Muelling Over the Report
Living in a representative democracy, we still have to get it done. (And, damn, Comey’s wrong/right again.)
If a major piece of legislation or a SCOTUS decision gets a lot of media coverage, I get the same feeling as putting on a sweater that I shrunk a bit in the wash. Thanks for all that spin, but I really wish it fit me better. So, I’ll go to the source and give it a read through. There’s been so much speculation about the Mueller report, I felt it was my civic duty to read it. Apparently, not everyone is of that mind, including a lot of Democrats running for the next presidency.
Elizabeth Warren read it the first weekend (showoff…) and “urge[s] every person in the country to read the Mueller Report”. I was encouraged by several pundits saying it read like a novel. And parts of it certainly do. Amazon book review: Trump and his family hired foreign agents, met with foreign agents, shared data with foreign agents, and lied about it, all the while. As at least sometime residents of Moneyland, the Trump organization probably saw this networking as business as usual. And in a strange parallel to business as usual, most of their efforts failed. So if the report reads like a novel, it’s sort of the novel Emma, but without any endearing protagonists. Or is it The Orient Express? Spoiler alert: everyone’s so guilty because some original crime corrupted all their souls… so pathétique… just walk away…
At this point, you can probably tell my degree is in English Literature and not in jurisprudence. Several times, I was lost in the legality of what people did versus whether they should be held accountable. Weird thing, as I read the report, I was convinced by Mueller’s constitutional argument: the Justice Department can’t prosecute the President, so they can’t accuse him because there’d be no court of law where he could stand up against his accusers. And besides, among other things, Congress should decide if the President committed crimes. So, it’s enough to have my representatives read the report and do their thing, right? weeellll…
James Comey thinks “everybody in leadership roles in American life ought to read the Mueller report and then answer this question: Is that behavior consistent with what we should expect from the president of the United States?” He says only people in the House can answer whether to move toward impeachment. So, again, the leadership knows best, right? nooo….
Comey hopes the American people will address this with an election. Regardless of important differences between us, he wants us united in saying, “Our President must reflect the values of this country: our President must tell the truth.” And he thinks, “An impeachment process might derail that.”
Some might say, “James Comey is wrong. Again.” But before we go on hating on James Comey, look at it this way: regardless of whether you’d do or say the same thing if finding yourself in similar circumstances, the issues he grapples with can focus us. And here, he’s saying that Congress should “stare closely at the facts and at their responsibilities under our Constitution” and that “the more information the American people can get about how the government’s working and how this president is acting, the better off we’ll be.” But that this “moment of inflection” should fall on us.
Dang. Comey is right, again: leadership has its duty; we have ours. Congress should expose the facts, and we should take that information and act on it.
Read (at least some of) the report
Does that mean every constituent should read the report? Well, I’d encourage you to try. You don’t have the impetus to read all 448 pages? I totally get that: busy, myself, and wallowed in a significant portion of the citations.
So, here are some other resources: Mueller’s letter to Barr said that “the summaries would alleviate misunderstandings … and answer … public questions about the nature and outcome of our investigation.”
- The Lawfare Blog has posted those summaries. The auditorily inclined can listen to the summaries from that Lawfare Blog page as well.
- For that matter, while House Democrats read the whole thing live on the floor, I’d recommend the Washington Post’s version.
Encourage Congress to hold hearings — NOW
Even still, a lot of us are just visually cued. And definitely, there are many questions that need to be answered. For instance, the 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee want to ask Mueller 60 questions. And Ryan Goodman and Asha Rangappa (my lastest intellicrush…) have a running list that you can contribute to.
Act with full (or enough) information
So, you’ve read some of the report, you’ve listened to some of the hearings, you understand the basics of how impeachment of a president works. At that time, you’ll need to decide if impeachment proceedings should be started in the Congress, knowing that the Senate is where the case is tried. After we get the information we need, and a formal impeachment process has been conducted, would ⅔ of the Senate be pressured by enough of their constituents to impeach the President?
And even more could “at that time” be around the time of the 2020 elections? What a quagmire.
But not really, because we still have a job to do. We still need to make sure:
- that we, each ourselves, know what happened,
- that the information is getting to every other constituent,
- and that we understand how our legal and moral leaders have interpreted it.
Whether it’s calling on our Representatives to impeach or not, or voting in the 2020 elections, is a matter of logistics. We need to get the full picture, to line that picture up against our image of our democracy, and determine if the behavior described threatens our democracy.
Because if we aren’t the ultimate executives of our democracy, who is?