But there was one area where Trump’s adversaries did indeed undermine him in profound ways—unjustifiably, we now know. One of Trump’s major campaign promises was to seek better U.S.-Russian relations, but almost immediately he was thwarted from doing so by the allegations and suspicions of Russian collusion and the resulting criminal investigation stemming from those allegations and suspicions. The elected president’s range of diplomatic action was checked by unelected managerial mandarins in the government, and the president was under a cloud for two years.
Now we know that Mueller found no evidence of Trump himself colluding with Russia, but at this point it almost doesn’t matter. U.S. relations with Russia have become more dangerous than at any time since the height of the Cold War, and the president was rendered powerless to do anything about it. For those who believe the perceived threat of Russian expansionism has been severely overblown, this represents a major setback.
Had Mueller revealed that Trump and his team had indeed engaged in such treacherous behavior, the nation would have thanked the fates that we had in place such people as John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Glenn Simpson, Christopher Steele, Adam Schiff and many others to save the republic. Maybe someone even would have invoked the famous phrase of Bismarck, who observed, “God watches over drunks, small children, and the United States of America.”
But now, in the aftermath of the Barr summary of the Mueller report, what are we to make of those same people noted above attempting to seize policymaking from the duly elected president of the United States in a major area of international relations?
Either way, it seems clear that the old Vandenberg protocol is dead—for Trump and most likely for many of his successors. We seem to be entering new territory in terms of domestic politics—and perforce in terms also of how we conduct foreign policy.
Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century (Simon & Schuster).