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Donald Trump is an amoral man with allegiance to money, power, and himself. When Russians began to help him in his uphill battle to win the presidency in 2016, he was familiar with the country and its people. He sold them condominiums, property in Florida, held a beauty pageant in Moscow, and was negotiating to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. In Trump's world, unencumbered by ethics and love of country, he'd be a fool not to let Russians assist him. His campaign did not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government to commit a criminal conspiracy by interfering with election activities, falling short of provable criminal activity. He just let Russians help him.
Trump wanted to win and only a loser would have declined the Russian boost he knew would help him win the presidency. If successful, Putin -- KGB agent that he is -- would come calling for the favors now owed him. Once president, with all the powers of this high office as well as the scrutiny placed on the person who holds this office and now beholden to Putin, what would Trump, this amoral man, do? We know the answer. We watched obstruction of justice play out on television and Twitter. There's apparently more we don't know about.
With an equally amoral Republican Party in control of Congress, Trump was protected at every turn while American intelligence agencies warned the president may be compromised. The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation and became the enemy of the president and Congressional Republicans. The appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, after Trump's controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey, because of the Russian investigation, gave us hope that we would get to the bottom of why our president appeared to be in Putin's pocket. As our only hope to get the facts, Mueller was lionized by minority Congressional Democrats and the press.
The Mueller report would give us answers, we thought -- but wait there's a hitch. Mueller, under Special Counsel rules, would submit his report to the Attorney General who would, in turn, give Congress a summary of that report. That hitch gave Trump and his Congressional Republican protectors an opportunity they most certainly took.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rightfully recused himself from all things Russian shortly after becoming Trump's first attorney general. Trump berated him until he resigned with less than qualified Matthew Whitaker replacing him as acting Attorney General until Trump could find his man. William Barr, with a long resume in Republican administrations, who served as George H.W. Bush's attorney general from 1991 to 1993, was tapped by Trump to serve as AG once again. Barr publicly supported Trump's firing of Comey in a Washington Post op-ed. In The New York Times he cast aspersions on Hillary Clinton, saying the Uranium One controversy warranted investigation more than Trump's potential Russian collusion did. On June 8, 2018, Barr, at the time a private attorney, sent an unsolicited 19-page memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein which was very critical of Special Counsel Mueller's obstruction of justice case against Trump, stating it was "fatally misconceived."
On December 7, 2018, Trump nominated Barr for his next AG and on February 14, 2019, Barr was sworn in. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were clear in their disapproval and suspicion of Barr but, in the minority, could not stop his inevitable approval and confirmation in the full Senate. Much of the Democrats' concern centered on whether or not Barr would make Mueller's report public or even make it available to Congress because all the Special Counsel rules required of the AG was that he write a report for Congress. Barr danced around the matter and it was evident Democratic Senators were uneasy.
Barr has confirmed the concerns of the Democratic Senators. What we got was four pages with only partial sentences from the Mueller report. Mueller found that the Trump campaign did not conspire or co-ordinate with the Russian government in election interference activities. However, the counterintelligence investigation just might tell us more. Mueller found detailed facts on both side of the obstruction of justice issue, but surprisingly made no prosecutorial decision on obstruction. Mueller did make clear Trump was not exonerated on obstruction of justice. However Barr rushed in declaring that no charges would be brought against Trump on obstruction, cutting off the House Judiciary Committee from deciding the obstruction issue after review of the Mueller report. House Democrats quickly demanded the full Mueller report and testimony from Barr. A long and protracted fight is expected while Trump has wrongfully declared himself fully exonerated and proceeded to talk about vengeance against his critics. It is a bludgeon he will most certainly carry into the 2020 election. The Republican Senate clearly gave Trump cover by confirming Barr, knowing full well Barr would act quickly to protect Trump from Mueller's findings when Barr should have recused himself in light of his memo and public statements.
We enter the 2020 election knowing we are still vulnerable to proven Russian interference and we know Trump will do all he can to once again mislead American voters, especially if we don't see the Mueller report. Trump strategists are already looking for pathways to another electoral college win with a likely popular vote loss. The possibility of a Trump second term is now very real. The Democrats need to take control of the Senate in 2020 as insurance against a Trump win. With Democrats in full control of Congress, assuming they hold the House, impeachment is possible on obstruction of justice. Only then is it possible.
In 2020 there are 34 Senate seats up with 22 of those now held by the Republicans. The Democrats need to gain three or four of those seats to take control of the Senate. It will be a difficult task but with the help of the American people it is possible. Pay attention to Senate races where Democratic wins are possible even if you don't live in those states. Contribute if you can. The rule of law means no one is above the law. The corrupt Republican Senate is assisting our amoral president to stand above the law. Only the American people can make him accountable in 2020. It's our last chance.
SUSAN SURFTONE is a musician who previously served as an FBI agent. Her latest EP is Making Waves Again.