Cliff Owen, Associated Press
Four pages of special counsel Robert Mueller report on the witness table in the House Intelligence Committee hearing room on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, April 18, 2019.. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The Mueller report exhaustively details that the 2016 American presidential election was directly attacked by Russia. How we respond to the Mueller report and the attack of an enemy is vital to our continuing survival as a democratic-republic and American values.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, played a major role in leading our nation through its first tumultuous generation, when we were under incessant internal and external attack. Madison’s responses are a guide worthy of being followed. Sadly, our highly partisan responses are often the antithesis of Madison’s example.

The Mueller report clarifies that Russia had four goals, which the Trump campaign, the Democrats, the press, and many Americans unwittingly supported. Russia’s primary goal was to sow seeds of division and cast doubt on cherished American values. They believe they can conquer a divided America.

The Russians secondarily sought to ensure that their avowed adversary, Hillary Clinton, was defeated. The Russians repeatedly sought to entice Trump campaign officials to work directly or indirectly with them to defeat Clinton. If Donald Trump won, the Russians would use cooperation of the Trump campaign to undercut the legitimacy of the Trump presidency. Mueller found that, “In some instances, the (Trump) campaign was receptive to (offers), while in other instances the campaign officials shied away.” Despite this cooperation or collusion, Mueller found that the legal elements of criminal conspiracy had not all been established beyond a shadow of a doubt by President Trump.

The Clinton campaign also evidently relied on a dossier prepared with aid from the Russians to defeat Trump. Throughout the process, the Russians took gleeful advantage of a partisan and profit-driven media.

Trump lost the electoral vote but won decisively in the constitutionally mandated electoral college. He, nevertheless, believed the legitimacy of his presidency was being questioned and determined to act preemptively, by attacking those involved in some manner in the investigation, including James Comey, Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Exercising his Article III presidential removal powers, Trump fired Comey, who had been rendered ineffectual by attacks on his integrity from both parties during the campaign. Courageous officials in the Trump administration, however, refused to carry out Trump’s emotionally-charged orders to remove other investigators from office. To his credit, the president wisely declined to remove Mueller from office, preferring to engage in Twitter attacks on Mueller’s credibility.

The president failed to answer approximately 30 written questions from Mueller on the ground that he had no present recollection of the events. Mueller understood that obtaining answers would require face-to-face questioning and a lengthy court battle to get the president to testify fully, subjecting his investigation to further attacks. He deferred to Congress and courts in exercising their powers to continue the investigation.

For his part, Madison would seek the truth by supporting nonpartisan legislative investigations and further litigation to determine whether any criminal or impeachable offenses were committed. He would also initiate investigations to determine whether FBI powers were abused and whether the Clinton campaign engaged in campaign violations.

Madison would also support the media’s coverage, with unwavering hope that the American people might yet demand more of a too often deceitful media, focused on exorbitant profits shared by unethical commentators and owners, who care more about their pocketbooks and pride than the welfare of our democratic-republic.

In his final State of the Union address, after two terms in office and fighting an unpopular war, Madison “hoped that I shall read in the character of the American people (a) devotion to true liberty(,) the Constitution (and) the great principles consecrated in its charger (referring to the sacred plates used in the early Temple services for receiving the sacrificial blood) and by those moral principles to which they are so well allied.”

Madison was vigilant in abiding by his oath to support the Constitution, even when such allegiance threatened his reelection. His faith in the American people was indefatigable, even when it was not always merited. In time, however, the American people proved worthy of his trust.

4 comments on this story

Our elected leaders must similarly view allegiance to their constitutional oath as more important than personal office. We need fewer divisive tweets and politically driven cameo appearances. We also need more journalists, bound by an ethic of pursuing the truth, and fewer commentators and media owners driven by avarice and pride.

As Americans we must most significantly respect differing views and resist the evil end of divisiveness promoted by our enemies. Madison’s wise and ever-patient leadership earned him the accolades of his generation, ushering in the so-called “Era of Good Feelings.” Following Madison’s example remains the best remedy for attacks by the Russians and other internal and external enemies of America.