And as he noted, absence of clearly prosecutable criminal behavior is a pretty low bar.
Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush; in my view he has substantially if not totally redeemed himself with a series of thoughtful columns intensely critical of the current occupant of the Oval Office. This column made several important points after a satisfyingly snarky initial paragraph:
Good news, America. Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help, the president did not conspire or collude with his helpers. He was the beneficiary of a foreign intelligence operation, but not an active participant in that operation. He received the stolen goods, but he did not conspire with the thieves in advance.
Frum focuses in on the important question that Barr’s summary suggests remains unanswered, although the actual report may shed some light on it.
The question unanswered by the attorney general’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is: Why? Russian President Vladimir Putin took an extreme risk by interfering in the 2016 election as he did. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency—the most likely outcome—Russia would have been exposed to fierce retaliation by a powerful adversary. The prize of a Trump presidency must have glittered alluringly, indeed, to Putin and his associates. Why?
Frum considers some of the possible reasons: Trump’s distaste for NATO, his contempt for the rule of law, or (my own guess) the possession of information with which they might compromise him. Whatever the reason, the conclusions to be drawn from what we do know are now to be acted upon by Congress and the voters.
The 2016 election was altered by Putin’s intervention, and a finding that the Trump campaign only went along for the ride does not rehabilitate the democratic or patriotic legitimacy of the Trump presidency. Trump remains a president rejected by more Americans than those who voted for him, who holds his job because a foreign power violated American laws and sovereignty. It’s up to Congressto deal with this threat to American self-rule.
Mueller hasn’t provided answers, so much as he has posed a question: Are Americans comfortable with this president in the White House, now that they know he broke no prosecutable criminal statutes on his way into high office?
This American isn’t.
We learned during the Nixon debacle that “I am not a crook” is an insufficient qualification for the office.