Republican congressman Ken Buck of Colorado had, quite possibly, the most compelling interaction with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller in yesterday’s testimony. Buck: Could you charge the President with a crime after he left office? Mueller: Yes.
Brief, yes. Definitive, no. But here’s why it’s such a big deal, and why the core of it is going to have an effect on the 2020 election.
I’m going to make clear from the outset that “could” does not mean “will.” Yes, Trump could be charged after leaving office, but we already knew this. Putting this interaction in context, however, raises the stakes. Mueller, as he repeated somewhat exasperatedly, did not exculpate Trump from the crimes he allegedly committed; indeed, his lawyerly equivocation that he would have explicitly stated Trump’s innocence with regards to engaging in obstruction of justice if he were innocent implies that his case should be assessed, either by Congress during his presidency or a court of law thereafter. If Trump does not win a second term, a new Department of Justice, presumably led by people who have some interest in being actual enforcers of the law (and hopefully irrespective of executive affiliation), would be inclined to set the record straight and restore some faith in the notion that nobody is above the law in the US.
This is where Trump gets anxious, and where it ties in with the 2020 election. Broadly, Trump can be characterized by three traits: selfishness, insecurity, and stupidity. He has the IQ and skin tone of a boiled carrot and he’s the kind of person who hates Christmas because it isn’t about him. The Dunning-Kruger effect meets the Napoleon complex. His sense of self-preservation, itself born out of infantile selfishness and a lack of empathy, will drive him to sordid ends to preserve his reign. Mueller warned about the pernicious and ongoing threat of foreign interference in our elections, and don’t think for a second that Trump won’t use it to his advantage again. The US loses with Trump, and that’s why our enemies want him in power.
The hard evidence for Trump’s conspiracy with foreign powers, primarily Russia, remains elusive. The soft evidence, not even remotely elusive. The man chortle-screamed into television cameras that he wanted Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This was during a time before Trump was on tenterhooks about being charged with crimes, so who knows where his desperation to stay out of jail will take him now that it’s clear he could be charged after leaving office. Expect 2020 to be even dirtier than 2016.