Without an agreement about election interference, theres no conspiracy but plenty of what you might call collusion
Scientists last week revealed the first images of a black hole: an unseeable phenomenon that consumes all matter as it crosses the event horizon.
As it happens, Robert Mueller discovered something similar around the same time: the extraordinary point at which the facts and the law are stretched like spaghetti until they are crushed into an infinitely small space. We shall call this space the Trump Hole.
Over the course of two very large volumes, produced by 19 attorneys working from 2,800 subpoenas and 500 witnesses, Team Mueller hurtles towards the Trump Hole at warp speed.
They expose in glorious, meticulous detail how the Trump campaign flagrantly colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election, and how President Trump then flailed and wailed as he attempted to obstruct justice to stop anyone finding out.
At which point, the Special Counsels starship finds itself sucked into a space that is dominated by the absence of matter or in grammatical terms, an entire universe of double negatives.
On the joint enterprise that was the Russian-backed Trump campaign, Mueller says in his introduction to the first volume: A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.
Having neither proved nor disproved a legal case around Russia, Mueller finds himself at the same event horizon on the question of obstruction of justice. While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, Mueller writes, it also does not exonerate him.
There is so much darkness at the heart of the Trump Hole it is hard even for an expert investigator to state positively what took place.
To the casual stargazer, or grand jury, the facts of the Russia case are pretty simple. An entire crew of Trump staffers worked diligently together with several crews of Russians both before and after the 2016 election. George Papadopolous, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Erik Prince, Steven Bannon, Michael Flynn: there are more than enough Trumpsters in the Mueller section on Russia to prove collusion.
The only problem is that collusion doesnt exist as a legal concept. Trump himself may like to yell about NO COLLUSION but in this legal space, nobody can hear you scream.
As Mueller points out, conspiracy is the crime, and that depends on very clear coordination. We understood coordination to require an agreement tacit or express between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference, Mueller writes. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the others actions or interests.
Without an agreement about election interference, theres no conspiracy but plenty of what you might call COLLUSION. There might be an agreement to profit commercially involving, you know, a Trump Tower in Moscow or something. But thats not the underlying crime Mueller was investigating around the election.
Besides, there was so much matter stretched and crushed into oblivion as the facts and law approached the Trump Hole. Witnesses clammed up by citing their fifth amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, or they made false statements that got them indicted, or they deleted emails and texts, or simply used encrypted communications. The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation, Mueller explained.
Jeff Sessions, the hapless attorney general, was a case in point. Did he commit perjury when he told Congress: I didnt have did not have communications with the Russians? Mueller established that Sessions had in fact met the Russian ambassador and discussed the campaign during the Republican convention and also in his senate office. But Sessions said he didnt recall the discussions when he testified to Congress. He also said he thought the question of communications meant an on-going exchange of information.
On both counts, Team Mueller found the pathetic excuses and verbal dodges were somehow plausible which meant that the evidence was insufficient to prove that Sessions was willfully untruthful in his answers and thus insufficient to obtain or sustain a conviction for perjury or false statements.
The gravitational singularity of the Trump Hole provides a stark contrast between the principled, rational and precise arguments of Muellers lawyers and the brazenly, barkingly mad bullshit that emerges from Donald Trump and everyone who surrounds him.
Mueller explains how he couldnt decide if Trump obstructed justice because since he couldnt prosecute a sitting president for all sorts of reasons that may or may not hold water it would be unfair to say so. Fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgement when no charges can be brought, he wrote.
Such delicate concerns are no match for this blunderbuss of a demagogue. His cack-handed efforts to obstruct justice are so frequent and incompetent that the table of contents of Muellers second volume reads like a screenplay for a slapstick movie that will never see the light of day.
The President Attempts to Have KT McFarland Create a Witness Statement Denying that he Directed Flynns Discussions with Kislyak, is just the warm-up act for The President Asks Corey Lewandowski to Deliver a Message to Sessions to Curtail the Special Counsel Investigation.
That particular moment of farce opens a most hilarious couple of acts involving The Presidents Efforts to Remove the Special Counsel and The Presidents Efforts to Curtail the Special Counsel Investigation.
For Bill Barr, the currently hapless attorney general, such findings in the Mueller report only prove one thing: that everything is above board. The White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsels investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, he said in his prebuttal press conference. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.
Of course, by fully cooperated Barr also means tried to fire Mueller. As you approach the Trump Hole, objects like the truth get pulled apart in strange ways.
Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation, said the attorney general who decided that Mueller had made no legal case that Trump obstructed justice.
Such a non-corrupt president with such non-corrupt motives, suffering as Barr explained from such nasty federal agents determined to obstruct his own presidency!
When Trump first learned of Muellers appointment as special counsel, he said something similar to his aides. Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency, he exclaimed. Im fucked.
How wrong he was about the Trump Hole. It wasnt the end of his presidency; it was just the beginning. And he wasnt the one who was screwed; it was his country.
- Richard Wolffe is a Guardian US columnist