Op-Ed

McConnell’s ‘Case Closed’ shows he’s determined to protect Trump at all costs.

McConnell for Senate campaign releases ad for senator’s re-election

In April 2019, "Team Mitch" officially launched its re-election campaign for Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
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In April 2019, "Team Mitch" officially launched its re-election campaign for Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

In the past week two speeches on the floor of the Senate have provided disturbing evidence, for those who care to reflect, on just what is at stake for the nation in the handling of the Mueller Report.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in his extensive remarks, appraised the Mueller Report as providing a critical service by documenting the extent and seriousness of the Russian intervention, as well as by absolving the president and his associates of any “conspiracy” with the Russians to affect the election.

McConnell lambasted the “outrage industrial complex,” (the Democrats and their fellow leftists in the media), for failing to accept “the facts” of the Mueller Report that they had expected would delegitimize the president and win back the 2016 election that the American people had denied them. In their anger, he observed, they have turned on the attorney general, an honorable man with no “prior allegiance” to the president, and are not only trying to undermine his sector of the executive branch, but are making “laughable threats of impeachment.”

The truth of the matter, so McConnell claimed, was that the Democrats don’t really care about Russian interference. Indeed, he went on, the Obama administration, by its feckless Russian policies, encouraged the Russians to intervene in our election.

Still the bottom line, our senior senator concluded, is that the two-year investigation is over. “Case closed.” The Democrats need to abandon their “ground hog day” spectacle of endless investigations, and accept the disappointing reality. Time to move on to enable the president and the Congress to concentrate on the work that the American people wants them to do.

Well, the senior senator from Massachusetts was not about to let that ukase on the Mueller Report go unchallenged. Wishing that the Mueller Report would just go away, she reminded her colleagues, would not make it so. Turns out that not only had she read the redacted Mueller Report, “cover to cover,” but, she confessed, she had been “shaken” by it. If any other person in the country, besides the president, she observed, had done what is described in the Mueller Report, that person would “be in jail.”

“The facts” had led her to the conclusion that conventional wisdom regards as politically inexpedient: that the behavior displayed by Donald Trump in his incessant attempts to end or minimize the Mueller investigation warranted the beginning of impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives. To remind McConnell of what Mueller had actually found as well as to validate her call for Congress’s nuclear option against a rogue president, Warren began reading excerpts from the report itemizing Trump’s obstruction of justice.

She read the letter, now signed by more than 700 former prosecutors for the Department of Justice, who attested that the obstructive behavior attributed to Trump in the report constituted multiple felonies that apply even to a president. As the Mueller Report concludes in its penultimate paragraph: “no person is so high that he is above the law.” The Congress had a choice, Warren told her senate colleagues: either to protect the president or to protect the Constitution they have all sworn an oath to preserve and uphold.

Mitch McConnell long ago made his choice. He made it when he weaponized the filibuster to render the Senate a virtually dysfunctional body. He made it when he championed “Citizens United” that opened the floodgates of corporate money to undermine legislative democracy through massive bribery. He made it when he trampled upon Constitutional norms by sitting on Merrick Garland’s nomination for nearly a year to influence the election and preserve Republican supremacy on the Supreme Court.

Mitch McConnell’s reading of the Mueller Report and the reaction to it is in the same vein: the gaslighting about the Russian interference and the parties’ response (he says nothing of Trump’s refusal to accept the reality of that interference, nor of his own refusal to be party to a statement President Obama wanted to release alerting the country to that interference late in the campaign); his misrepresentation of the report’s findings about relations between the Russians and the Trump campaign; his total suppression of the inconvenient facts that the report presents about Trump’s obstruction; his ignoring the Special Counsel’s call for congressional action; his whitewashing of William Barr; his trivializing of impeachment.

All this points to one ugly conclusion: McConnell is determined to protect the president at all costs. His cynical obfuscation shows him to be a full partner of the president in his obstruction of justice.

Robert Emmett Curran of Richmond is professor of history emeritus at Georgetown University.

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