“No collusion. No obstruction.”
President Trump has chanted those words for months now, insisting that is the prime finding of the now-completed Russia investigation. He’s bellowed them in speeches, he’s shouted them at reporters, and he’s tweeted them.
But make no mistake, Trump’s claim is not true. It is a lie.
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If you take one thing away from the extraordinary congressional testimony of Robert Mueller, the man whose team wrote the report, it should be that simple truth: Trump has not been exonerated.
To the contrary, Mueller’s report found that Team Trump had a lot of contact with Russians who wanted Trump to win the 2016 election. The report showed that Trump’s insiders, while never entering an actual conspiracy to promote Russian efforts to help, nonetheless welcomed them.
And when the investigation was launched, President Trump repeatedly discouraged cooperation and refused to be interviewed, even as people with ties to his team misled and lied to the special counsel. These are facts.
So why wasn’t Trump charged with obstruction of justice when almost any other American likely would have been? Mueller says that option was never on the table — no matter what the facts might show — because the Department of Justice long ago concluded it would be unconstitutional to indict a sitting president.
To be clear, Mueller is not saying Trump should be indicted or impeached. He’s simply saying that choice was not in play and it is not his call to make now.
All this searing testimony produced no visible effect on the Republicans questioning Mueller. One after another they tried to impugn the special counsel’s motives, echoed the call of “witch hunt,” steered away from any discussion of the troubling evidence, and played the role of a faithful choir in the Church of Trump.
And of course, they came out of the hearing calling Mueller and his report hopelessly compromised by alleged and unproven Democratic influence.
But even in Washington, facts still matter. And the facts in the Mueller report, and now in his congressional testimony — as stumbling, even bumbling, as it seemed at times — paint a damning picture of a president neck-deep in highly questionable behavior … no matter what Trump and his acolytes claim.