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21 Jul

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World Politics

United States

Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice on 29 May in Washington, about the Russia investigation.

Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice on 29 May in Washington, about the Russia investigation. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Robert Mueller will go to Congress on Wednesday to testify before two House committees about his report on Russian election interference, links between the Trump campaign and Moscow and potential obstruction of justice by the president.

As the special counsel speaks to the judiciary and intelligence committees, the eyes of America will be trained on Capitol Hill.

On Sunday, the chairman of the judiciary panel indicated the stakes when he said Mueller’s 448-page report contained “very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours” – the benchmark for impeachment.

“It’s important that we not have a lawless administration and a lawless president,” the New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler told Fox News Sunday. “And it’s important that people see what we’re doing and what we’re dealing with.”

Nadler’s committee would initiate impeachment proceedings.

He is not above the law. He may have a temporary reprieve while he occupies that office

Adam Schiff

“The report presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours,” he said, “and we have to present, or let Mueller present those facts to the American people and then see where we go from there because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be above the law.”

Mueller was appointed in May 2017, submitted his report in March 2019 and saw it released with redactions a month later.

Attorney general William Barr released a brief summary in which he said conspiracy between Trump and Moscow had not been proven and instances of possible obstruction of justice – the report details 11 by the president or his campaign – were not sufficient to establish that an offence had been committed.

Mueller, who said in his report he did not exonerate Trump, subsequently gave a press conference in which he said his work should speak for itself. Most took that to mean he did not pursue the obstruction charges in part because of a justice department opinion which holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

On Sunday Adam Schiff of California, the House intelligence committee chair, told CBS’s Face the Nation: “It’s been clear from Bob Mueller that he felt and the justice department feels bound by this Office of Legal Counsel opinion that you can’t indict a sitting president.”

The Russia investigation is not the only subject of discussion of impeachment and whether Trump has committed “high crimes and misdemeanours”, a standard not defined in the constitution and thereby forever the subject of debate.

In the case of now-closed investigations of campaign finance violations involving former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen making payments to women who claim affairs with Trump, Schiff said the president was “essentially an unindicted co-conspirator”.

“He has been identified as ‘individual one’,” he said, “the person who directed Michael Cohen to commit this fraudulent campaign scheme. And I assume this all means that in the Southern District of New York, the case will be reopened when he leaves office.”

Schiff also said that though Cohen is in prison Trump is “not above the law. He may have a temporary reprieve while he occupies that office”.

Among Democrats, debate rages on about whether impeachment is merited or politically desirable as the 2020 election approaches. Pro-impeachment opinion is strong among supporters and an increasing number of elected officials, contenders for the presidential nomination among them.

Mueller’s testimony was initially set for 17 July. In a tense political standoff, other demands by House committees for testimony from Trump aides and allies have been blocked by the White House.

Trump, who has repeatedly and inaccurately claimed exoneration, said this week he would not watch Mueller’s testimony and accused Democrats of “just playing games”. On Sunday he tweeted a nonspecific but familiar complaint about “presidential harassment” and focused on his ongoing racist attacks on four progressive Democratic congresswomen.

Jerrold Nadler arrives to the House floor for a vote.

Jerrold Nadler arrives to the House floor for a vote. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Republicans who will question Mueller have tried to dampen expectations.

The hearing will be “like an old TV show that you watched years ago”, Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the judiciary committee, told the Associated Press. “After a few minutes you could quote what the characters could say, and nothing is new anymore. Frankly, the American people have moved on.”

Unsurprisingly, David Ciciline, a New Jersey Democrat on the same panel, disagreed. He told the AP the hearing would be “the first opportunity for the American people to hear directly from Mr Mueller about what he found about Russian interference in the American presidential election and efforts by the president to impede, undermine or stop the investigation.”

He added: “I do think that the contents of the report are so significant, and so damning, that when Mr Mueller brings them to life, and actually tells the American people … it will have an impact.”

Accordingly, Democrats have been preparing intensely.

Jamie Raskin of Maryland, another member of the judiciary committee, told the AP: “There are still millions of people who think, absurdly, that there is no evidence of presidential obstruction or collusion in the report.”

That, he said, was because Barr and Trump have created a “fog of propaganda”.

“We just want to clear the fog,” Raskin said.

Nadler told Fox News Sunday any Republican questioning of Mueller about supposed FBI misconduct, an attack line meant to discredit the special counsel’s work, would be an “irrelevancy” and a waste of time.

“What’s before the American people is the conduct of this president,” he said.

Jamie Dimon and other big-earning CEOs are bankrolling the Republican assault on America. They must work to stop it

Donald Trump greets business leaders beside president and CEO of JP Morgan Jamie Dimon, at the White House in 2017.

Donald Trump greets business leaders beside president and CEO of JP Morgan Jamie Dimon, at the White House in 2017. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

It started with Donald Trump’s racist tweets demanding that four Democratic congresswomen – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar – “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came”.

On Wednesday, at a rally in North Carolina, Trump continued his attack, especially on Omar. In response, the crowd chanted: “Send her back!”

Subsequently, Trump tried unconvincingly to distance himself from the chant.

The relevant question is not whether Trump is a racist. Of course he is. Or whether he’s going to continue bashing these members of Congress, who fill all his demonization boxes: Democrats, females, people of color, a Muslim. Of course he will.

The real question is whether the people bankrolling Trump and the Republican party are going to stop this rot before it consumes the politics of 2020, and perhaps more.

The RNC is intentionally and mendaciously fueling the same racism Trump is fueling

Early signs are not encouraging. Just before Trump’s North Carolina rally, the Republican National Committee released an ad attacking the “Squad”, as the four congresswomen have become known.

The ad opens with a clip of Ocasio-Cortez referring to migrant detention facilities as “concentration camps”, then saying “‘Never again’ means something”, referring to lessons from the Holocaust. That is followed by a clip from a 2018 primary debate where she asks her opponent, Joe Crowley, why he was willing to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or Ice, “fascist” but not to call for its elimination.

It then cuts to Tlaib saying she agrees with Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camp” phrase, and to Pressley saying: “You will see the light. And if you don’t, we will bring the fire.”

There follows footage of an attack on an Ice facility in Washington state, showing a burned car, and a facility in Colorado where an American flag was replaced with the flag of Mexico.

It’s profoundly misleading. The clips are all taken out of context. Pressley’s reference to “fire” was part of a statement calling for a humane system and noting that positive change happens either because people see the light or feel the fire.

The RNC is intentionally and mendaciously fueling the same racism Trump is fueling, for the same purpose: whipping up the base.

The Man Who Sold America: Joy-Ann Reid hosts a Trump house of horrors>>

Ilhan Omar’s constituents ‘proud to stand by her’ over Trump’s racist words>>

The week in wildlife – in pictures

 

Bob Rivett is a retired GP and Extinction Rebellion member

Bob Rivett and his wife, Anne, at an Extinction Rebellion demonstration on Waterloo Bridge, London. Photograph: Robert Rivett

I am a retired doctor, a husband, a father and grandfather – I am also one of more than 1,000 Extinction Rebellion protesters who have been arrested by police. During the April demonstrations in London, I sat on Waterloo Bridge with many others and refused to move in full acceptance that this nonviolent action would lead to my arrest.

For many years I have been aware of the growing threat to life on Earth due to our overconsumption of the planet’s finite resources, our pollution of land, air and sea, our disregard for other forms of life and, in particular, our reckless burning of fossil fuels. It’s now clear that global heating and biodiversity loss are proceeding even faster than predicted just a few years ago and we are reaching a tipping point beyond which it will soon be too late to avoid the extinction of life as we know it. Like most of my generation living in the wealthy parts of the world, I must accept the guilt and responsibility of my own contribution to this situation.

I share the frustration of those people who have been warning about this for decades – who have observed the totally inadequate response of governments and the deliberate lies and distortion of the facts by the fossil fuel industry, among others. I welcome the formation of Extinction Rebellion: I share its aims, I want to take part in its actions and I am gratified by the results it has achieved so far.

And yet, I also recognise that there is still a very long way to go before we have any chance of mitigating the ecological and social disaster that faces us. More and more people are waking up to the scale of the emergency: members of the public voice their concern, councils declare a climate emergency, and some politicians utter fine words. But we are yet to see this translated into effective action and there is no general acceptance or understanding of what that will entail. Because it will mean changing the way we live. The system that has brought us to this cliff edge is based on greed and inequality – we will only sustain life on this planet if we accept the need for less consumption and more social justice.

On Tuesday Extinction Rebellion was accused of being an anarchist organisation. To my mind, anarchists are anti-government, are destructive in their aims, and are not afraid to use violence. We are none of those things: we are resolutely nonviolent, recognise the need for a government, act in the interests of the people and are trying not to destroy, but to save life on Earth.

Occupying Waterloo Bridge in April gave me a glimpse of the sort of community we could all enjoy living in. Full of energy, imagination and creativity. A community organised to look after its members and its surroundings. A simple society but one rich in love and respect for each other.

Sitting on the bridge, waiting to be arrested, I was mainly thinking of my grandchildren. I was also thinking, desperately, that the world must change course before it is too late.

Bob Rivett is a retired general practitioner and Extinction Rebellion member

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