Republican politicians and pundits intentionally overstated the extent to which Democrats were banking on Robert Mueller’s testimony. They imagined Trump-haters hanging breathlessly on Mueller’s every word, hoping to find the bombshell that makes the obstruction case against Trump.
But Mueller’s testimony produced no bombshell. And, thus, Fox News was able to describe the hearing as “bombshell-free.” Even the Washington Post ran this headline: “The Mueller bombshell that wasn’t.”
But this is a huge misunderstanding. The Mueller report, itself, is the bombshell. Mueller’s testimony was an attempt to get people to pay attention to the explosion.
Citizens should be outraged by the report. Unfortunately, during Trump’s tenure our country has experienced so much that is outrageous that we have trouble feeling outrage anymore. And in modern America, it’s hard to create outrage with a 448-page report.
Of course, most Americans haven’t read the report. Even FBI Director Christopher Wray admits that he hasn’t read “every single word.”
But do read the Mueller report. Certainly, in places it is slow and dry, but just as in a pornographic novel, the juicy parts are not hard to find.
And the report is juicy. An adversarial Russia interfered extensively in our 2016 election in order to benefit candidate Trump. The Trump campaign was eager to accept help and then worked hard to keep it secret. After Trump became president he tried to shut down the investigation into Russian interference by attempting to fire Mueller and pressure his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to revoke his recusal and take steps to limit the investigation. The fact that he was unsuccessful in these efforts has no impact on their outrageousness.
These charges are so well-founded and serious that during Mueller’s testimony, Republican questioners paid almost no attention to them.
Instead they attacked Mueller. It was painful to watch the Republicans impugn an old warrior and long-time public servant, whose reputation for integrity is stellar. The attacks were personal and mean-spirited. (“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”). They were meant only to divert attention from the extremely likely fact that the president attempted to stop Mueller’s investigation by illegal means.
When the Republicans weren’t attacking Mueller, they focused on obscure details. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio badgered Mueller about why he didn’t charge Joseph Mifsud with lying. Who? This is pure sideshow.
Rather than defending Trump against the allegations, Republicans attacked the integrity of the investigation by questioning its beginnings while ignoring its findings. For example, they mentioned the notorious Steele dossier a number of times. They always call it “unverified,” which Fox News has managed to make synonymous with “bogus.”
While few Americans have read the Mueller report, I count myself in the vanishingly small subset that has read both the report and the Steele dossier. And since Republicans have chosen to use the dossier to attack Mueller’s investigation, it deserves some consideration.
First, “unverified” is not synonymous with “untrue.” Given the nature of the dossier’s sources, Steele himself told The Guardian that he estimated its accuracy at 70 to 90 percent. He gave the notorious “golden shower” episode only a 50/50 chance of accuracy.
But while the dossier is not 100 percent accurate, nearly everything in it is plausible, including the sex parties in St. Petersburg. In fact, the dossier is entirely consistent with what has been discovered to be true about Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attempts to influence the 2016 election.
Talk about a bombshell. As far-fetched as the dossier’s jaw-dropping allegations must have appeared to the first FBI agents who laid eyes on them, clearly the agency had a duty to investigate. Republicans like to call this “spying.”
Republicans focus on the dossier because it distracts attention from what really happened. We should be shocked by Russian interference in our election and doubly shocked by the Trump campaign’s eager cooperation. We should be astounded by Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation and mortified by his attempts to end it. In fact, his obstruction continues.
This is the real bombshell. May our republic survive its detonation.
ABOUT THE WRITER
John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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