Washington * Robert Mueller testified before Congress Wednesday. Meanwhile, out there in the real world:
• A federal judge in California was issuing an injunction blocking a new Trump administration policy that would have flatly denied most Central American migrants the right to lawfully seek asylum at the southern border.
• Attorney General William Barr was preparing an announcement, released Thursday, that the federal government will resume carrying out the death penalty after an effective 16-year moratorium. He promptly ordered prison officials to set execution dates for five federal death-row inmates.
• Europe was roasting in an unprecedented heat wave, with triple-digit temperature records being set across the continent. Paris had by far its hottest day ever on Thursday: an incredible 108 degrees. Scientists linked the phenomenon to human-induced climate change, which President Trump ridiculously has claimed is a hoax.
So yes, by all means, let's parse Mueller's daylong appearance at the witness table and argue about what it may mean for the likelihood of an impeachment inquiry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has never wanted to launch. But amid all the spin and counter-spin, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Trump administration, every single day, continues to wield a wrecking ball against federal law, sensible public policy and the nation's moral standing.
To find myriad reasons why Trump is unfit to be president, it is not necessary to plumb every footnote and appendix of Mueller's book-length report or debate whether his manner Wednesday was sufficiently prosecutorial.
Of course Trump obstructed justice; we watched him do it in real time. Of course he welcomed Russian assistance in winning his narrow 2016 victory; he did it publicly, urging Russian government hackers to help him out. On paper and in person, Mueller provided copious evidence of what we already knew: Trump surely committed what the founders would have considered "high crimes and misdemeanors," and Congress has ample reason to impeach him. Whether or not impeachment takes place, however, is a political decision.
Yet, this unhinged administration continues to commit outrage after outrage. The big scandal is what Trump is doing to the idea that policies should be based on fact, consensus, compassion and the law.
Look at the immigration crisis — and yes, it is a humanitarian crisis, largely because Trump made it one, responding to a flood of legal asylum-seekers by cruelly separating families and putting children in cages. The law is clear: Migrants fleeing persecution have the right to ask for asylum and have their petitions seriously considered. The administration has now decreed that the migrants — most of them from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — must instead seek refuge in the first “safe” country they enter. For Hondurans and Salvadorans, that would be Guatemala; for Guatemalans, that would be Mexico.
Judge Jon Tigar halted the administration's plan in its tracks, setting the stage for a legal battle that could take months to resolve. He pointed out that the new policy clearly violates the law, adding that there is no evidence that Guatemala or Mexico could adequately handle the influx — assuming they agreed to do so, which they have not. Tigar wrote that an injunction was necessary to ensure, as the law specifies, "that we do not deliver aliens into the hands of their persecutors."
Barr's announcement about the death penalty, meanwhile, came out of the blue. The federal government has not executed anyone since 2003, as Justice Department officials reviewed its procedures for carrying out lethal injection. Barr chose a single death drug — pentobarbital — and ordered officials to schedule the executions of five men convicted of especially heinous murders of children.
During the moratorium, public support for the death penalty dropped from about 70% to about 56%, according to Gallup. No matter. The moral arc of history is a concept lost on Trump and his aides.
And just days after much of the United States sweltered in punishing heat, it was Europe's turn to suffer. London, for example, saw temperatures nearly 30 degrees above normal — the result of a shift in the jet stream that allowed hot air from the Sahara to migrate northward.
The heat wave fits the prediction of climate researchers that the warming of the atmosphere, caused by the buildup of carbon dioxide that results from the burning of fossil fuels, will make extreme weather events more common — and more extreme. Yet Trump wants to boost carbon emissions, not reduce them.
Yes, pay attention to Mueller. But pay more attention to the havoc this ignorant, divisive president is wreaking.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.