“Prosecutors’ Narrative Is Clear: Trump Defrauded Voters.” So declares the first part of the headline of a New York Times article by Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos. The rest of the headline asks “But What Does It Mean?”
Good question. It may mean that the prosecutors haven’t found a crime, but are still pissed off that Trump won the election.
I find odd the notion that Trump defrauded voters. No candidate in my lifetime ever painted a clearer, more vivid picture of himself for voters. For better or for worse, we knew what we were getting (and no, it wasn’t a Putin stooge).
Indeed, it’s difficult for me to treat Mueller’s theory seriously. I hope readers will forgive the (at times) flippant nature of what follows.
How does Mueller’s team say Trump defrauded voters? In two ways, apparently. First, he paid money to hide the fact that he had sex with a porn star. The Times explains:
The prosecutors made clear in their memo that they viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic election — and by extension they effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.
When did it become the role of prosecutors to question the legitimacy of an electoral victory? This must be a recent development. The legitimacy of Barack Obama’s election went unchallenged by the law even though he wrote a fake autobiography and, before his second win, secretly (he thought) promised Russia to be more flexible once those reactionary American voters reelected him.
In 1992, Bill Clinton tasked a team of Arkansas operatives to cover-up his sexual indiscretions. John Kennedy conspired with the media to keep his quiet. Franklin Roosevelt covered up, as best he could, the fact that he couldn’t walk. Kennedy too concealed his medical problems.
The second way Trump “defrauded” voters, according to the Times’ version of Mueller’s theory, was by “continuing to do business with Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made efforts to influence him.” The Times goes on to note that Trump’s operation was pursuing a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow until June 2016, whereas the campaign’s line was that the deal had collapsed in January.
Who were the “victims” of this “fraud”? Not the general electorate. There has been no indication that Trump was still trying to business with Russia when it voted in November 2016. And by then, surely it was a matter of indifference which month the attempts ended.
Republican primary voters? It’s heart-warming that Mueller’s team of lefty Democrats is so solicitous of our interests. Yet, I doubt many Republicans feel aggrieved. Few were worrying about whether Trump was trying to make a business deal with Russia.
I was one of the few, but Mueller need not go after Trump on my behalf. Assuming that Trump, as opposed to Cohen, said his business dealings in Russia ceased in January, this misrepresentation ranks far down in the annals of false campaign statements.
The Times acknowledges that its rendition of Mueller’s theory gives rise to a case for impeachment, not for indicting the president. But for House Democrats to assert such a theory — “we wuz robbed” — in an impeachment proceeding would only confirm that the whole business is simply an effort to relitigate an election the Democrats lost.
The Democrats might be better advised to reject the “we wuz robbed” refrain in favor of “wait til next year.”