President Donald Trump has been gloating over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited final report for the Russia investigation, boasting on Twitter that it showed “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.” And much of the right-wing media has been echoing that assertion. But conservative journalist Max Boot has a very different perspective, explaining in his Monday column for the Washington Post why he doesn’t see Mueller’s final report as a total vindication of Trump and his associates.
“Trump has gotten a big and unexpected political boost from the end of the Mueller investigation,” Boot asserts. “What he did not get was a clean bill of ethical health.”
Boot writes that although Mueller evidently concluded that the Trump campaign’s actions in 2016 “did not rise to the level of ‘conspiracy’ or ‘coordination’ with ‘the Russian government,’” there are still many reasons why Trump and his associates are hardly spotless.
For example, Boot writes, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort “shared campaign polling data with a business associate linked to Russian intelligence”—and Trump “had been trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, and his attorney, Michael Cohen, had lied to Congress about this.” Boot adds that “Trump himself called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mails (‘Russia, if you’re listening’) on the very day when Russian intelligence hackers first tried to do so.”
Boot writes that “in the absence of the full Mueller report…. we need a lot more information” about “Trump-Russia contacts” in 2016. And the columnist stresses that “Congress needs to read the full Mueller report and hear from Mueller himself about why the special counsel thought it was such a close call as to whether Trump obstructed justice. Barr’s summary makes clear that not all of the reasons are yet public. There are myriad other details in the Mueller report that may prove more damning than the bland summary Barr issued, even if they don’t change the conclusions.”
Boot writes that “Mueller’s findings were hardly the complete vindication that the president claimed,” stressing that although “Trump may not have ‘conspired’ or ‘coordinated’ with the Russian government,” he “definitely welcomed its interference in the U.S. election.”
And he mentions that Trump and his associates have had legal concerns beyond the Russia probe. Nonetheless, Boot concludes, the only “punishment” Trump might be facing in the near future is the 2020 presidential election.
“Don’t forget that Cohen is going to prison for hush money payments that, according to federal prosecutors in New York, were made ‘at the direction of’ Trump,” Boot notes. “But if there is any punishment for Trump’s consistent advancement of his own interests above the United States’, it will almost certainly have to wait till November 2020.”