The first page of special counsel Robert Mueller's report about purported Trump collusion with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign stated that the original source about hacking was the Democratic National Committee. That's the detail needed to show that this drawn-out investigation had partisan motivations from the beginning.
"In June (2016), the Democratic National Committee and its cyber response team publicly announced that Russian hackers had compromised its computer network," notes the report.
The federal government spent more than $70 billion on intelligence in 2016, including $10 billion for the National Security Agency to undertake electronic surveillance globally. That the origin for claims of foreign activity in the election came from a political party and not lavishly funded intelligence agencies should have raised red flags about the seriousness of the allegations.
As the Mueller report sets forth in the introduction, ostensible Russian activity fell into two categories: "a social media campaign" and "computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents." The significance of both cases has been overblown.
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The latter claim about computer intrusion still has not been proven conclusively. The Mueller report says that Russian intelligence "officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016." An appearance is not proof. Who provided the information to WikiLeaks is still not publicly known, which promises to be a source of future drama now that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in custody facing extradition to the United States.
The main Russian intervention into the electoral process boiled down to placing ads with "divisive social and political messages" on Facebook, which had limited reach. As Facebook explained to Congress, 25% of the ads were never seen by anyone, 56% of the total views were after the 2016 election occurred, less than $3 was spent on 50% of the ads, and perhaps 10 million people saw one of the posts.
No collusion means no obstruction
As far as collusion and subsequent allegations of obstruction, there never was more to this would-be scandal than political innuendo. As the Mueller report says, " … the overall pattern of the president’s conduct towards the investigation can shed light on the nature of the president’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent." Inferences do not constitute a solid legal standard, and such wishy-washy language exposes the reality that no concrete evidence of collusion ever existed.
Now that it has been proven by the Mueller report that there was no collusion with the Russians by President Donald Trump or anyone on his campaign, the hysteria has turned to mixed interpretations about whether there maybe was possibly some obstruction of the investigation by the White House. This is nothing more than flailing by anti-Trump forces who are in denial that their conspiracy story turned out to be false. After all, since there was no collusion, there was nothing to hide through obstruction.
It cannot be forgotten how strongly worded the allegations of conspiracy were by very senior members of the intelligence community, who had access to enough data to know better. "Donald Trump’s performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes and misdemeanors.' It was nothing short of treasonous," tweeted former CIA Director John Brennan in 2018. "Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin."
Mueller report kills Trump-Russia narrative
In the same vein, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated, "I've speculated in the past that the way Putin behaves is to treat President Trump as an asset."
These irresponsible charges of treason, coupled with former FBI Russia probe investigator Peter Strzok's text promise that "We'll stop it" about Trump’s election, expose the context of this entire probe and should lead to a new investigation into the investigators and the bogus sources they used to get FISA warrants and other interventions into the political process.
The Mueller report put a stake through the heart of this imaginary beast of Russia collusion. Trump didn't cheat to win the presidency. Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College vote fair and square, in a process set forth in the Constitution. NeverTrumpers need to get over it and focus their attention on real crises such as the $22 trillion national debt, a $1.5 trillion student-loan bubble threatening to burst, and a citizenry split over what to do about record illegal immigration across the Mexican border.
Brett M. Decker, an assistant professor of business at Defiance College, is co-author of "The Conservative Case for Trump" and a former editor of The Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Twitter: @BrettMDecker.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mueller report: Findings prove Donald Trump never colluded with Russia, obstructed justice