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Opinion: The fallout from the Mueller Report exposes a Democratic Party adrift

Driven by enmity for Donald Trump the Democrats have forgotten that the way to beat your opponent in a democracy – is at the ballot box, writes Larry Donnelly.

Larry Donnelly Law lecturer, NUI Galway

“THE INVESTIGATION DID not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”  

This one sentence from the Mueller report, quoted in the now hotly debated letter from Attorney General of the United States, William Barr, to congressional leaders, has effectively taken the mooted impeachment and removal from office of President Donald Trump, off the table.

There is nothing else conceivable at the moment which could convince the necessary number of Republicans in the US Senate to turn on the de facto leader of the GOP.

Since the investigation led by the former director of the FBI Robert Mueller began, leftist academics, journalists and politicians around the world have postulated that it would unearth salacious evidence of collusion between Trump’s malevolent backers and Russians close to Vladimir Putin to promote the former’s election in 2016.  

It is notable that the Mueller investigation utilised 19 lawyers and 40 FBI agents, issued 2,800 subpoenas and 500 search warrants and summoned approximately 500 witnesses.

To call it thorough would be an understatement.

Critics

The journalist and academic Seth Abramson tweeted breathlessly about what he claimed were long-standing ties between Trump and the Russian government. 

Abramson’s book, Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America, accused the president of “compromising American foreign policy in exchange for financial gain and covert election assistance.”

Not to be outdone, Luke Harding of The Guardian wrote a hysterical tome, Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.

Evidently undaunted and unrepentant, both writers continue to tweet in apparent denial of Mueller’s central finding, with no hint of embarrassment.  

Unfortunately, many Democratic politicians also rushed to judgment prior to the report’s release.

Congressman Adam Schiff stated in December 2017 that “the Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help, the Russians gave help, and the president made full use of that help.”

A year later, his colleague, Senator Richard Blumenthal, remarked that “the evidence is pretty clear that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

And only last week, presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said: “You have a president, who in my opinion beyond a shadow of a doubt, sought to, however ham-handedly, collude with the Russian government – a foreign power – to undermine and influence our elections.”

Obstruction

Now that the Mueller report has spoken unequivocally to the contrary, many on the left are asserting that its explicit “non-exoneration” of the president on an obstruction of justice charge warrants further investigations.  

They argue that Attorney General Barr, in light of the previous commentary, is biased on the issue.

Since his letter was made public, Trump’s opponents have proffered that either Barr has misrepresented the contents of the report or that his conclusion that the relevant evidence does not constitute obstruction of justice is inherently flawed.

In short, they are impugning his character by saying that he is either lying about what the report says or is protecting the president.  

This is a highly dubious contention, especially given Barr’s heretofore sterling reputation and the probability that most of the report’s contents will soon be disseminated widely.

Regardless, Democrats are determined to carry on investigating the president and may well come up with additional damaging information.  

But while there is a possibility that President Trump may go to prison at the close of his presidency, he will not be impeached anytime in the near future.

Victim status

Emboldened by his at least partial vindication, Trump will travel the country attacking his foes and playing up his victim status.  

Trump’s base will be sympathetic, but so too might be that small cohort of Americans (we call them the ‘soft Trump’ voters or the ‘persuadables’ ) who don’t feel strongly one way or another about the controversial New York billionaire.

The crucial political question is:

Why would Democrats persist with these investigations when they are highly unlikely to pay political dividends and could well backfire?  

Have they forgotten the not totally apposite, but still dangerous, precedent on this front set by the Republicans’ move against Bill Clinton in 1998?

That president actually benefitted from what the American people regarded as a ‘witch hunt’ about an extramarital affair.

Their answer is that they are doing their job and Mueller’s report may point them in the direction of further criminality. Fair enough.

But it appears to me that the party is collectively making the latest in a series of massive missteps when it comes to Donald Trump.

Democratic contest?

Since the day and hour he was elected, Democrats have been out ‘to get’ the president.

So many are driven by their enmity for him that they seem to have forgotten that the way to ‘get’ an incumbent in a democracy is to beat him at the ballot box, not to drag him kicking and screaming from the Oval Office and put him in shackles.

Unfortunately, at present, in the minds of the men and women in the vast and amorphous entity described as ‘Middle America’ who are going to decide the 2020 presidential election, Democrats are known for despising Donald Trump but not much else.

If they are associated with any policies, by those who will decide the outcome of a contest the world will be watching as never before, it is with ardently defending abortion up to the point of birth and with advocating a “green new deal” that, whatever its merits, is wholly unrealistic and would inflict significant short-term damage to the economies of several vital Electoral College states.  

This might be unpleasant or offensive to some, but it is political truth nonetheless.

Refusing to draw a line under an investigation that didn’t go the way they were regrettably convinced it would, by the unhinged anti-Trumpers, far left-wingers and conspiracy theorists in their midst will broadly confirm the doubts swing voters already have about the Democratic Party.

My unsolicited advice to a party that I have long belonged to (but that has been working overtime to disenchant me and the other moderates recently) is this: Jettison the impeachment fantasy and suppress the Trump hatred that fuels it.  

Instead, go out and defeat a president who disgraces and embarrasses our country every day the old-fashioned way.

We shall see whether Democrats favour electability or excitability as they select a nominee endeavouring to do just that.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston attorney, a Law Lecturer at NUI Galway and a political columnist with TheJournal.ie.

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About the author:

Larry Donnelly  / Law lecturer, NUI Galway

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