“While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”

Mar 26th, 2019 | By | Category: In Brief

Charlie Parker (l), world’s greatest saxophone player and inventor of much of modern jazz, with his young trumpet player Red Rodney, New York City 1947.

Canadians ought to be especially sensitive to the subtle nuances of Robert Mueller’s apparent conclusions on the narrow issues he was commissioned to investigate, in the current age of crisis and testing for Democracy in America.

One of the few key sentences from the actual Mueller report that Attorney General Barr has quoted directly is a case in point :  “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

This may not be directly comparable to Mackenzie King’s legendary World War II approach to a tricky Canadian public issue with enough fans on both sides : “Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription.” (These exact words are apparently just from a Toronto Star editorial of the day in any case.)

French actress Jeanne Moreau with another sometime Charlie Parker trumpet player, Miles Davis, during recording of the music for Louis Malle’s film “Elevator to the Gallows,” December 1957.

Yet, whatever else, what appears to be this side of Robert Mueller’s approach to the challenges his assignment presented does remind those who feel about American politics today as I do that, while Donald Trump’s Republican party does not have a majority of Americans on its side, it does have a still quite substantial minority.

Meanwhile, this same quotation also forms the basis for George Conway’s justly celebrated droll reply to Sarah Sanders’s latest over-the-top untrue tweet that Mr. Mueller’s work constitutes “a total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”

As Mr. Conway (Trump aide Kellyanne Conway’s impossible-to-understand but clearly sensible husband) replied : “You misspelled ‘While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’”

Mayor of President Trump’s New York hometown Bill De Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray, at his first mayoral inauguration, January 1, 2014.

Personally, I found the headline to a Washington Post opinion piece by Greg Sargent yesterday an apt summary of the essential truth : “Trump won with illicit help. He abused his power. His AG is blocking a full reckoning.”

I was struck as well by three headlines from the March 25 edition of The New Yorker Daily in the president’s home town : “No Conspiracy, No Exoneration: The Conclusions from the Mueller Report”(David Remnick) ;  “The Dream of a Magic Resolution to the Trump Tragedy Is Dead” (Masha Gessen) ; and “On the Mueller Investigation, the Barr Letter Is Not Enough” (John Cassidy).

For “the Barr Letter” itself see “The Justice Department’s Summary Of The Mueller Report.” My own immediately favourite ultimate reaction from those I have run across on Twitter came from Andrew Gillum, who ran such an impressive 2018 campaign for Governor of Florida.

Gillum’s advice has a wonderful, practical Saul Alinsky ring : “The Mueller Report is never going to register … organize, and do the GOTV [“Get Out The Vote”] required to beat @realDonaldTrump. That’s our job!!! Stop waiting to participate in the hard work of democracy. If we put in the work, we win.”

I was personally struck as well by four other Twitter reactions I noticed – in alphabetical order by tweeter surname :

* David Axelrod – “One question: What the Mueller probe established, according to the AG, is that the Russians hacked the DNC and engaged in an aggressive, covert campaign to influence our election. So why did @realDonaldTrump stand next to Putin in Helsinki  and meekly accept his denials?”

* John Dean – “Having re-read William Barr’s June 2018 Memo critiquing Mueller’s obstruction investigation and now his summary of Mueller’s Report, it is clear that Richard Nixon would not have been forced to resign his office if Barr had been Attorney General. Barr wants a POTUS above the law.”

“President Obama with California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, left, in 2012. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press).”

* David Frum – “The president and his talkers falsely denied Russian interference. They falsely denied meeting with the interferers. They falsely denied that Trump was pursuing business opportunities in Russia through election day.”

* Paul Krugman – “Three things: 1. We need to see the report, not just Trump appointees’ summary …  2. Anyone who thought Mueller was a silver bullet that would bring Trump down was living in a fantasy world … 3. The administration’s corruption on multiple fronts is as obvious as ever.”

Finally, my own ultimately favourite ultimate reaction on Twitter Award goes to the African American “son to immigrants” Richard De Leon. He describes himself as “Free thinking progressive, single dad, raising 2 wonderful kids amidst the great U.S. decline. RESPECT EXISTENCE OR EXPECT #RESISTANCE.”

Mr. De Leon’s March 25 tweet is in the tradition of the Great American Laughing-To-Keep-From-Crying Songbook : “Dear good white folks, … I know that the Mueller Report has been underwhelming. Do not despair. If necessary, please report immediately to a person of color near you. We are well versed in ‘Crazy Shit America Does’ and have tons of ‘fucked by the system’ experience. We can help.”

Meanwhile, on to 2020, as the person of color Andrew Gillum advises, in practice, etc, etc … The great divide in the USA today between Obama’s progressive future and Trump’s reactionary past is not really much like the divide between English and French in the Canada of the 1940s at all. (And while Rihanna and Drake are not exactly relevant, he is Canadian and she is from Canada’s fellow Commonwealth country of Barbados. And who doesn’t think this is more interesting than a photograph of Mackenzie King in the 1940s?)

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