Bob Mueller has spoken. And there is the proverbial good, bad and ugly to take away from the special counsel’s report.
Let’s start with the good that came out of this ugly episode in modern American history. For all Americans, but especially for Latins and immigrants living in the United States, there are relevant instructional observations here. Prime among them: the system worked.
Despite President Trump’s predictably gloating reaction that Mueller’s investigation represented an “illegal takedown,” it was anything but that. Mueller’s stoic comportment, and that of his prosecutorial assistants, was impeccable. The world’s most powerful man railed against them as “thirteen angry Democrats.” He inveighed daily against Mueller himself, a public servant of unimpeachable integrity, as the leader of a “witch hunt.”
Mueller did not flinch. He and his team did not leak. He conducted his investigation in accordance with the instructions he was given, and despite the maelstrom of criticism from the President, he remained faithful to his assigned task.
In this, the rule of law has been strengthened in an America where the President himself seeks frequently to undermine it.
Yet another good result of the investigation is that it appears to put to rest any question the President actually colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election. While partisan Democrats may bemoan this conclusion - and certainly the hundreds of contacts Trump campaign members had with Russian political operatives provided plenty of reason to believe collusion occurred - Americans should take comfort that their president appears not to have crossed such a serious red line.
The old saying “he who lies down with dogs, awakes with fleas” may be operative regarding Trump and his now six convicted confidants, but Mueller found he did not collude with the Russians. From a national security perspective, that is a positive result.
A third good outcome of the report concerns the issue of obstruction of justice. The Special Counsel found there was enough evidence that the President and his team purposely obfuscated, misdirected or dissembled regarding the truth, that he kicked the prosecutorial decision to Attorney General William Barr. Barr’s letter to Congress yesterday stated that he did not see sufficient evidence to charge the President with obstruction of justice.
This may not, however, be the final word. Certainly, Congressional committees and possibly the notoriously independent Southern District of New York prosecutors may yet revisit this question.
For American immigrants who may come from countries where all-powerful leaders just bury inconvenient investigations, the fact that the U.S. legislative and judicial branches have their own rules-based brand of sunlight disinfectant is good news. Our checks and balances still work.
Now let’s turn to the bad. For the President's many opponents who had been betting that Mueller’s report would give them grounds for impeachment, that ship appears to have sailed. Yet even in this case, there is a silver lining. An impeachment would be a horribly wrenching national experience and continue to deepen the polarization of American politics. I, for one, am pleased we will be spared that mudfest.
Another negative aspect of the report, which will undoubtedly become public and read the world over, is the damage to the prestige of the U.S. presidency. While Trump is technically not guilty of collision or obstruction of justice, Mueller’s report and Barr’s four-page letter to Congress indicate clearly that there were undeniable grounds for suspicion that our President and his team had acted illegally. Neither Hillary Clinton not Barack Obama ordered the campaign to have so many contacts with Russians. Trump’s people were beyond interested in smearing their opposition during 2016 and several are now going to jail for lying about it.
Moreover, the sheer the tawdriness of the past two years, to include paying porn stars hush money, attacking gold star families, and even insulting dead men like war hero John McCain, have all cheapened and coarsened the American presidency. World leaders don’t have to worry about Trump’s principles. If he likes you, as apparently he likes the genocidal dictator in Pyongyang, that’s enough to get your sanctions reversed or your “deal” done.
This is, then, the undeniable ugly of what must be perceived in political terms as a win for Donald Trump. Sportswriters say a team got an “ugly win.” That is what Trump got on Sunday. His malign character, his failure to grasp traditional American values, and his relentlessly self-serving instincts add up to what will be seen by historians as a shameful period in American leadership. No economic indicators can cover up that reality.
One final thought: Mueller started his career in public service by volunteering to go from the eating clubs of Princeton University to the jungles of Vietnam as a Marine Platoon Commander. As a prosecutor and a distinguished FBI Director he remained 'semper fidelis', always faithful to his duty.
As a Marine Corps veteran and American Ambassador, I can assure not just immigrants, but all Americans, that there are more Muellers than Trumps out there. And that is a very good thing.