19 April 2019

The Mueller picture


The President rose early and got his retaliation in first.

“The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!” Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday morning at 7:54 a.m. “Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats.”

Slower to catch the worm was attorney general William Barr, who was washed, dressed and before the cameras at 9:30 for a pre-release press conference in which he agreed with the President.

Barr was Mueller lite, the judicial equivalent of a quick coffee and a Danish. The release of the full report just after 11:00 sent reporters and commentators into the kind of frenzy usually reserved for a full buffet with an open bar. They spent the rest of Thursday chewing over a report of 448 pages, regurgitating choice morsels for viewers and readers, and thinking with their mouths open. As a spectacle, it was about as appetising as it sounds.

The bitesize takeaway from Mueller’s report is this: no collusion, some obstruction.

Mueller describes plentiful servings of Russian misinformation and hacking in the 2016 election campaign, but no toppings of “collusion” between any members of the Trump campaign and any Russian operatives. Subsequently, Mueller finds, Trump did try to influence the probe into the “collusion” which hadn’t happened in the first place. Mueller does not affirm that Trump’s attempts to block the enquiry amount to a legal case for obstruction of justice.

Mueller’s team concluded that its investigation “established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome”. It concluded that the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and received through Russian efforts”.

In one piquant morsel, the report finds that Donald Trump, Jr. disseminated a claim from Wikileaks that “candidate Hillary Clinton had advocated using a drone to target Julian Assange”. But Trump, Jr., Mueller notes, did nothing illegal by doing so.

Crucially— and it cannot be overstated how crucial this is, because the anti-Trump American media is downplaying it — Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities”.

This means the complete collapse of the “Russia collusion” case. This a vindication for Trump, a confirmation for those of us who never believed in it, a a disaster for Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans, and a disgrace for news outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC.

For the last two years, prominent Democrats have unanimously fanned the flames of conspiracy theories about “Russian collusion”. Much of the legacy media has supplied hearsay evidence for these specious claims, and amplified whispers and innuendo into a collective delusion of self-righteousness. No calumny against Trump was too awful for the witch-hunters to promote as news fit to print. And none of it was true. I have written previously about the long-term damage that this bias and corruption will do to the credulity of American news media. The immediate response to Mueller’s report from the same quarters indicates complete unwillingness to acknowledge the scale of the error.

The hopes of the anti-Trumpers now rest on Trump’s “obstruction” of the enquiry. Mueller framed his conclusion in a double negative. He will not say that he has found evidence sufficient for prosecution, because only Congress can legally indict a sitting president. Nor will he say that the evidence is insufficient.

There is no doubt that Trump tried to block the enquiry. Compared to the skullduggeries of Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, Trump is a model of transparency. He publicly fired FBI director James Comey. He publicly leant on attorney-general Jeff Sessions. He used the bully pulpit of a Twitter presidency to undermine the credibility of the Justice Department and the FBI. He even tried to get Mueller fired. Still, he failed to influence the outcome.

Yet Mueller also failed. Trump obstructed an enquiry into something that he always said hadn’t happened. Mueller has vindicated those protests of innocence, even though he has also turned up material for potential further cases.

The Democratic majority in the House, drawn ever-leftward by the socialist revival in the party’s grassroots, may push for impeachment on grounds of obstruction. If so, Nancy Pelosi may find herself unable to prevent a further self-inflicted disaster for her party. The Republican control the Senate. Their leaders were adamantly supportive of Trump when Mueller released his report, and will block the House’s impeachment move.

An impeachment drama would allow the Democrats to preserve their delusions about Trump, but it would dispel the illusion among Independents that Nancy Pelosi and centrists like Joe Biden are in control of their party. And that would play in Trump’s favor in 2020.

Another possible outcome is the opening of criminal proceedings against the Trump Organization in the Southern District of New York. In one telling episode in Mueller’s report, Trump, whose personal lawyer Michael Cohen is now in prison for obstructing justice, asks White House counsel Don McGahn why he was taking notes: “Lawyers don’t take notes,” Trump says, “I never had a lawyer who took notes.”

McGahn responds that he keep notes because he is a “real lawyer” and that notes were, in Mueller’s paraphrase, “a record and not a bad thing.”

“I’ve had great lawyers,” Trump replies, “like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.”

It is beyond belief that the President of the United States believes that Cohn, a lawyer for Joseph McCarthy who was eventually disbarred in New York State, is a paradigm of the law. But then, for many people, it is beyond belief that so many other people chose as their president someone who would employ Roy Cohn. The reality, as usual, is that Trump violates the canons of taste more than the canons of the law.

Those who do not wish to accept reality will do anything to rearrange it to their liking. The Democrats and their media cheerleaders are already rationalising their reality check from Trump’s “collusion” to Mueller’s “cover-up”. But another reality may be about to assert itself — a third legal outcome.

The roots of the Mueller enquiry emerged from fecund but dirty circumstances: the Steele dossier, a catalogue of crass Russian innuendo promoted by Hillary Clinton’s supporters; and the FBI’s investigation of Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, which was conducted, as James Comey admitted, “in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump”. Regardless of Mueller’s conclusions, those circumstances are matters of public interest. Mueller’s failure to destroy Trump leaves his enquiry’s roots exposed.

Trump has already said that he wants an investigation into the 2016 election and the genesis of the Mueller Report, including the conduct of the FBI and the Justice Department. Attorney-general William Barr has made similar statements.

As Trump showed with Comey, Sessions and Mueller, he doesn’t just take it. He dishes it out, and turns his enemies’ energies against them like a martial artist. At Thursday’s press conference, Barr played solid defense for Trump. The classic Trump move would be to send Barr onto the offensive, and flip the witch-hunting back onto the witch hunters in the crucible of the 2020 campaign.

The Mueller Report has been released, but Americans are a long way from being free of the Mueller Report.

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Dominic Green is CapX’s American correspondent and Life & Arts Editor of Spectator USA.