The Mueller report, to the extent that it has been publicly released, may have pleased Republicans and angered Democrats but it mystifies me.
While the report is clear cut on the issue of collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign, that none was found, on the question of obstruction of justice, the prosecutor saw fit to qualify his conclusion that, although there was no evidence of obstruction of justice either, the president was ‘not exonerated’.
What on earth does that mean?
I am no lawyer, but I was under the impression that a man being tried or investigated for a crime had to be found either guilty or not guilty, and that anything that fell short of those verdicts automatically must by definition be one of ‘not guilty’. My impression was that this was how the law works? In which case, ‘not exonerated’ seems superfluous to requirements and is therefore pointless. I am reminded of that old joke about the benefit of hiring a one-armed-lawyer, namely that he would be unable to avoid a decision by saying “on the one hand ….”
Democrats have rushed to judgment that Mueller has copped out. Well, it was they who pushed for an investigation. The result is what it is. Trump of course is back to his cocky self, as well he might be; he can now serve out the rest of his term under a clear blue sky, and can contemplate running for a second term unclouded by the threat of being undermined by imminent scandal – or at least this particular scandal. I find this disappointing, to say the least, but there are no grounds for regarding Mueller’s findings as politically motivated, as some politicians of a liberal persuasion seem to be implying. The conclusions, from their perspective, just came out ‘wrong’, and while Mueller seems to suggest with that ‘not exonerated’ rider seems to be hinting that something untoward might have gone on, he has not seen fit to spell it out. Suspicious he may be that something in the way of a cover-up did occur, but vague suspicion is no substitution for hard evidence – as any lawyer will tell you.
No, I have not suddenly become an apologist for Trump. But the Democrats would be well advised to find some other horse to flog, one that is not already on its last legs. Trump’s attempts to undermine health care would do for a start – that being the administration’s Achilles heel according to most polls taken to find out what American voters care about most. And Lord knows there are plenty of other topics on which Trump must be considered vulnerable.
In the matter of flogging dead horses, politicians on this side of the pond seem equally adept. The closer Britain gets to pulling out of the European Union the more confused the process of actually doing so seems to become. Parliament has now ‘taken over’ the task from the government. Quite right, too, say a great many observers, although none can tell us what the consequences will be. The cabinet may have been divided, but the same can be said of parliament. In short, one set of incompetent fools has given way to another.
That leaves aside the question of what happens when government and parliament disagree, or more like, cannot decide on what it is they disagree? Who decides then? The Queen? The Archbishop of Canterbury?
There is now a great deal of talk about a general election. But to what purpose? The question of whether or if or when Britain breaks with Europe would remain unresolved, and the EU may no longer be in the mood, if it ever was, to accommodate yet another unseemly British playground brawl. The most popular but unstated reason for an election is that it would open the way for the Tories to get rid of an unpopular and now powerless prime minister. But under what mechanism Mrs. May would be ousted is as problematical as the question of who would replace her. The Tory party is more fractious and divided than any other political institution.
And there is risk in an election: it might just give voters an opportunity to register their resentment with the Tories and let in Mr. Corbyn and a Labour Party that is no clearer about where it stands than the Tories. A Corbyn administration might create an even more nightmarish scenario: a Britain cut loose from Europe with a government committed to nothing but the introduction of a rebranded Marxism.
Could the normally sensible and pragmatic British electorate be so stupid? Yes, I think it could be. Let it not be forgotten that it was those same sensible and pragmatic voters who led us into this unholy mess in the first place, and they would be in no mood for reflection; they would be out for revenge – the massacre for those members of parliament who showed up on the wrong side of the EU fence. Most MPs fear an election for that very reason: an electoral bloodbath.
Trump reigns supreme – for now.
But when it comes to Brexit, all bets are still on, and in a sufficiently bewildering variety to keep the bookmakers happy for months.