Mueller Report: Trump Russia-probe: Moscow has the last laugh | Sunday Observer

Mueller Report: Trump Russia-probe: Moscow has the last laugh

After a tumultuous and sensation-ridden two years of police and security investigations, President Donald Trump is now, free of accusations that he and his election campaign staff conspired with Russia to win the United States presidency. The Robert Mueller Report released this month categorically clears Trump of deliberately and actively conspiring with Russia, his country’s most enduring and most powerful rival power. Somewhat guardedly it clears him of intentional attempts to block the Mueller probe and related judicial proceedings.

Trump is crowing loudly while the Republican Party is breathing a huge sigh of relief and will now look to next year’s elections, presidential and congressional, with far greater confidence. The opposition Democratic Party, had anticipated the outcome of the Mueller-led Department of Justice ‘special investigation’, and will proceed with its current political strategy of highlighting not so much the Trump-Russia scandal but the bread-and-butter public issues such as working class incomes, ethnic and social/gender discrimination, affordable health care and climate change.

Already, the Democrats have demonstrated, in last November’s congressional election success, that they do not need the additional political weapon of the US President’s own ‘sins’ to defeat him and the Republicans. The far bigger socio-economic and political issues outlined are clearly the way to go. For the Republicans, given their ideological distance from social welfare policies, the key to political mobilisation is likely to remain the same White and Superpower nationalism that Trump used so effectively in his presidential victory and in subsequent electoral exercises.

Perhaps it is the news media industry that lost most in the anti-climax of the Robert Mueller report. The Mueller investigation more or less ‘acquitted’ (at least as long as he is president) Trump of the two main suspected crimes: conspiracy with a foreign power and obstruction of justice. The Mueller findings indicate a closure of possibilities for judicial and congressional action to unseat Trump from the presidency – either through impeachment by Congress or through judicial indictments.

An impeachment initiative or judicial contest over the criminal indictment of a sitting President would have been wonderful ‘fodder’ for the American (and world) news industry. As the Mueller probe itself became, any dramatic and drastic follow-up to the Mueller probe would also become a mini news industry providing livelihood and professional stepping stones to countless media outlets, journalists, supporting media workers, commentators and sundry experts the world over.

An impeachment attempt by Congress, for instance, would have launched another long-drawn-out and tension-ridden political and human drama to be acted out on social media and the mainstream news industry.

Of course, the news media and political analysts are now watching to see how far various American political actors will go in picking up various threads leading from the Mueller report.

Political commentators are interpreting – correctly – that the Mueller report gives Donald Trump and the Republicans a new political advantage in American domestic politics. But it is likely to be only a minor advantage.

Trump and his followers, as well as his Republican and right-wing allies, can claim vindication and ‘innocence’ on the basis of the Mueller findings. But, by the very nature of their political culture, the Trump social constituencies are not very interested in such issues.

These constituencies voted Trump precisely because, given their own perceived socio-cultural perceptions, they are tired of adherence to institutions, norms and niceties. What they selfishly seek is quick relief for their immediate challenges of low income and declining social positioning in terms of gender, ethnicity and demographic location.

These particular constituencies of the rural and urban white working class, old-fashioned males and old-fashioned White America are in powerful reactive mode after more than a decade of progressive Democratic policies.

The Republicans will hesitate to directly take on rival Democrats on the nitty gritty socio-economic issues because their approaches are conservative and they cannot easily match Democrat policies on these issues.

The test of US domestic politics following the Mueller Report will be two-fold. Firstly, how much will genuinely concerned citizens (groups and political parties/movements) actually learn from the Mueller Report and the whole experience of the conduct of the investigation and move towards institutional and structural reform to address the numerous issues of executive presidential and congressional legislative practice needs reform and repair?

This is something that concerned pro-democracy activists must watch and learn from. It will help us address similar issues and tendencies in our own state frameworks and formal political practices. In Sri Lanka, our struggles for democratic reform clearly show the relevance of the Mueller probe and attendant US domestic politics.

Secondly, how effectively will the two main rival political parties directly use the Mueller findings in their domestic electoral politics. Already, the Mueller report has indicated threads for future possible criminal prosecutions and investigations which could be taken up at state level and at the level of Congressional oversight over the presidency.

But if the immediate political impact of the Mueller Report is the clearing of Trump of suspicions of conspiracy with a foreign power and of obstruction of justice, what of the significance of the actual, concrete findings of the Mueller probe? The actual Mueller findings are a complete confirmation of earlier conclusions by all US intelligence and security agencies that Russia clandestinely intervened in the US electoral process and did so to a degree that it influenced not only the outcome of the 2016 presidential election but also contributed toward worsening the already growing divides in social-political discourse in US society.

The Mueller investigation has not only formally confirmed Russia subversion but also has already acted to prosecute and convict both several American citizens for their complicity (even if indirect) as well as two dozen Russian citizens and entities for perpetrating this subversion.

But how will the bulk of American society appreciate this larger, non-criminal, socio-political impact of the whole Trump-Russia scandal? Even if Trump has not been criminally implicated in the Russian subversion, certainly this ‘special investigation’ has confirmed that Trump and his associates were favourably inclined towards Russian subversion on the basis of the electoral advantage they may gain. Trump’s own repeated public justification for seeking such foreign support for domestic electioneering is itself a telling indicator of American political culture today.

The Mueller findings expose the serious vulnerability of American society and state. It indicates that there are Americans who are prepared to use the support of hostile foreign powers for their own domestic political gain. At the height of the Cold War this kind of behaviour would certainly have been judicially countered as ‘treason’ and morally condemned as ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘anti-national’.

But despite the clear evidence that not only did Russia subvert the US election process but that actual election candidates were ready to benefit from such subversion, a large part of the American electorate does not seem to care.

Even so, Moscow has seen the value of these new political-cultural tendencies inside America and has moved swiftly to exploit these vulnerabilities to divide American society and undermine institutions and state stability. This is the kind of thing that Washington also did well during the Cold War when it undermined democracy and anti-US politics in many countries from Latin America to Africa to Iran and Vietnam.

Now, with the ferment of anti-Communism abated in America, it is Russia that is probing the chinks in the sole superpower’s armour. Given the American public’s apathy toward the issue, will Russia have the last laugh?