Stefanik and the Mueller report

To the editor:

Anyone can read the Mueller report (“http://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf”>www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf). Stefanik’s statement that “the Mueller report was very clear that there was no collusion, no conspiracy” is overstated partisan spin.

Nowhere in the report is the statement, “There was no collusion.” The report reads: “We understood coordination (collusion) 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 or interests. … In that sense … the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government …” (p.10)

Mueller clarifies: “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” (p.10)

Alarmingly, the report notes: “The Office considered whether to charge Trump campaign officials with crimes in connection with the June 9 (Trump Tower) meeting.” (p.193)

Democrats as well as Republicans are relieved that our president was not in a blatant conspiracy with a foreign adversary to undermine our elections. But given the amount of contacts, the business dealings, the lies, the “two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests,” the criminal convictions of Trump associates and Trump’s unprecedented private meetings with and defense of Putin, there is still justifiable concern.

It is notable that Stefanik did not comment on obstruction of justice. Mueller clearly explained the rationale for adhering to the standard that a sitting president should not be charged with a crime. Mueller concluded: “Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct … At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment (of innocence). Accordingly while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” (p.394)

Mueller laid out the many facts/evidence pertaining to criminal obstruction. Mueller understood that our Constitution gives Congress the express duty of presidential oversight.

To her credit, Elise Stefanik, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has spoken out strongly about Russian interference: “It was stunning to read how systemic it was in the Mueller report. This wasn’t just Facebook ads; this wasn’t just disinformation campaigns; this was targeted hacking of the committees, targeted outreach to senior people in presidential campaigns. That should concern every American.”

Will Stefanik speak out against the president, who continues to minimize Russian interference despite indictments of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian businesses for conspiracy to defraud the U.S.? Trump refuses to hold Putin accountable or make any statements or take actions about securing our elections. Trump did state that, in a recent very friendly phone call, Putin smiled when they briefly talked about the “Russian hoax”!

Peggy Wiltberger

Saranac Lake

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