The Mueller Report: Presented With Related Materials by the ‘Washington Post’ 
Simon and Schuster, 736 pp., £12.99, May 2019, 978 1 4711 8617 2Show More
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I met​ Carter Page. And who’s he? For anyone not up to speed with the endless comings and goings in Trumpworld, the Washington Post edition of the Mueller report provides a helpful guide to its teeming cast of characters.

Carter Page: An energy consultant with experience working in Moscow, Carter Page was named a national security adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign in March 2016. In July, he travelled to Moscow, where he delivered a speech critical of US foreign policy and greeted a top Russian official. The FBI received secret permission to conduct surveillance of Page starting in October 2016, after convincing a federal judge that evidence suggested he might be a foreign agent.

On his way back from that trip to Moscow, Page stopped off in the UK – in Cambridge, to attend a conference on the impact of presidential election campaigns on the foreign policy of the eventual winners. The star attraction was Madeleine Albright, who appeared along with a pretty respectable list of senior academics and other political figures. It was obviously thought a good idea to get someone from the Trump campaign, given that in July 2016 there was a small but not insignificant chance he might end up as president. The person who turned up was Carter Page. None of the people I spoke to seemed entirely sure who he was or what he was doing there. He sat through two days of discussions about lobbying and geopolitics, China and Russia, Bush and Iraq, Obama and bin Laden, and he barely said a word.

This conference is now the subject of some elaborate conspiracy theories. For those who think the real scandal of the Russia inquiry is not the behaviour of Trump and his team, but the behaviour of the FBI, which seems to have been fixated on possible ties between Trump and Russia long before October 2016, the claim is that the FBI used his trip to Cambridge as a way of reeling him in. If that’s what was happening, it completely passed me by. Even so, Page’s presence did seem pretty odd at the time. This is not because he was in any way sinister. Quite the opposite: as he sat silently through the sessions, he wore a consistent expression of Forrest Gump-like bemusement. The only time I heard him speak was over lunch, when someone mentioned an article in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof. What we needed to know, Page piped up, was that the New York Times was prejudiced against his boss. We really didn’t need him to come all the way from Russia to tell us that. The mystery was what he could possibly be doing on the Trump campaign in the first place. Frankly, he didn’t seem capable of advising anyone of the best way out of a paper bag.

The Mueller report has nothing to say about Page’s trip to Cambridge, because accusations of dirty ops against Trump staffers are not part of its remit. (That investigation is still to come, god help us.) But it has plenty to say about his trip to Moscow. In 2013 Page had formed a relationship with Victor Podobnyy, a Russian intelligence officer working covertly in the US. In a taped conversation, Podobnyy said it was clear Page wanted ‘to earn lots of money’. He drew him on by ‘feed[ing] him empty promises’ of business contacts, including with energy companies like Gazprom. In 2015 Podobnyy was charged along with two other Russian intelligence officers with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. The criminal complaint detailed Podobnyy’s interactions with Page, who was identified simply as ‘Male-1’. The Mueller report goes on to recount an incident that is eerily reminiscent of a scene in North by Northwest: ‘Page was aware that he was the individual described as “Male-1” … Page later spoke with a Russian government official at the United Nations General Assembly and identified himself so that the official would understand he was “Male-1”. Page told the official that he “didn’t do anything” [redacted].’ The last part of that final sentence is redacted because it concerns something still under a grand jury investigation. Who knows what happened next? The Hitchcock version might have been interesting.

As it was, in January 2016 Page volunteered for the Trump campaign on an unpaid basis. He had no evident qualifications: a few years at Merrill Lynch, a stint in Moscow, an unpublishable PhD on oil and gas in the ex-Soviet Union. But he offered to broker connections between Trump and senior Russian officials. He also dangled the prospect of a direct meeting with Putin. This was dressed up as a means of achieving a ‘game-changing effect … in bringing the end of the new Cold War’. Over the next few months, Page started supplying the campaign with talking points about Russia policy and helped provide an outline for an energy policy speech Trump gave in May 2016. Off the back of Page’s apparent status as Trump’s Russia expert, he was invited in July to speak at a commencement ceremony at the New Economic School in Moscow. Page tried to offer Trump in his place, but the candidate wasn’t interested. So Page went himself and delivered a speech critical of US policy towards Russia, particularly what he called the ‘hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratisation, inequality, corruption and regime change’. He also met with representatives of various energy companies with a view to possible business deals. He was apparently still interested in making lots of money.

From Moscow, Page fed back reports to the campaign of the enthusiasm for Trump at all levels of the Russian government and of a strong desire ‘to work together towards devising better solutions to the vast range of current international problems’. The response of Trump’s team to this message is redacted. Mueller’s investigators were not able to corroborate Page’s account of his meetings in Moscow. ‘Page’s activities in Russia – as described in his emails to the campaign – were not fully explained,’ the report concludes. But when the press got wind of the trip, following Page’s attempt to tout his Russia contacts at the Republican National Convention, Trump’s team quickly distanced itself from him. On 23 September, a spokesman told Yahoo News that Page had ‘no role’ with the Trump campaign, which was ‘not aware of any of his activities, past or present’. The following day, Page was formally removed from the campaign, which is a little hard to square with his having no role. This did not prevent him from continuing to tout his credentials following Trump’s election victory. During the transition he sought a position in the incoming administration on the basis of his extensive experience in meeting with ‘top world leaders’. He got no response.

Despite the many loose ends in this account, it did help me to clear up some of the mystery surrounding Page. The reason he seemed so implausible as a presidential adviser is that he wasn’t really an adviser. He was a chancer, like so many of the people around Trump, testing the waters and looking for a way to big himself up. The main thing he was supplying was braggadocio, which is the primary currency in Trumpworld. This meant that he was able to fit right in and it also meant that he was entirely disposable. Given Page’s previous contacts with Russian intelligence you would think they might have considered it something of a coup to land their man inside Trump’s campaign. But when he arrived in Moscow in July 2016, senior Russian officials quickly disabused their colleagues of that idea: Page was just a hanger-on. A top-level meeting was called off after Putin’s press secretary sent an email: ‘I have read about [Page]. Specialists say he is far from being the main one. So I better not initiate a meeting in the Kremlin.’

The national security adviser who has no real advice to give might sound anomalous. But in fact it perfectly captures the way Trump likes to operate. What comes through from the report’s painstaking reconstruction of Trump’s Russian escapades is that he was not really in the advice business: no one, not his policy aides or his lawyers or even his various chiefs of staff, was ever able to steer him consistently towards any particular course of action. Trump does not do counsel. What he does is tests of loyalty. He wants to know what you are willing to do for him and what others are willing to do for you. This makes almost every interaction between Trump and the people around him – friend or foe – at some level opportunistic. Nothing is fixed and there are few rules. The opportunity is always there to make it big if you can strike the right note. So too is the opportunity to get screwed.

No counsel means no conspiracy. The headline conclusion of the Mueller report that ‘the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or co-ordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities’ follows from the absence of forethought in Trump’s political method and the absence of a fixed structure in his chain of command. The report opens with a careful definition of what constitutes conspiracy. Conspiracy requires ‘co-ordination’. Someone needs to have a plan. Others need to act on it. Opportunism is not enough. As the report says, ‘we understood co-ordination to require an agreement – tacit or express – between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions.’ Mueller is scathing about the repeated bandying about of the word ‘collusion’ by various interested parties. This includes Trump’s acting attorney general and the president himself (‘No collusion! No obstruction!’). The word has no independent legal meaning. Either it means conspiracy or it means nothing.

One of the ironies of the Mueller report is that the absence of co-ordination left the investigators with a clearer understanding of what was going on in Trumpworld than the people they were investigating had. As the former Trump aide Michael Caputo said on CNN after emerging from his interview with Mueller’s team, ‘I think they know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there.’ Another irony is that some of the people who ended up getting indicted as a result of the investigation were trapped by their activities from back before they started working for Trump: outside the political world it was much easier to see what they had been getting up to. The former campaign chief Paul Manafort was caught out by the lies he told about his previous political consultancy work in Ukraine. Manafort had joined Trump’s team in part because he thought it would give him leverage over his old Ukrainian contacts, who he believed still owed him a large sum of money. In the end, it was those old contacts that gave Mueller leverage over Manafort. But perhaps the deepest irony of all is that in clearing Trump of conspiracy the Mueller report poses a direct challenge to his worldview. Trump gets a pass because conspiracies are hard – hard to co-ordinate, hard to prove. Yet Trump, like all conspiracy theorists, makes the mistake of assuming that they are easy, which is why he sees them everywhere. Really we should start calling people like Trump ‘collusion theorists’. What they imagine to be everywhere is something that, on any serious burden of proof, doesn’t actually exist.

Of course​ , the opportunism was not all on one side. The Russians were chancing it too. The Mueller report opens with a bald statement of fact: ‘The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.’ Initially that interference had no particular end in view beyond sowing discord and confusion. Fake information was pumped into the system in order to undermine faith in the electoral process. But at some point in early 2016 the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) switched strategies and began a targeted operation that ‘favoured presidential candidate Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Clinton’. Trump’s campaign not only benefited. It also co-operated, in that members of his team often retweeted posts from IRA-controlled Twitter accounts accusing the Clinton campaign of being involved in voter fraud. What it did not do was conspire. IRA-controlled accounts helped to organise political rallies in support of Trump, and Trump sometimes expressed his personal gratitude for these events, ‘THANK YOU for your support Miami! My team just shared photos from your TRUMP SIGN WAVING DAY yesterday! I love you’ he wrote on Facebook on 23 August 2016 about an IRA-generated event. But Trump and his team never indicated that they knew where this information was coming from. They didn’t care – and not caring is a good way not to get caught.

If there was co-ordination, it was between WikiLeaks and the Russian intelligence directorate, the GRU, as they plotted to share stolen emails from the Clinton campaign. Subsequently, both the GRU and WikiLeaks went to great lengths to conceal their communications, which is more than Trump’s people ever did. But Julian Assange made little effort to hide what the original plan was. As early as November 2015 he had written in a Twitter chat that ‘we believe it would be much better for GOP to win … Dems+Media+liberals woudl [sic] then form a bloc to rein in their worst qualities … With Hillary in charge, GOP will be pushing for her worst qualities, dems+media+neoliberals will be mute … She’s a bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath.’ Well, I suppose it takes one to know one.

The closest Mueller gets to evidence that Trump’s team were knowingly involved in this effort was the notorious meeting at Trump Tower on 9 June 2016 that took place after an intermediary claiming to act on behalf of an agent of the Russian government had offered to supply a cache of derogatory information about Clinton, and Donald Trump Jr had responded in a tweet: ‘If it’s what you say, I love it.’ The meeting was attended by Trump Jr, Manafort and Jared Kushner. All of them insisted afterwards it had been a waste of time. Mueller tried to establish whether there had been an expectation inside the campaign that the meeting was likely to produce what was promised, and though quite a lot of this section of the report is redacted, there is enough to suggest the usual pattern: no one was expecting much because everyone operated on the basis that you never know what to expect. Trump’s people were also helped by their hazy knowledge of what the law required, given that one of the things that defines conspiracy is the prior knowledge that the behaviour in question is unlawful. This would make a successful prosecution very difficult. The Mueller report concludes that investigators ‘did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted “wilfully”, i.e. with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct’.

The other problem was deciding whether the offer of ‘documents and information’ from a foreign source would constitute an illegal campaign contribution. The law says that such a contribution does not have to be in the form of money – it can simply be a ‘thing of value’. But what is the value of information? In an age of increasingly open information, can you put a figure on it? Would its value be affected – either increased or reduced – if the information turned out not to be true? As at other points in the Mueller report, one gets the distinct impression here that its authors are indicating that some things are above their pay grade. If campaign finance law is going to be fit for purpose in the age of Twitter and WikiLeaks, of fake news and open-source software then that’s a job for legislators, not special prosecutors. Your problem, Congress!

The Trump Tower meeting was one of a number of encounters between Trump’s representatives and the Russians that look fishy but couldn’t be pinned down. Often what brings protection from further scrutiny is the element of farce that the Trump style of politics introduces into proceedings. My favourite moment comes from the meeting that took place on 13 December 2016 between Kushner and Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian-government-owned bank VEB, which was (and still is) subject to Treasury Department sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The occasion had been set up by the Russian ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, who was keen to introduce Kushner to someone who had a direct line to Putin. What did Kushner think the purpose of the meeting was? ‘Kushner stated in an interview that he did not engage in any preparation for the meeting and that no one on the transition team even did a Google search for Gorkov’s name.’ Nor did Kushner recall that there was any discussion with Gorkov about VEB or the sanctions regime more generally. In fact, only one significant detail emerged of what passed between them, in a scene that could have been scripted by the Coen brothers. ‘At the start of the meeting, Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts: a painting and a bag of soil from the town in Belarus where Kushner’s family originated.’ There’s another ‘thing of value’ it would be hard to put a price on.

Mueller’s forensic techniques and the Trump campaign’s chaotic practices don’t suit each other. It’s tempting to speculate what might have been produced if this kind of scrutiny had been applied to the Clinton campaign instead. In many ways, things would have looked a lot worse. Clinton’s default mode of behaviour was legalistic and secretive; she liked to conduct her business on a ‘need to know’ basis. If Clinton had something to hide, she would have buried it deep, meaning that if you ever did find it, there would be ample evidence of foresight. Trump chose to hide his secrets in plain view. But what saves Trump from the charge of conspiracy is what damns him on the charge of obstruction. Mueller’s report comes in two parts, and so does its headline conclusion. It finds for Trump on the question of whether or not there was co-ordination with the Russians, but on the question of obstruction it refuses to reach such a judgment. ‘The evidence we obtained about the president’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’ How could it exonerate him, when there is so much evidence of Trump sticking his finger in? But you need a plan to conspire. You don’t need a plan to obstruct: you just need to be wilfully obstructive. Children can be wilful, even if they are incapable of organising a criminal conspiracy. That’s what Trump was, in spades.

Once Trump​ discovered that Russian interference in his election was under investigation by the FBI, he did everything in his power to keep the spotlight away from him personally. This might look like a strong indication that there was something in the Russia connection he wanted to hide. But that is not how Trump’s mind works. His greatest fear seems to be that he might appear beholden to anyone. It’s a pathological aversion. He can’t stand the idea of being seen to owe anything: not loyalty, not money, not explanations. He demands these things; he doesn’t have them demanded of him. So to be under investigation would leave Trump doubly exposed: it might create the impression that he was in the pocket of the Russians; and it might create the impression that he was under the power of the investigators. He became fixated on getting James Comey, director of the FBI, to issue a statement declaring that he himself was not under investigation, and as the Mueller report relates, Comey repeatedly reassured him that this was indeed the case. But that wasn’t the point. Trump doesn’t want to be told, in private, that he’s not under investigation; he needs the world to know it.

On 27 January 2017 Trump invited Comey to a private dinner at the White House. According to Comey’s account of the occasion, at one point during the meal the president said: ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’ According to the Mueller report,

Comey did not respond and the conversation moved on to other topics, but the president returned to the subject of Comey’s job at the end of the dinner and repeated ‘I need loyalty.’ Comey responded: ‘You will always get honesty from me.’ The president said: ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’ Comey said: ‘You will get that from me.’

When Comey’s account of the dinner became public after his firing, the president and his advisers denied he had ever asked Comey for loyalty. They even denied that the president had invited him to dinner, saying the occasion had been Comey’s idea because he wanted to plead for his job. These are lies: the president’s daily diary confirmed that it was Trump who had extended the invitation to Comey. What is being covered up here is not that Trump asked Comey for loyalty. It’s that Comey ultimately refused to deliver what was asked. The person who had failed the Trump loyalty test was Trump himself, because he had ended up as the supplicant. That’s what he wants to conceal, at any cost.

Trump eventually fired Comey after the FBI director appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2017 and refused to answer questions about whether the president was under investigation. The letter the president drafted with his aide Stephen Miller to convey the news to Comey began:

Dear Director Comey … While I greatly appreciate your informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation concerning the fabricated and politically motivated allegations of a Trump-Russia relationship with respect to the 2016 Presidential Election, please be informed that I, along with members of both parties and, most importantly, the American public, have lost faith in you as director of the FBI and you are hereby terminated.

When it was pointed out to him that putting the Russia investigation upfront would make it look like that was the reason for the firing, Trump got his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, to draft a memo explaining why Comey had to be fired. Still, he told them to ‘put the Russia stuff in the memo,’ meaning they needed to mention the fact that Trump was not under investigation. Trump then put out a press release saying that Comey had been fired ‘on the clear recommendation’ of both Rosenstein and Sessions. He also summoned FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to the White House and told him he had fired Comey because of the decisions Comey had made regarding the Clinton email investigation during the campaign. At the same time, ‘the president asked McCabe if he was aware that Comey had told the president three times that he was not under investigation.’ When the press started to question the reasons for Comey’s firing, Trump called Rosenstein and told him to give a press conference in which the deputy attorney general would confirm that firing Comey was something the Justice Department had asked for. Rosenstein refused, on the grounds that he would have to tell the truth: that it had been the president’s idea. Later that same evening Trump’s then press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave a press conference in which he insisted: ‘It was all [Rosenstein]. No one from the White House. It was a DOJ decision.’

The problem for Trump is that he can’t be seen to ask for what he doesn’t get. But at the same time he can’t stop asking for it, because he still wants it. So he lies. And he gets other people to lie. And he tries to get his chief law officers to lie. Trump tied himself in similar knots in his attempt to deal with the decision taken by Sessions to recuse himself from the original Russia investigation, despite Trump telling him not to. The lack of fealty on the part of his chief law officer nagged at Trump like an itch he could never properly scratch. He kept coming back to it. After Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump took his anger out on Sessions. According to notes written by Sessions’s chief of staff, Jody Hunt, who was present at the meeting, the president said: ‘This is terrible Jeff. It’s all because you recused. AG [attorney general] is supposed to be the most important appointment. Kennedy appointed his brother. Obama appointed Holder. I appointed you and you recused yourself. You left me on an island. I can’t do anything.’ He couldn’t even fire him – at least not then – because he knew how bad it would look. Trump did not keep these views to his inner circle. In late December 2017 he gave an interview to the New York Times, in which he was asked whether Eric Holder – who had once described himself as Obama’s ‘wingman’ – had been a more loyal attorney general than Sessions. ‘I don’t want to get into loyalty,’ Trump replied, ‘but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the things they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest.’ Trump doesn’t want to talk about loyalty, but he’s happy to talk about betrayal to anyone who will listen.

Mueller gives careful consideration to the question of whether someone can be considered to be obstructing justice if the behaviour in question takes place in public. So much of Trump’s anger and frustration and so many of his thinly veiled threats were in plain view. If he’s venting in the pages of the New York Times and on Twitter, can that be called witness intimidation? This issue was particularly acute in the case of those people who threatened to betray him in even worse ways than Sessions, above all his one-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, whom the Mueller team managed to turn. In the end, Mueller decides that Trump’s style of politics is not a get-out when it comes to obstruction:

Many of the president’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of co-operation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, occurred in public view. While it may be more difficult to establish that public-facing acts were motivated by a corrupt intent, the president’s power to influence actions, persons and events is enhanced by his unique ability to attract attention through the use of mass communications. And no principle of law excludes public acts from the scope of obstruction statutes. If the likely effect of the acts is to intimidate witnesses or alter their testimony, the justice system’s integrity is equally threatened.

The no-boundaries chaos in Trumpworld can’t save him here. If anything, it makes him more vulnerable to legal challenge. Just as there can be no doubt that the Russians were trying to sow discord in US politics, even if it wasn’t always clear to what end, so there can be no doubt that Trump was trying to sow discord in the US justice system. So what if it didn’t always make sense? It didn’t have to make sense to achieve its purpose.

The other thing Mueller has to consider is whether Trump’s actions pass the test of intent needed for a criminal charge. In each case under review, the report tries to decide whether there was an obstructive act, whether there was also an ‘official proceeding’ – such as a grand jury investigation – that might have been impeded by that act and, further, whether the president or his associates intended the act to obstruct the proceeding. The third is the hardest one to demonstrate. Yet in a number of cases the report makes it clear that it is reasonable to infer foreknowledge on Trump’s part that the act would obstruct the proceeding. You can never be certain: so, for instance, when Trump said during Manafort’s trial that ‘it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort’ and went on to describe the Mueller inquiry as a ‘rigged witch hunt’, it could reasonably be seen as an attempt to influence the jury. But, as the report says, ‘there are alternative explanations for the president’s comments, including that he felt genuinely sorry for Manafort.’ The likeliest explanation – certainly the one that is most consistent with Trump’s wider conduct as described in the Mueller report – is that the president felt sorry for himself. But in that case the reasonable inference is that his intention was to disrupt proceedings, not simply to pass on his sympathies.

On 14 February 2017, when Comey still had his job, Trump held a meeting with him in the White House to try to persuade him to drop the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn, who had resigned the day before from his post as national security adviser. Flynn quit following the exposure of his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak –contacts he had previously denied. The day before his resignation, Trump had asked Flynn during a flight on Air Force One whether he had lied about all this in a conversation he had had with Vice President Pence. Flynn said he might have forgotten the details, but he didn’t think he had lied. ‘OK,’ Trump is said to have responded. ‘That’s fine. I got it.’ He had his reassurance: Flynn was not going to betray him. In his meeting with Comey, Trump asked the FBI to let the matter drop. ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ We only have Comey’s word for this because Trump cleared the room beforehand. Trump denies he said it. Who to believe? We don’t need to decide. After the event Trump denied that he had even asked to speak alone with Comey, which contradicts the evidence of the people who had to leave the room. ‘The president’s decision to meet one-on-one with Comey,’ the Mueller report finds,

contravened the advice of the White House Counsel that the president should not communicate directly with the Department of Justice to avoid any appearance of interfering in law enforcement activities. And the president later denied that he cleared the room and asked Comey to ‘let Flynn go’ – a denial that would have been unnecessary if he believed his request was a proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

We should not be surprised that Trump didn’t take the advice he was given. Nor should we be surprised that he didn’t want to admit he had asked for something from a powerful man who then denied it to him. But that doesn’t matter. Mueller is clear: there is enough here to show that Trump knew he was doing something wrong in the eyes of the law.

So why​ doesn’t Mueller make the case for a criminal prosecution? His reasons are primarily political, though they are couched in legalistic terms, within a system where the line between law and politics is not easy to draw. His concern is with the unintended consequences of recommending the indictment of a sitting president. It might do more harm than good. ‘We recognised that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting president,’ the report states, ‘would place burdens on the president’s capacity to govern and potentially pre-empt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.’ At the same time, it notes that ‘a president does not have immunity after he leaves office.’ Furthermore, given ‘the facts known to us, and the strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of the criminal justice system, we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.’ In other words, if Trump weren’t president, he would be prosecuted; when he ceases to be president, he should be prosecuted; while he remains president, other means are available to remove him from office – and that would make a prosecution possible. The Mueller report, even in this redacted form, is damning. Trump is not fit to be president. He has attempted to obstruct the legal system and to intimidate and coerce the people who worked for him. Trump has told people to lie – including people who reported to him in his capacity as president – and he has done it often. The evidence is here. But on the question of whether he should be impeached, Mueller does not speak. That, too, is above his pay grade.

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Vol. 41 No. 13 · 4 July 2019

I have read David Runciman’s review of the Mueller Report twice (LRB, 6 June). Upon my soul, I fail to see that the gravity of the antichrist’s misconduct rises to the levels of President George W. Bush flimflamming us into war with Iraq, or President Obama, in the Awlaki affair, arrogating to his office the power to indict, try, sentence and execute an American citizen.

Elmer T. Eells
Seattle, Washington

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