Last week was supposed to be earthshaking in Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe, with the release of sentencing memos on three former members of the Trump universe—Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Yet Americans learned little new and nothing decisive about the allegations of Russia-Trump collusion that triggered this long investigation.
The main Russia-related news is the disclosure, in Mr. Mueller’s memo on Mr. Cohen, of a previously unknown attempt by an unidentified Russian to reach out to the Trump presidential campaign. “In or around November 2015, Cohen received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level,” the memo says.
The Russian also offered the possibility of a meeting between Mr. Trump and Vladimir Putin. Alas for conspiracy hopefuls, MR. COHEN “DID NOT FOLLOW UP ON THIS INVITATION,” the memo says, because Mr. Cohen says he was already talking to other Russians about a Trump Tower hotel project that has been previously disclosed. Mr. Trump has said he shut down that hotel negotiation in 2016 because he was running for President.
So a Russian wanted to insinuate himself into the Trump orbit but nothing happened. Why drop this into a sentencing memo? The press is breathing heavily that it signals Mr. Mueller’s intention to promote a narrative that the Trumpians were all too willing, for commercial and political reasons, to hear Russian solicitations.
This would make Trump officials look dumb or naive, as Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner were when they took that famous meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016. Such a narrative would be politically embarrassing, but it’s not conspiring to hack and release the email of Democratic Party officials.
The Manafort memo is even less revealing. The memo says Mr. Manafort lied about his contacts with a Ukrainian business partner, Konstantin Kilimnik. But the memo redacts the details about those lies, so it’s impossible to know if they concern Russia or the tax and other violations that Mr. Manafort has pleaded guilty to. We are left again with media speculation about what else Mr. Mueller knows, not with evidence of any attempt to steal an election.
More legally troubling is the separate sentencing memo on Mr. Cohen from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Mr. Mueller handed off the probe into Mr. Cohen’s business practices, including the legal grifter’s payoffs to porn actress Stormy Daniels and another woman who claim to have had affairs with Donald Trump and threatened to go public during the 2016 campaign.
This was another example of dumb and dumber, SINCE ANY SENTIENT VOTER KNEW MR. TRUMP HAD A BAD HISTORY WITH WOMEN. Voters ignored it in 2016 because Hillary Clinton spent years apologizing for worse behavior by her husband. But the payoffs are now a political problem for Mr. Trump because Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty to violating campaign-finance laws and implicated Mr. Trump.
Campaign violations are often treated as CIVIL, NOT CRIMINAL, VIOLATIONS, and the Justice Department dropped criminal charges against Democrat John Edwards in 2012 for payments made by campaign donors to his mistress. But acting U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami is playing up Mr. Trump’s role, saying in the memo that Mr. Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” (Mr. Trump).
The memo waxes on about the importance of campaign-finance law to American democracy, which suggests Mr. Khuzami would indict Mr. Trump if he could. Justice Department guidelines advise against indicting a sitting President, so Mr. Khuzami’s memo looks more like a road map for House Democrats. So much for all the media handwringing that Mr. Trump has interfered with the independence of the Justice Department. He has less influence at Justice than any President since Richard Nixon in his final days.
The political dilemma for Democrats is that lying about sex and paying to cover it up are wrong, but they’re a long way from collaborating with the Kremlin to beat Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Trump lied to the public about his dealings with Mr. Cohen. Bill Clinton lied to the public and under oath in a legal proceeding, yet Democrats defended him. Good luck trying to impeach Mr. Trump for campaign-finance violations.
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All of this argues for Mr. Mueller to wrap up his probe and let America get on with the political debate over its meaning for Mr. Trump’s Presidency. Mr. Mueller has been investigating for 19 months, and the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign began in July 2016, if not earlier. The country deserves an account of what Mr. Mueller knows, not more factual dribs and drabs in sentencing memos.