been dealt with seriously by a maverick campaigner who came into it as if the presidential election was a reality show, and ended up winning it.
The possibility of a successful Trump re-election campaign can’t be ruled out, and that will be the crux of the issue haunting the Democrats and others around the world who have looked askance at Mr Trump’s authoritarian rule. The lesson to learn is not to allow the depredations of people using online platforms and troll farms to influence elections, and India is one country that has already acted in this direction with appeals and directions to the Internet giants. Within America, this raises questions about the decision-making process in the justice department, but that is an issue for all democracies where the powers of the executive arm can extend to what its law officers may decide on matters like whether there was obstruction of justice, as suspected in Donald Trump’s case. Mr Mueller’s report “sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved” the matter of whether the incumbent US President committed an obstruction-of-justice offence while seven other defendants pleaded guilty.