After the 2016 election, allegations of collusion with Russia to tamper with the election in Donald Trump’s favor were made against the Trump campaign. A special prosecutor (former FBI Director Robert Mueller III) was named by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate the subject. Now, almost three years later, the special prosecutor’s investigation has ended and his report was released. So what’s going on?
- May 17, 2017: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller III was named Special Prosecutor for the Trump-Russia Collusion case by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
- June 14, 2017: The Special Prosecutor’s case expanded to investigate the allegation that President Donald J. Trump obstructed justice.
- October 30, 2017: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted on 12 charges, one of which was money laundering. Also, former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents on the topic of communication with Russian government officials, and later claimed that he did it to protect President Trump.
- December 3, 2017: Former National Security Adviser and Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents from the FBI on the subject of collaboration with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
- February 16, 2018: Thirteen Russians were indicted by Mueller for trying to interfere and tamper with the 2016 election.
- February 22, 2018: Mueller filed thirty-two new financial charges against Gates and Manafort.
- February 23, 2018: Gates pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents and conspiracy against the US, becoming the fourth Trump-connection to plead guilty on those same charges.
- April 3, 2018: A Dutch lawyer by the name of Alexander van der Zwaan (who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI earlier in the year) was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine.
- April 9, 2018: The FBI raided Trump’s personal attorney’s (Michael Cohen‘s) home, office, and hotel room in order to find compelling evidence against the Trump campaign.
- June 8, 2018: Mueller filed new charges against Manafort and his trusted adviser and former aide, Konstantin Kilimnik, who was thought to be an asset of Russian intelligence services.
- July 13, 2018: Nine days after Independence Day (in the US), twelve Russian intelligence officers were indicted by Mueller for releasing DNC (Democratic National Committee) emails after hacking the DNC in June 2016.
- August 21, 2018: Manafort was found guilty by a jury in the state of Virginia on eight counts of fraud. On the same day, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty under a ”special agreement” where he would give information to the Special Prosecutor (Mueller).
- September 7, 2018: George Papadopoulos was sentenced to fourteen days in prison.
- September 14, 2018: Manafort entered a similar agreement that Cohen did with Mueller after he finally pleaded guilty.
- November 8, 2018: Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at Trump’s request (basically fired), bringing up sour memories of the “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Nixon administration. Matthew Whitaker (Sessions’s Chief of Staff) was appointed acting Attorney General.
- November 20, 2018: The President’s attorneys submitted written answers to questions by the Special Prosecutor.
- November 29, 2018: Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his knowledge and work on the building of a Trump Tower in Moscow, Russia.
- December 12, 2018: Cohen was sentenced to three years of prison, and as a means of having “the last laugh”, he claimed that Trump directed him to pay hush money to two alleged mistresses of the President.
- January 25, 2019: Longtime Republican operative Roger Stone (who also worked for President Richard Nixon during the infamous Watergate scandal) was arrested at his Florida home.
- February 22, 2019: A DC judge issued a “gag order” for Stone after he posted a picture on Instagram of the judge with crosshairs aimed at her head.
- Late February and early March 2019: Manafort was sentenced on two separate occasions to four years in jail and Mueller’s team recommended up to twenty-five years of prison for Manafort, calling him a “hardened criminal”.
- March 22, 2019: Attorney General William Barr receives the finalized Mueller report.
- March 24, 2019: In a letter to Congress, the Attorney General described the report as inconclusive.
In the midst of all this, a national debate ensued. Polls tracking Mueller’s trustworthiness dived and skyrocketed numerous times, while Democrats squabbled on the topic of impeachment. For some Congressional Democrats, impeachment would never let them win another election in their state or district. For others, it ensured them a landslide victory and even helped unseat incumbents and fend off primary challengers.
Meanwhile, although President Trump is claiming victory, it still isn’t over and even his own Attorney General has called the report inconclusive.
The question is, will the Democrats impeach, now that the report is all well and done?
Historically (except in the case of Watergate), when an opposition party in control of Congress even threatened impeachment, their popularity went underground, as in the case of the Lewinsky scandal. In any case, if the Democrats did get impeachment past the House of Representatives (which they control), impeachment would get struck down by the Republican majority in the Senate and whatever conservative Democrats were threatened in their home states (like for example Senator Joe Manchin III, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia who voted to confirm then-judge Brett Kavanaugh once it became apparent that he would get confirmed by the Senate).