The Mueller report is like a legal version of a thriller movie in which three malevolent forces are attacking a city all at once. Everybody’s wondering if the three attackers are working together. The report concludes that they weren't, but that doesn’t make the situation any less scary or the threat any less real.
The first force is Donald Trump, who represents a threat to the American systems of governance. Centuries ago our founders created a system of laws and not men. In our system of government there are procedures in place, based on certain values — impartiality, respect for institutions, the idea that a public office is a public trust, not a private bauble.
When Trump appears in the Mueller report, he is often running roughshod over these systems and violating these values. He asks his lawyer to hamper an investigation. He asks his F.B.I. director to take the heat off his allies. He tries to get the relevant investigators fired. I don’t know if his actions meet the legal standard of obstruction of justice, but they certainly meet the common-sense standard of interference with justice.
The second force is Russia. If Trump is a threat to the institutional infrastructure, the Russians are a threat to our informational infrastructure. We knew this already, but it was still startling to see the fact declared so bluntly — that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election “in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
It may not be bombing buildings or shooting at people, but if a foreign government is attacking the factual record on which democracy runs, it is still a sort of warfare. The Russians are trying to undermine the information we use to converse, and the trust that makes conversation possible.
The third force is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. They are a threat to our deliberative infrastructure. Any organization needs to be able to hold private conversations in order to deliberate. Whether it is State Department cables or Democratic National Committee emails, WikiLeaks has violated privacy and made it harder for institutions to function. We’re now in a situation in which some of the worst people on earth get to determine what gets published.
第三股势力是朱利安·阿桑奇(Julian Assange)和维基解密(WikiLeaks)。它们对我们的审议基础设施构成威胁。任何组织都需要能够保留一些私人谈话以便进行审议。无论是国务院的电报，还是民主党全国委员会(Democratic National Committee)的邮件，维基解密侵犯了隐私，使制度运转的难度加大。我们正处于这样一种情形，即一些世界上最糟的人得以决定要公布什么内容。
The Mueller report indicates that Trump was not colluding with Russia. But it also shows that working relationships were beginning to be built, through networkers like Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Roger Stone. More important, it shows that many of the Trumpists, the Russians and the WikiLeaks crowd all understood that they were somehow adjacent actors in the same project.
穆勒报告表明，特朗普没有通俄。但它也显示，通过保罗·马纳福特(Paul Manafort)、小唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump Jr.)和罗杰·斯通(Roger Stone)这样的联络人，这种工作关系正开始建立。更重要的是，它表明许多特朗普主义者、俄罗斯人和维基解密人士都明白，他们多少是同一项目上彼此相近的参与者。
I would say that’s the report’s central importance. We are being threatened in a very distinct way. The infrastructure of the society is under threat — the procedures that shape government, the credibility of information, the privacy rules that make deliberation possible. And though the Chinese government does not play a big role here, it represents a similar sort of threat — to our intellectual infrastructure, the intellectual property rights that organize innovation.
It is as if somebody is inserting acids into a body that eats away at the ligaments and the tendons.
These forces are motivated by self-interest, but their common feature is an operational nihilism. They are trying to sow disorder at the foundation of society. The goal is not really to convert anybody to a cause; it is to create cynicism and disruption that will open up the space to grab what you want to grab. They rig the system and then tell everybody, “The system is rigged!” And therefore, all values are suspended. Everything is permitted.
As I was reading the report I thought of a podcast called “Against the Rules” by Michael Lewis. A recent episode jumps off from the way athletes are getting more vicious toward referees. But that’s not just true in sport; it’s true in society. In all societies there are rules defining good conduct, and there are supposed to be impartial, honest referees that enforce those rules and make sure the game is fair.
在阅读报告时，我想起了迈克尔·刘易斯(Michael Lewis)主持的名为“违规”(Against the Rules)的播客。近来有一期开始攻击运动员对待裁判的方式越来越凶恶的问题。而这不仅适用于运动，在社会中也是实情。在所有的社会中，都存在定义得体行为的规则，也理应有公道、诚实的裁判来执行这些规则，确保游戏的公平公正。
And today, across society, two things are happening: Referees are being undermined, and many are abandoning their own impartiality. (Think of the Wall Street regulators, the Supreme Court, the Senate committee chairmen, even many of us in the blessed media.) Things begin to topple.
The system more or less held this time. But that’s just because people around Trump often refused to do what he told them to do. And we happened to have Robert Mueller, who seems to be a fair referee.
The Justice Department has not been defended from political assault. William Barr’s news conference before the report’s release eroded any claim to impartiality and trustworthiness.
Trump doesn’t seem to have any notion of loyalty to an office. All power in his eye is personal power, and the government is there to serve his Sun God self. He’ll continue to trample the proper systems of government.
It’s easy to recognize when you are attacked head-on. But the U.S. is being attacked from below, at the level of the foundations we take for granted.