“If whatever Mueller unearths only singles out people at the sub-Trump level while finding no evidence the President did anything wrong, the left, which has also already made up its mind, will still deem him guilty by association, ignorance, or both.” –Presidential Politics for America — September 16, 2018
“While few people know what Mueller will say, I’d wager money that it’ll be somewhere between the Democratic hope of ‘Here’s the proof that Trump colluded with Russia and committed many crimes’ and the Republican hope of ‘total exoneration.’ . . . I’m fairly certain Democrats will say that either A) Trump knew about Russia helping his campaign, which shows him to be treasonous, or that B) he didn’t know about all of his campaign’s connections to Russians, which shows him to be incompetent.” –Presidential Politics for America — December 17, 2018
“I don’t expect a relative exoneration of Trump would soften extremely negative opinions of him held by Democrats; they will surely spin such an exoneration to fit their preconceived conclusions, likely that Trump is clearly ignorant of what happens around him.” –Presidential Politics for America — January 21, 2019
It’s happening. After Bob Mueller’s report was finally submitted with no new indictments, Democrats have signed up for an extra semester of spin class. Even though Mueller hasn’t found enough evidence to justify legal proceedings against the President — or his son and son-in-law for taking the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton — Democrats vow that this is just the beginning. If you think the protracted Mueller investigation was already beating a dead horse, we’re on the verge of an equine resurrection. And just in time for Easter, too.
To be fair, we don’t yet know the contents of the report, and there’s a chance we never will. Perhaps, though short of a Trump indictment or proof of collusion, it might construct a narrative of bad choices, mismanagement, and shadiness. Therefore, Republicans should not yet celebrate this as proof that the President was right to call this process a “Witch Hunt.” After all, this Special Counsel investigation has initiated criminal proceedings against 34 people or organizations (some of which, like Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and Michael Flynn, closely orbited Trump), including eight guilty pleas and/or convictions so far. That’s pretty ubiquitous witchcraft under Trump’s leadership. Still, the lack of collusion will offer cover to every last Republican Senator who might face a removal-from-office vote if House Democrats impeach our chief executive.
Policy-wise, while we wait for the report’s actual contents, it’s important we remember why Mueller’s probe began in the first place. After beleaguered, dumb southern Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s report, first and foremost, will speak to those findings. I’ll be very interested to see how seriously a potentially exonerated President Trump responds to such revelations. After nearly two years of undermining Mueller’s investigation, will a less paranoid Trump now be open to the possibility that Russia helped him win?
At the same time, Mueller was authorized to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” With considerable smoke surrounding Trump’s rhetoric on Russia and his defensiveness on all of the above, many Democrats hoped Mueller would find Trump aflame. Meanwhile, and perhaps cleverly, Trump successfully shifted the goalposts of the investigation to outright collusion. Anything short of clear evidence of purposeful collusion between Trump and Russia therefore feels empty and therefore a victory for the President, when there actually might be a great deal of condemnable actions on his part and others. Ideally, the report will be made public, and we’ll find out.
Politically, once (if) we see the report, we’ll need to see how Democrats react. If we see a relative exoneration of Trump and Democrats still impeach, there’s a better than even chance this action blows up in their faces as frustrated independents say enough is enough and ask that the President is allowed to focus on the business of the American people. Their best chance to remove him from office is still November 2020, a topic I promise to return to on Monday.