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BU Political Analyst Reviews Mueller Report: “Impeachment Is Going to Happen”

Thomas Whalen says that in political chaos in 2016, Russia’s Putin got “what he wanted”


The impeachment of President Trump and a Constitutional crisis over executive privilege are likely after Thursday’s much-anticipated release of the Mueller report, which offers a far more disturbing picture than Attorney General William Barr has claimed, according to BU historian and political analyst Thomas Whalen.

“Impeachment is going to happen, take it to the bank,” says Whalen, a College of General Studies associate professor of social sciences. “The subpoenas are already being written.”

Most troubling, Whalen says, is that the report from special counsel Robert Mueller makes clear that Russian interference in the 2016 election was pervasive and designed to elect Donald Trump as president, raising doubts about the legitimacy of the election.

Portrait of Boston University professor Tom Whalen

Thomas Whalen. Photo courtesy of Whalen

Whalen, who studies 19th- and 20th-century politics, the Cold War, and modern foreign policy, says that he read key sections of the 448-page report, which is formally titled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Election,” and skimmed the rest. He says it’s a treasure trove of damning info. And rather than ending the investigation of the Trump camp’s ties to Russia and efforts to obstruct justice, he suggests that it’s only the beginning.

“It’s amazing: we’re a year away from a presidential election and political chaos reigns here,” says Whalen. “If I’m Vladimir Putin, I’m smiling and clapping my hands, because this is exactly what he wanted. That’s the headline: Putin Wins.”

Whalen’s key takeaways:

Mueller put the burden on Congress. “Mueller has basically kicked the can down the road to the Congress,” saying it’s up to them to decide, Whalen says. “To be fair to Mueller, given the institutional restrictions and his mandate here, he didn’t have much of a choice. He did what he thought he could reasonably do under the law.” And Mueller has provided plenty of evidence for the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to move forward. While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said no to impeachment, younger members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (CAS’11) will push for action, Whalen says.

Barr has a lot to answer for. “Amazingly I think Barr was throwing sand in the face of America—‘Just move on, nothing to see here,’” Whalen says. “I think he completely mischaracterized the intent of the report, and if I was Bob Mueller, I’d be somewhat upset. It will be interesting to see what Mueller says if called to testify before Congress.” Whalen also says it’s troubling that Barr so quickly concluded there was no basis to charge the president with obstruction of justice: “If this was a regular common American and some lesser crime, you’d be thrown in irons. But the bar to get a president on anything, to indict, is so high it’s practically impossible.”

The Russians’ actions were historic—in a bad way. “Mueller says it quite plainly. They did in fact interfere with our democratic electoral process, specifically the 2016 presidential race. That’s an act of war. No one’s saying that, but that’s huge. A foreign power. And apparently the Trump administration had lots of contacts with that foreign power, including members of Trump’s own family. That to me is the most startling thing. Now I really have strong doubts about the legitimacy of the 2016 results. This is huge.”

Americans will react along party lines. Democrats will see a treasure trove of material and will open up a slew of further investigations, says Whalen. “If you’re on the Republican side, all you’re going to look at is: there is no criminal conspiracy, because they couldn’t establish criminal intent. It’s like a Rorschach test—everybody’s going to see what they want in this.”

None of this is good news. No matter what side you’re on. “The biggest takeaway is, it’s a bad day for democracy, because this just shows how imperiled our democratic institutions are,” Whalen says. “There’s no faith now in the Justice Department or our election system. It just seems like, one-by-one, our democratic institutions are going by the wayside, and that cannot be a good thing moving forward.”

Joel Brown, Staff Writer for BU Today, Bostonia and BU Today Marketing & Communications
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

33 Comments on BU Political Analyst Reviews Mueller Report: “Impeachment Is Going to Happen”

  • Tom on 04.19.2019 at 6:05 am

    An impeachment attempt would pretty much guarantee Trump’s reelection. Listen to Nancy Pelosi.

  • Missy on 04.19.2019 at 6:26 am

    Political suicide to try to impeach President Trump. The republicans made that same mistake with Clinton.

    The Democrats need to realize it was their nonsensical failed policies and bad candidate that were not wanted by the other half of the people in this country which is why “we” elected Donald Trump. Thankfully the minority was protected from an out of touch majority by the electoral college which protects this nation from pure democratic mob rule.

    And, sorry to burst your bubble but looking at Trump’s track record as a President and the line up of increasingly far left Democratic presidential candidates we” are going to do it again.

    • Tricia on 04.19.2019 at 8:42 am

      “Half” of “we” did not elect President Trump. Remember that. Clinton received 2.8 million more votes than Trump.
      I don’t care about your argument, but it should be based on fact.

    • John on 04.19.2019 at 9:03 am

      The “nonsensical failed policies” had very little to do with the 2016 election results. If you listen to any of DT’s supporters, they aren’t in love with his policies. He doesn’t even have discernible policy positions for many important issues. They like his racist, elitist, and fanciful view of the US. It’s not about policy at all.

      • MIssy on 04.19.2019 at 6:55 pm

        Actually many people liked his policies when he ran for office which is why he beat out every other republican in the race. His policies remain popular with many people now too which is why his approval ratings have not sunk into the toilet despite the overtop efforts to derail his presidency.

    • David on 04.19.2019 at 9:17 am

      Tricia, that is why we have an electoral college in the first place. Trump knew the rules of the game and ran a successful presidential campaign. Clinton tried to get as many Americans to join her crazed mob with no regard to the election process. If the rules were different, Trump would change his methods and still come out on top.

      • Missy on 04.19.2019 at 9:28 am

        Thank you David. A pure democracy, which thankfully the USA is not, is two wolves and sheep deciding what to have for dinner! This nation is a representative constitutional republic with an electoral college that was put in place to protect the minorities in less populated states from mob rule.

        • Richard Chappo on 04.19.2019 at 10:32 am

          Well said David and Missy. Now let the BU president know that professors forcing their bias on students in the classroom is wrong.

  • Megan Sullivan on 04.19.2019 at 7:50 am

    Thank you for your erudite analysis, Professor Whalen. The role of the public intellectual has never been more important.

  • J on 04.19.2019 at 7:50 am

    Impeachment seems to be a reach…I wouldn’t be surprised if there was censure though.
    That’s kind of the ‘safest’ thing – politically – at this point…

  • Mike on 04.19.2019 at 8:54 am

    You never mentioned any legal grounds for impeachment though…

  • Grant on 04.19.2019 at 8:57 am

    Dems hate President Trump more than they love America. They’d rather see him fail than America succeed.

    • Vicky on 04.19.2019 at 9:15 am

      I agree!

    • BB on 04.19.2019 at 9:41 am


    • LM on 04.19.2019 at 9:44 am

      Thank you!

    • Andre on 04.19.2019 at 9:47 am

      Let’s see just a few of the reasons why thinking people (of any political belief system) don’t like Trump. Could it be his whiny, vicious attacks on Twitter? How ’bout his feeling entitled to grabbing women by the $%&yh? How ’bout supporting the murder of countless civilians by Saudia Arabia in Yemen? Or supporting the elimination of Palestinians from their own land? Or supporting the reduction in Medicare and Social Security because of budget deficits caused by giving a YUGE tax cut to the rich? Or having an Israeli “deal of the century peace plan” that has three components: (1) get Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia to agree to provide cash (“investment”) to Palestinians by (2) destroying their hated Shiite Muslim rival Iran so that (3) desperate Palestinians may not object too violently to Israel annexing all Palestinian lands. Etc., etc., etc.

      • Richard Chappo on 04.19.2019 at 10:30 am

        Andre, How about the booming economy, the lowest unemployment rate among minorities, forcing the rest of the world to trade fairly with the US, destroying ISIS, rebuilding our neglected military, getting rid of Obamacare, Constitutional justices and energy self-sufficiency. Obviously, you hate Israel. The Palestinians refuse peace yet you take their side. did you want us to break relations with Saudi Arabia? Not very smart of you. Must think big picture rather that just gripe.

        • Andre on 04.19.2019 at 1:45 pm

          Really, Richard Chapo? Obviously, you’re not a BU student because you cite the “booming economy” and attribute it to Trump. What about the millions of businessmen across the country who are optimally managing their businesses? What about the millions of computer scientists, millions of biotech researchers, etc., etc. developing entirely new high tech products and cures? Is Trump who believes his 10 year son is a computer “expert”, involved with all that research and business activity? I think not. If the economy is truly booming (which it most certainly has been since the recession of 2008), I think Trump had NOTHING to do with it.

          Oh. I forgot. In his first year in office (i.e., in all of 2017), he took credit for “removing regulations”. Are coal companies having the right to once again dump coal waste in waterways (a regulation that he eliminated) the key to the economy’s booming? I don’t think so.

          And then there was the “beginning of 2018” tax cut. Trump and Kudlow claimed that would be the rocket fuel for the economy, driving it to 5%, no more likely 6%, growth. And yes, we had a tiny blip up for two quarters in 2018. But, just as predicted by all but the Trump sycophants, that was short-lived. Why not do a search for “1st quarter gdp forecast) and see where the consensus predictions are.

          Rebuuilding our neglected military? Really? With a $600 billion plus dollar budget for each of the preceding (i.e., before Trump) years, do you really think that soldiers and Marines were living in tents outdoors, that Marine and Air Force pilots were flying WWII planes, that the Navy had only turn of the century tug boats?

          I see you’ve been completely brainwashed by whatever BS has been claimed.

          And yes, I DO believe we should break relations with Saudi Arabia, right now murdering countless civilians in Yemen. We sell them weapons because they will allegedly use them against “terrorists” and yet…they did NOTHING in Iraq or Syria v. ISIS. Nor has any news outlet reported that they did. They even did and do nothing against Al Qaeda Arab Peninsula (AQAP)occupying one third of Yemen such that the US had to send its soldiers against them in 2017. Navy Seal William Ryan Owens (who Trump said we would remember forever even though no one now knows who the heck that was) was killed. So…our good friend Saudi Arabia does nothing v. terrorists, the US has to send our troops halfway around the world to go to areas which are miles away from the Saudi border, and our people get killed. Great friend that is.

          And I was a staunch supporter of Israel before Trump and Netanyahu got together to end any chance of Palestinian peace and now its just outright theft, led by US Ambassador Friedman, a fanatical champion of the settler movement, Jared Kushner, and the afore-mentioned people.

          And, by the way, how is dismantling Obamacare piece by piece a good thing when all manner of hardworking Americans (like independent contractors i.e., carpenters, plumbers, etc.) who aren’t covered by an employer’s health insurance need it desperately for themselves and their families?

          ISIS? You think TRUMP defeated ISIS? Speak to anyone in Iraq and Syria and they’ll tell you Shiite Muslims from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon were responsible for defeating that Sunni Muslim movement. Of course, they were motivated to do so because Shiite Muslims make up only 15% of worldwide Muslims so ISIS and Al Qaeda (another Sunni Muslim movement) are an existential threat to them, but give credit where credit is due. If you need boots on the ground to defeat any foes, THEY were the boots on the ground doing the dirty work.

      • Proud BU Staffer on 04.19.2019 at 10:49 am

        A well written, dryly funny, helpful piece. The arguments are well supported with documented facts. Indeed, as you write, people will see what they want to see.

        I am so proud that BU has been such a leader throughout its history. This is the school of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where he accomplished a Doctorate in Systematic Theology. We were one of the first schools to offer admission to POC, and were attacked for it then. Any progressiveness will be attacked now as well. Write on and thank you for helping break down the current events with this piece.

        Aside: I write this wrily, but calling people “mobs”, “you people”, misrepresenting other people’s arguments, or saying they “hate America” because we do not share in the same bigotry is nothing new.

  • L on 04.19.2019 at 9:31 am

    You people who want trump impeached above all else and will only vote blue above all else are the reason why donnie is gonna win in 2020. be realistic here and don’t go for it all

  • Gary Lawson on 04.19.2019 at 10:00 am

    If Russia’s actions in the last election were an “act of war,” to which targets should President Obama have directed missiles in 2016 (or even 2014, when Russian election activity was confirmed)? Where should he have sent troops? How many casualties would have been acceptable in that “war”? Calling something a big deal and calling it an “act of war” are quite different things, with quite different implications.

  • Disappointed BU Staffer on 04.19.2019 at 10:11 am

    Is Whalen supposed to be an enlightened and professional professor or a Democratic political advisor? “Impeachment is going to happen, take it to the bank”? “Amazingly I think Barr was throwing sand in the face of America—‘Just move on, nothing to see here.” Seriously?

    Can this article or Whalen at least explain how Russia made our election illegitimate? Did they have dead people vote or hack our voting machines? Did they have armed guards outside election stations scaring people or use buses (and “lunch bags”) to transport people to the stations? We already know for a fact that the Democrat party has no problem directly influencing elections outside the U.S. https://www.timesofisrael.com/bill-clinton-admits-he-tried-to-help-peres-beat-netanyahu-in-1996-elections/

    This article did nothing to enlighten, just standard cable news garbage. Wish BU and BU Today would be better than this, but we know where both lean politically.

    • Greg on 04.19.2019 at 10:35 am

      I couldn’t possibly agree more … even further, labeling this an ‘act of war’ is just simply irresponsible … maybe we should go get a ‘hot take’ from AOC too.

      This is NOT the BU I remember, and that has me profoundly sad.

    • Disappointed BU Student on 04.19.2019 at 12:59 pm

      In case you would like to know where the political leanings of BU professors lie, here’s a Daily Free Press article from 2016 that shows that. The ratio of Democrats to Republicans is almost 40:1, so articles like this do not surprise me at all. Granted, this article is a few years old, though I would be very surprised if this ratio has improved significantly.
      Link: https://dailyfreepress.com/blog/2016/10/13/this-election-year-professors-build-intellectual-discussion-safe-spaces/

      • Tommy on 04.20.2019 at 2:23 pm

        Why would the ratio change? BU professors are still highly educated.

  • Mary is One More Proud BU Staffer on 04.19.2019 at 11:04 am

    Thank you so much for your piece regarding the Mueller Report! This was helpful in starting to processing it. It’s sometimes hard to both have a life and keep up with and process all of the politics and current events these past years.

  • Anton on 04.19.2019 at 2:16 pm

    Five stages of grief. We will see them all.

  • Connor on 04.19.2019 at 3:41 pm

    “Impeachment is going to happen, take it to the bank”
    Ok Prof Whalen how much do you want to bet?

  • Dale on 04.19.2019 at 3:52 pm

    Color me shocked a CGS professor said this

  • Tommy on 04.20.2019 at 2:21 pm

    Trump was elected by tiny margins in swing states.Russian interference was enough to make those tiny margins. Also while Trump bashes Comey, the “Comey Letter” was also enough to make those microscopic differences. So obviously, Trump is not a legitimate POTUS, and should be removed.

    Hamilton warned about Trump in Federalist #68: “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

    His idea was that the Electoral College would reject such a “creature”, but they did not do their duty.

    • Missy on 04.21.2019 at 9:34 am

      You seem to want to ignore the “fact” that he also beat every single republican running against him in the primary too. Do you honestly believe Russian collusion caused that upset too? The fact is that Donald Trump beat the democratic candidate for the very same reasons he beat all the Republican candidates and that reason was that his message resonated with the voters period.

  • Daniel O'Donnell on 04.23.2019 at 1:06 pm

    Please proceed with impeachment whether it succeeds or not.

    Let Congress go on record on whether they back Trump or not.

    These are sad days for democracy, and it is likely to get worse.

    With all the Russian interference, all evidence appears that Trump is not interested in protecting our media or elections from Russian interference. In fact, against statements from ALL our intelligence agencies, Trump trusts Putin more than them.

    Do you?

  • Geoff on 05.16.2019 at 4:51 pm

    It’s sad that a once great university has turned into a propaganda mouthpiece. I’m quite happy that Barr has a strong commitment to the rule of law. He’s exactly what we needed after the lawless Obama years.

    This post won’t age well (already fraying), but then it’ll be shoved down the memory hole, 1984 style. The writer and BU Today will then move to the next propaganda piece just like Minitruth.

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