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In July of 2016 — the summer before the election that resulted in Donald Trump becoming our president — the FBI opened an investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
It did so with good cause. Already, several Trump staffers had met with Russians, including Carter Page, a man suspected of being a Russian spy. Trump’s own son, son-in-law and campaign manager had attempted to conspire with Russians by meeting with them in Trump Tower for the express purpose of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, something the president himself now admits.
But the American people heard nothing about any of this before the election. They headed to the polls unaware that one candidate’s campaign was being investigated for conspiring with a hostile foreign power to undermine our election.
In fact, the only investigation the FBI saw fit to disclose to the public was the one about Hillary Clinton’s email, a ginned-up controversy that dominated the media’s coverage of the election. It was this galling double standard (among others) that helped secure Trump’s slender margin of victory.
There is a new urgency to this effort, as we learn more about Trump’s dangerous and erratic behavior.
Now, nearly two years later, we’re on the brink of another election. This one will determine whether the U.S. Congress is controlled by Democrats or Republicans. That is, whether lawmakers will enable Trump’s autocratic instincts, or seek to curb the powers of a president whose only discernible agenda — aside from enriching himself and his donors — is to attack anyone who seeks to hold him accountable, from his own Justice Department to the Fourth Estate.
There is a new urgency to this effort, as we learn more about Trump’s dangerous and erratic behavior. This new information comes not from Mueller, but from the president’s own obviously panic-stricken staffers, who spoke at length with Bob Woodward for his chilling new book, which describes officials scrambling to keep Trump from making disastrous decisions.
One senior official just penned an anonymous op-ed for the New York Times describing the president as so reckless and amoral that his advisors considered invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Curiously, Trump is still being protected by special counsel Robert Mueller, the man who likely has more damning data than anyone else. One of the prevailing theories about the ongoing Russia probe is that Mueller has outmaneuvered the president by working quietly to amass information about him and his many corrupt cronies. The result is a stack of indictments, and a growing list of cooperating witnesses ready to tell what they know about Trump.
But if Mueller remains silent before the midterm election, he will merely be repeating the tragic mistake that FBI officials made before the 2016 election.
That is: withholding from the voters the precise nature of what Trump and his associates did to amass their wealth and power, and how they have sought to obstruct the rule of law.
Trump and his supporters have long maintained that the Russia probe is a hoax. If that’s the case, they should be happy to have Mueller issue a preliminary report. It will only affirm that the president has nothing to hide, right?
Whatever Mueller has uncovered so far, the American people — for whom he and his team work, after all — deserve to know it now, before it’s too late. We deserve to know because we need to make an informed choice at the ballot box.
What voters need is this age of weaponized disinformation is simple: the facts.
We should know if the president, or his team, engaged in criminal acts, especially ones that undermined our free and fair elections. To deny voters this information would be a gross miscarriage of justice.
The familiar complaint that such a report would “politicize” the process is patently absurd. Trump and his right-wing propagandists do that every single day, cooking up feverish conspiracy theories that paint career prosecutors as some kind of partisan mob.
What voters need is this age of weaponized disinformation is simple: the facts. Let the facts speak for themselves, and let the people decide how to vote based on those facts.
As a by-the-book investigator, Mueller strives to see his mission as separate and apart from any political consideration. But as a prosecutor in hot pursuit of a wannabe autocrat and world-class demagogue, Mueller would do well to recall the cardinal rule that guides our justice system: A jury needs all the evidence before it can render a fair verdict.
The same rule applies to an electorate.
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