Sunday, March 24, 2019

In what way was #Trump NOT exonerated?

So we're all hearing now that today's letter by Attorney General William Barr quotes Robert Mueller's saying that while his report "does not conclude Trump committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

What does that even mean?

The word "exonerate" comes from two Latin words: ex: "out of, from", and onus: "burden." The original sense--and the sense of common usage--is the idea of a burden being taken away.

Legal Exoneration
In other words, the question is, has a burden been taken away from President Trump? Certainly the legal burden has been taken away. He has been legally exonerated. Period. That's not even an issue.

So is there some other sense in which he has not been exonerated? There are two other senses in which he might not have been exonerated.

Moral Exoneration
He might not have been morally exonerated. In other words, maybe the President did something Mueller thought was wrong, but not illegal. Maybe that's what he means. It wouldn't exactly surprise anybody if Trump did something wrong. But, of course, no one has appointed Mueller Lord Chamberlain either. His role simply does not encompass judging the morality of the President's actions. So it is hard to think that Mueller was using it in this sense.

Of course, the criticism of anyone--including Trump--by Washington politicians is always a little ironic. If you're going to morally judge other people, doing it from Washington, D.C., not exactly the bastion of morality, is kind of hard to take seriously.

In addition, the President's political enemies didn't merely claim the President did something wrong. They said he did something illegal, and the guy charged with spending two years and millions of dollars looking under every rock to see if he did that has said he can't find that he did. There is "insufficient evidence" to support that claim. The facts don't support the contention that the President did something illegal. So, if the facts don't do that, then what does?

Political Exoneration
Trump might also be said not to be politically exonerated. In other words the burden of the political charges against him (and now that the burden of the legality of the charges has been taken away, all that's left is the political). But then, you can spin political charges all day, and there's no equivalent of Mueller and his legal team to verify any of it. When it comes to political charges, there is literally no accountability. Political exoneration is meaningless in a partisan world. Anybody can say anything. So whether he is politically exonerated is neither here nor there.

Trump's political enemies will do their best to obscure the fact that the expectations they themselves set up for this investigation were exploded today. That's what they do. There was literally nothing Mueller could have done short of finding conclusion evidence that he committed crimes that would have pleased them.

So moral exoneration doesn't make sense, since Mueller is not qualified to make that judgment. Political exoneration doesn't make sense, since it is meaningless. The only question here is whether the President was legally exonerated, which he unquestionably was.

The rest is just Wolf Blitzer blowing smoke.

2 comments:

Thomas said...

> "He has been legally exonerated. Period. That's not even an issue."

From Mueller's report: "while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him"

From Black's law dictionary: "To lift, remove the stain of being called out for blame, liability, or punishment. It is more that just freeing an accused person of the responsibility for a criminal or otherwise illegal or wrongful act. It is publicly stating that this accused should never have been accused in the first place."

There is no question that Trump was not exonerated. Given the reporting yesterday, there are questions about whether Barr acted deceptively.

Gary Derek Beckett said...
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