In advance of the release of such parts of the Mueller Report as we get to see, I am going to try to summarize what we know. Two stipulations before I begin. First, I am trying to get clear about what we know, not make moral or political judgments about its significance. Second, I am going to rely on what I believe is well known. If someone wants to say, for example, that the indictments brought by Mueller against Russians are simply invented out of whole cloth, or even that there is no one named Robert Mueller nor has there been any investigation conducted by this fictional character, I have nothing to say in response, save Go with God.
All right, let us start simple:
1. Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. He lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College.
2. Agents of the Russian government sought to influence the outcome of the election to the detriment of Hillary Clinton both by hacking into email accounts and by social media efforts.
3. There is no direct evidence at all that the efforts by the Russians swayed so much as a single vote. There is also no direct evidence that either the Democratic or the Republican Party or the two candidates and their campaign staffs by their efforts swayed so much as a single vote. That is the nature of the secret ballot. There have been credibly confirmed efforts criminally to sway American elections, most recently right here in good ole Carolina in the NC 9th CD, but not in the most recent presidential election.
4. We can infer that Mueller did not find evidence of a conspiracy involving the Russian agents and Donald Trump or those associated with him to influence the election. We can infer that because, although Department of Justice regulations would have barred Mueller from indicting Trump for such a crime, it is impossible to imagine that such evidence, if Mueller had it, would not also have implicated those around Trump, and Mueller says there are no further indictments to come from him.
5. Did Trump and those around him collude with the Russians to influence the campaign? “Collude” is not a legal term of art, it is an ordinary English word. Did Trump and those around him know about the efforts of the Russians? Yes. They were told so in the email that triggered the Trump Tower meeting. There is other evidence, but that will suffice. Did Trump approve and encourage the Russian actions? Yes. How do I know? I watched him do so on national TV [“Russia, if you are listening, etc. etc.”] Let me pause to emphasize this. Suppose Trump had vehemently denied knowing anything about hacked emails and Russia. And suppose Mueller and his team had unearthed a handwritten note from Trump to someone in Russia, with his DNA on it, saying “Russia, if you’re listening etc. etc.” From an evidentiary standpoint, there is no difference between the two. They would have dramatically different psychological effects, but that is a different matter.
Is this collusion? Well, that depends on how you use the word. If you use at as a synonym for “conspire, as defined by law” then the answer appears to be no. If you use it to mean “know about and encourage,” then the answer is yes.
6. Did Trump obstruct justice by seeking, with corrupt intent, to interfere with or terminate Mueller’s investigation? How do I know? Because Trump told me so [and also everyone else in the world] on Lester Holt’s show. And also because he tried to get Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and he ordered Don McGahn to fire Mueller, etc. etc.
So, I conclude that Trump colluded with the Russians but did not, so far as we know, conspire with them, that Trump obstructed justice, that the Russians tried to influence the American election, and that we have no idea whether they succeeded.
Why do I care? First, because elections are one of the very few tools that people like me have to change this country, limited though those tools are. And Second, because I hate Donald Trump and would enjoy seeing him humiliated and brought low.
Meanwhile, I wait to see what of the Mueller Report will be released.