By Robert A. Vella
Before getting to this week’s news recap, I urge readers to conduct a simple thought experiment. Two decades ago, President Clinton was impeached on one count of perjury and one count of obstruction relating to an extramarital affair he had with Monica Lewinsky. He was a Democrat opposed by a Republican-controlled Congress. Yet, he was not removed from office. Today, President Trump could theoretically be impeached on ten counts of obstruction relating to the criminal assistance his campaign was given by Russia during the 2016 presidential election as documented by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump is a Republican opposed by a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Yet, he is unlikely to be impeached.
Now, transpose the targets. Consider how a Democratic president like Clinton would be treated for the impeachable offenses committed by Trump if Republicans controlled the House by a large majority (as Democrats currently do) and if Democrats controlled the Senate by a slim majority (as Republicans currently do). Would impeachment still be off the table? And, if you think Clinton would be impeached by the House (as I do), then would the Senate remove him from office?
Obviously, there is ample reason to believe that Clinton would have been treated much more harshly than Trump for the exact same offenses. This, then, raises another question. Does this nation, in its legal and political systems, employ a double-standard based on party affiliation or on ideology?
Aftermath of the Mueller report
The first volume of the two-part, 448-page report details how Trump and his allies solicited, encouraged, accepted and benefited from the assistance provided by America’s most storied foreign adversary as part of a multi-front assault on American democracy.
The other lays out comprehensive evidence that the president may have obstructed justice through what Mueller described as a “pattern of conduct” that included firing FBI Director Jim Comey, trying to remove Mueller, publicly praising and condemning witnesses, and seeking to limit the scope of the probe.
Taken in sum, Mueller’s findings reveal three years of actions by Trump and his subordinates that critics say rattle the very foundations of the American system of governance, from the sacrosanct nature of democratic elections to the idea that no man, not even the president, is above the law.
The long-awaited report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III details abundant evidence against President Trump, finding 10 episodes of potential obstruction but ultimately concluding it was not Mueller’s role to determine whether the commander in chief broke the law.
“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment,” Mueller’s team stated in the report submitted to Congress on Thursday . “At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
The special counsel’s report on possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russians to interfere in the 2016 election is extremely detailed with only modest redactions — painting a starkly different picture for Trump than Attorney General William P. Barr has offered, and revealing new details about interactions between Russians and Trump associates.
Mueller’s team wrote that though their investigation “did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” that assertion was informed by the fact that coordination requires more than two parties “taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.”
And Mueller made abundantly clear: Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take it.
WASHINGTON—Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report is unambiguously clear on this point: Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and sought to help Donald Trump win the White House.
That has been the unanimous view of the intelligence community for nearly 2½ years. But it is laid out in unprecedented detail across nearly 200 pages of the special counsel’s report, which also describes Russian efforts to forge ties with members of Trump’s campaign to further the Kremlin’s interference goals.
The report from Mr. Mueller will likely serve as the definitive document about Russia’s use of an array of digital weapons to influence the American electorate in 2016. It will also bolster warnings from senior U.S. intelligence officials that Russia and other hostile foreign powers remain intent on disrupting future elections, including the 2020 presidential contest.
Over the course of its sprawling 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the special counsel’s team referred 14 criminal cases to other offices, Mueller’s 448-page report revealed.
Only two of those referrals — one involving former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the other former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig — are public at this point.
“During the course of the investigation, the Office periodically identified evidence of potential criminal activity that was outside the scope of the Special Counsel’s jurisdiction,” the report says. “After consultation with the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the Office referred that evidence to appropriate law enforcement authorities, principally other components of the Department of Justice and the FBI.”
Escalating Climate Change in the north
You might have heard about the exceptional heat this year in the northern hemisphere and around the world. March was just declared the second warmest on record globally
Records have been shattered in Alaska. Scotland hit 70 degrees in February. Winter warmth has torched the U.K., Netherlands and Sweden as well — coming on the heels of Europe’s warmest year on record. But they’re not alone.
Greenland is baking, too. In fact, its summer melt season has already begun — more than a month ahead of schedule.
UTQIAGVIK, Alaska — Bryan Thomas doesn’t want any more “wishy-washy conversations about climate change.”
For four years, he has served as station chief of the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, America’s northernmost scientific outpost in its fastest-warming state. Each morning, after digging through snow to his office’s front door, Thomas checks the preliminary number on the observatory’s carbon dioxide monitor. On a recent Thursday it was almost 420 parts per million — nearly twice as high as the global preindustrial average.
Alaska is in the midst of one of the warmest springs the state has ever experienced — a transformation that has disrupted livelihoods and cost lives. The average temperature for March recorded at the NOAA observatory in Utquiagvik (which was known as Barrow before 2016, when the city voted to go by its traditional Inupiaq name) was 18.6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Fairbanks notched its first consecutive March days when the temperature never dropped below freezing. Ice roads built on frozen waterways — a vital means of transportation in the state — have become weak and unreliable. At least five people have died this spring after falling through ice that melted sooner than expected.