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Mueller’s Own Mysteries | The Nation

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The John Batchelor Show, May 1

Special Prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III’s two-volume “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” is not an easy read—not unlike those “easy-to-assemble” manuals that come boxed with multi-part children’s toy on Christmas Eve. Nonetheless, considering the exceedingly damaging effects Russiagate has had on America at home and abroad for nearly three years, the report will long be studied for what it reveals and does not reveal, what it includes and does not include. 

Because of my own special interest in Russia, I read carefully the first volume, which focuses on that country’s purported role in the scandal. I came away with as many questions about the report as about the role of Moscow and that of candidate and then President Donald Trump. To note a few:

— Mueller begins, on page one, with this assertion: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” Maybe so, but Mueller, who is not averse to editorializing and contextualizing elsewhere in the report, gives readers no historical background or context for this large generalization. In particular, was the interference—or “meddling,” as media accounts characterize it—more or less “sweeping and systematic” than was Washington’s military intervention in the Russian civil war in 1918 or its very intrusive campaign to reelect Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1996—or, on the other side of the ledger, the role of the Soviet-backed American Communist Party in US politics in the twentieth century? That is, what warranted a special investigation of this episode in a century of mutual American-Russian interference in the other’s politics? Put somewhat differently, readers might wonder if, had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, there even would have been a Russiagate and Mueller investigation.

 It has occasionally been suggested that Russiagate was originated by high-level US officials who disliked candidate Trump’s pledge to “cooperate with Russia.” This suspicion remains unproven, but throughout Mueller repeatedly attributes to Trump campaign members and Russians who interacted in 2016, potentially in sinister or even criminal ways, a desire for “improved U.S.-Russian relations,” for “bringing the end of the new Cold War,” for a “new beginning with Russia.” Even Russian President Vladimir Putin is reported to have wanted “reconciliation … between the United States and Russia.” (See, for example, pp. 5, 98, 105, 124, 157.) The result is, of course, to discredit America’s once-mainstream advocacy of détente. Mueller even brands American pro-détente views—as Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan held in the twentieth century—as “pro-Russia foreign policy positions” (p. 102). Does this mean that Americans who hold pro-détente views today, as I and quite a few others do, are to be investigated for their “contacts” with Russians in pursuit of better relations Mueller seems to say nothing to offset this implication, which has already adversely affected a few Americans mentioned and not mentioned in his report.

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