Former FBI Director Robert Mueller arrives for a court hearing at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco on April 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Robert Mueller's investigation will be incomplete if he does not deal with and resolve the competing narratives about what has transpired. Narrative one is that Donald Trump and/or one or several of his entourage colluded in some manner with the Russians over election 2016. Narrative two is that Democrats and much of the media have not accepted the results of the election and are smearing Trump to drive him from office or seriously wound him to the degree that he will accomplish nothing.
Although it is possible there is an element of truth in both narratives, it is more likely that one or the other is what we could call the "prevailing truth." To get at this truth, three areas that are inextricably tied together must be investigated. They interweave like story elements in a novel and form what might be called the über-narrative of American politics over the last several years. For Mueller to separate them or to disregard any of the three will mean his investigation is essentially a useless charade. They are:
One: the matter of the Hillary Clinton email server. This has resurfaced dramatically in the firing of James Comey, reasons for which are laid out in Rod Rosenstein's memo. Whether he wrote this memo before or after Trump decided to get rid of Comey is immaterial since the Deputy AG has now stated he stands behind its contents. Further to this portion of the narrative is the overall question of putative Russian government hacking into the Clinton campaign. So far we have seen no public evidence that this is true. We have actually seen circumstantial evidence (the Seth Rich murder) to the contrary. Mueller must also explain why the DNC refused to open its servers to the FBI after it was supposedly hacked by the Russians and why the FBI, incredibly, acquiesced in this. The questions here are endless—including why the FBI gave immunity in so many cases and allowed for the destruction of evidence. If Mueller seeks to resuscitate the reputation of the agency, he'd better provide us full explanations for all this. At this point, declaring key evidential material "top secret" will only be met by justifiable disdain.
Two: the matter of government surveillance of Trump and his people. The president famously complained in a tweet of being "wiretapped" by Obama. Despite endless criticisms of his language when he actually put the word in quotes, the possibility of this obviously high-tech surveillance and the various attendant unmaskings is by far the most serious question that must be dealt with in this investigation. If the massive intelligence capabilities of the NSA and the CIA are being used for internal political purposes, the United States of America, as we know it and the Founders envisioned it, no longer exists. We are a post-modern totalitarianism and the Russian collusion scandal was just an excuse to impose it—or, more scarily, to cement what was already there.
Three: Trump and the Russians, of course. It's clear from his campaign statements that Trump wanted better relations with Russia and Putin. This was nothing new. Several American presidents have sought the same thing at the beginning of their administrations only to be blindsided by reality. Obama seemed particularly desperate when he got caught on camera naively whispering to Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more to offer Putin after the election (as if Vladimir didn't know). The rest, including the failed "red line," Iran on the rampage, and the endless Syrian civil war, is history. The question now is to what extent Trump and his people may have colluded with the Russians and whether this "collusion" meant anything. In the case of Manafort, as it was with John Podesta, this seems to have been no more than normal (and somewhat repellent) greed. In the case of the Uranium One and the Clintons, it may have been a great deal more (attention, Mr. Mueller). In the case of Mike Flynn, the problem might have more to do with the Turks than it does with the Russians. We shall see.
Both sides have risks here, but, since I am biased (something I readily admit, unlike my colleagues at the NYT, Washington Post, CNN, etc.), it seems to me the greater liabilities are with the Democrats, who do seem worried. With Washington having more leakers than Carter's has little liver pills, if convincingspecific evidence of Trump's culpability existed, I suspect we would have heard about it ad infinitum by now. Trump-Russia collusion rumors have been swirling for almost a year with nothing to show for them. Those same rumors must have been paying upwards on ten thousand salaries, considering all the journalists, investigators, party operatives, etc. who have been set loose on this. A lot of Meals on Wheels, speaking of one charity that has made the news lately, could have been prepared and delivered for this—with filet mignon and truffles.
We shall also see if Mueller has the courage to make a FULL investigation by connecting the obvious dots and giving a complete picture. Without doing that, everyone's time and money will be wasted—worse, the country will be further split than it already is with ominous implications for the future. One thing we do not need is a rehearsal of the sleazy and politicized Valerie Plame investigation, which, as Andrew Klavan has pointed out, was bogus from start to conclusion. To justify a special prosecutor's time and salary, Lewis Libby was prosecuted and imprisoned for revealing information already available in Who's Who. Repeating something like that would be, in a word, disgusting.