Dear Mr. Mueller ...

Opinion: Ken Trainor

August 20th, 2019 12:53 PM

By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Something needs to be said before you head off into private life. A lot of us, you see, are disappointed. We were looking for a hero, and you came up short. I get it. You're not in the hero business.

We were expecting a law-enforcement demigod, but you turned out to be all-too human. The fact that your report didn't find active collusion and/or conspiracy with the Russians to meddle in the 2016 election speaks to your sense of fairness. After all, you established beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Russians meddled, and you established how much and how frequently the Trump campaign, and especially Trump himself, encouraged this meddling, aided by Wikileaks.

In fact, before Congress on July 24, you characterized Trump's frequent praise for Wikileaks' activities as follows: "Problematic is an understatement, in terms of giving some hope or boost to what is and should be illegal activity." Thank you for being so forthcoming.

"Over the course of my career," you said at the beginning of your testimony, "I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious."

I would say the most serious, but maybe you were thinking about the 2016 election result itself as the most serious. You all but said Mr. Trump obstructed justice or attempted to obstruct justice, but couldn't quite bring yourself to say so, citing the now-famous OLC (Dept. of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel) opinion (note the word "opinion") that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, a ruling you evidently felt compelled to follow.

The bottom line is that you produced a thorough, unbiased report that kicks the can over to Congress and tells them to put up or shut up. Good enough? Perhaps, if these were normal times, but these aren't normal times, are they?

During your testimony before Congress, we saw someone who looked older, more frail, and not quite as kick-ass as we were led to believe. That surprised us a little.

No doubt you had top-notch people working with you on this investigation. Maybe some of them really are kick-ass. Maybe one or two of them should have testified with you (as I believe you requested). Perhaps you were just the executive overseeing those who did the heavy lifting.

Or maybe you sounded so unsure of yourself not only because of what you wanted to say but also what you didn't want to say.

And therein lies our disappointment.

You opted to remain a bureaucrat when what we desperately needed was a patriot. You're very good at following rules. You wanted to do your job, do it with excruciating correctness, and then step back into the sanctuary of private life. Who can blame you? Who wants to be at the center of this storm? 

A patriot, actually. A patriot would be willing to step into the center of this storm.

Instead, you followed the rules, and there is much to commend that, especially considering the person you were investigating and the kind of people who attach themselves to him, all of whom can fairly be described as rule-desecrators. 

We needed someone with integrity, and we couldn't have asked for a better person on that front. But a bureaucrat's first loyalty is to uphold the system. The patriot's first loyalty is to what's best for their country. I don't think you're unpatriotic. I believe you love your country and have always answered its call. Until now. If ever there was a time that demanded extraordinary courage, it is now. But when your country needed you most, you chose to tell the truth, but put it under a veil.

Your reputation is preserved. You didn't want to throw it all away on a clear, forceful statement of personal belief. So you took refuge in your role. Completely understandable.

And completely disappointing.

In your personal opinion, based on the evidence you gathered, do you believe Donald Trump obstructed justice or attempted to obstruct justice? That he encouraged Russia and Wikileaks to meddle in the most important exercise in our democracy, aiding and abetting and undermining that democracy?

We're not interested in your "problematic" understatements. We don't need you to "categorize it with any specificity." We don't care if you can or can't indict a sitting president. We needed someone to step up. If not you, who?

You were the one person with the authority to step into that crucible. Watching and listening, we were hoping for something more, something above and beyond, fulfilling the spirit, not the letter, of the law. Just once.

A simple but firm "Yes" would have sufficed.

To say we're disappointed would be an understatement.


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