Your first clue that Donald Trump doesn’t want you to know what’s in the Mueller report is the date of its release: the day before Passover and Easter weekend, but a whole twenty-five days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered it and Attorney General William Barr assured Congress (and a gullible media) that the president had been cleared of wrongdoing.
Your second clue is that Trump spent the week prior rage-tweeting about the “18 Angry Democrats” on Mueller’s team who had—the logic gets a little twisted here—nonetheless rendered a “NO COLLUSION! NO OBSTRUCTION!” verdict. Trump’s lawyers had gotten a sneak peek at the report’s 448 pages, and the president seemed less than thrilled by his exoneration.
Your third clue is that, the morning of the “lightly” redacted report’s release, Barr—whose history of covering up Republican crimes dates to Iran-Contra—held a press conference to repeatedly declare that there was “no collusion.”
This was all a shameless attempt to preemptively frame an obviously bullshit narrative. Once the report dropped, we saw how deep the bullshit actually ran.
Before we get there, though, imagine that everything in the Mueller report was new and The New York Times and Washington Post hadn’t revealed its contents over the last two years. (So much for #FakeNews, huh?) Imagine we learned for the first time that the Trump campaign welcomed Russia’s help in swinging the election; that, throughout the campaign, Trump was trying to build a $300 million high-rise in Moscow; and that Trump tried to intimidate witnesses and shut down the investigation.
The calls for impeachment would be deafening. Instead, the frog has boiled slowly, and Trump is trying to claim vindication.
There’s no vindication in Mueller’s words, at least to anyone with third-grade reading comprehension. To my mind, the report makes three things abundantly clear.
First, there was collusion—with WikiLeaks, which was publishing documents obtained by Russian hackers. Per Mueller’s report: “By the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.” And there were lots of shady campaign contacts with Russian operatives, including Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer teasing “incriminating” information on Hillary Clinton. (Mueller concluded in part that Don Jr. was too naïve to realize that soliciting assistance from a foreign government was illegal.)
But collusion isn’t a crime. The crime is conspiracy and coordination. While the campaign coordinated with WikiLeaks to disseminate the emails, Mueller decided he couldn’t establish a conspiracy with Russia.
Second, Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mueller “found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.”
In his summary to Congress, Barr brushed aside Trump’s obstruction by saying that, since there was no underlying conspiracy, Trump had no criminal intent. But Mueller disputed that: “The evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President’s conduct.” Among them: Trump saw the investigation as an attack on his legitimacy, and he also worried that it might expose other illegal or unflattering conduct.
As it turns out, Trump got lucky. His advisers simply ignored him: “The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller wrote. And he escaped prosecution by virtue of the fact that a “federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”
But there’s no doubt Mueller had the goods—that much he telegraphed. According to Department of Justice policy, Trump can’t be prosecuted while in office. Mueller wrote that if he reported that the president committed a crime, Trump wouldn’t have a chance to defend himself in court. Meanwhile, an accusation that “could carry consequences that extend beyond the realm of criminal justice” would linger. That wouldn’t be fair to Trump, Mueller said. So instead, he punted to Congress.
Third, Trump lies all the time. About everything. Everyone around him lies, too.
A small sampling: During the campaign, Trump lied about his Moscow venture, and, Mueller wrote, “expressed skepticism that Russia had hacked the emails at the same time as he and other Campaign advisers privately sought information [redacted] about any further WikiLeaks releases.”
As president, Trump authored a press release that lied about his son’s meeting with a Russian operative, then his lawyer lied about Trump’s involvement with that press release. Trump lied about how he came to fire Comey. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders lied about the “countless” FBI agents who wanted rid of Comey (under oath, she confessed to making that up). Trump lied that he never directed the White House counsel to fire Mueller. Barr lied about what was in Mueller’s report.
Now Trump is lying that Mueller’s report exonerates him and that his enemies somehow fabricated the entire investigation.
The bullshit is an ocean.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 919-286-1972, or on Twitter @jeffreybillman.
I needed that laugh. Don’t worry the boomerang has been thrown and should land sometime around June.
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