It’s been kind of sickening listening to the responses from Democrats to the Mueller report, which concluded that the Trump campaign did not “collude” with Russia and even that the Mueller team was not obstructed in its nearly two years of work.
None of that matters to Trump’s political opponents. The goal posts have been moved again. The special counsel report, which Attorney General William Barr released with relatively few redactions when he wasn’t obligated to share even one bit of it, is now being picked apart to find anything even suggestive of the DESIRE to obstruct. That’s right, even conversations with his attorneys –- attorney-client privilege is out the window –- suggesting Trump FELT LIKE firing Mueller and WOULD HAVE if his lawyers had gone along with the idea, are considered incriminating. That’s what you get for trying to be transparent.
By the way, Trump’s people were extremely transparent. Imagine turning over 1.4 million documents to investigators and letting your attorney sit down with them for over 30 hours of testimony. This is the first time a sitting President has been so cooperative. He could have invoked executive privilege but never did.
Here’s what actual obstruction would have looked like: Trump is furious and wants to fire Mueller. Lawyers say he better not, that this would be obstruction. Trump fires lawyers, or else they quit. Trump fires Mueller.
Did he do that? Heck, no, although Trump’s opponents fervently wished he would. Trump thought about it, mused about it, raved about it, ultimately decided against it. That is not obstruction. Mueller’s investigation continued unimpeded for as long as he cared to take it, which was a really long time. (It also could be argued that Mueller had to know early on that the “dossier” was fake and there was no Russian “collusion” but deliberately stretched out the investigation till after the 2018 congressional election.)
The on-air trashing of consummate professional Bill Barr and the distortion of the Mueller report has been so disgraceful, it’s not worth recounting here. I think it’s even more psychotic than what we were predicting it would be, if that’s possible. But I’ll spare you. (How do people watch the idiocy on CNN and MSNBC?? I force myself to tune in for a sampling just to find out what’s being said but have to change the channel before my head explodes.) Needless to say, they’re capitalizing on the fact that this report was written by people like Andrew Weissmann and Jeannie Rhee who supported Hillary and were out to get Trump. The second part of it --- the part focusing on “obstruction” –- is like a gift to Trump’s opponents as it inaccurately assumes the worst possible motives on his part. Here’s one sample quote:
“According to notes written by Hunt, it says, ‘when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair, and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m F*****!’ The President became angry and lambased the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, ‘How could you let this happen, Jeff?’”
Democrats have interpreted this to mean that Trump was panicked because he had something to hide, that he was afraid of what a special counsel investigation might turn up. But that’s obviously not what he meant. Of course he got angry! Trump is also quoted as saying this: “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your Presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything.”
THAT’S what he was talking about. “The end of my Presidency” simply means “I’m gonna be completely hamstrung now. I can forget about any accomplishments I’d like to be remembered for. My whole Presidency is going to be about this, and it’s based on something that didn’t even happen!”
And he WAS hamstrung. Every decision he made was second-guessed, as it got wedged into either the “Trump is an agent of Putin” narrative or the “Trump is obstructing the investigation” narrative. Even his tweets were considered by his political enemies and, apparently, by some on the special counsel team (pardon my redundancy) to represent obstruction, though the special counsel was never obstructed in any way.
Trey Gowdy, former chairman of the House Oversight Committee, doesn’t see this getting better now that Mueller has submitted his report. “The next two years will be worse,” he said in an interview with Martha McCallum on Thursday. He noted that the special counsel investigation was confidential, while Congress’s will be anything but. Gowdy believes that a report such as this, which doesn’t result in charges or even resolve anything in such a partisan atmosphere, shouldn’t have been made public at all, and he disagrees with Barr’s decision to do it.
It’s that second part of the report, the part about “obstruction,” that Mark Levin calls “the political report, the impeachment report.” On Thursday’s “Hannity” show, he said, “It’s written for Jerry Nadler, It’s written for Nancy Pelosi. It’s written for CNN and MSNBC. It reads like some junior editorial writer at The New York Times put this together.” There’s no “legal stuff” in it, and that’s why they’re all saying, “We have to move beyond the law.” It’s only about politics now, because that’s all they have.
Levin agrees that Mueller must have known there was no collusion for a long time, an estimated 18 months ago, and argues that, in fact, the special counsel had an obligation to go to the microphone and tell the American people that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia. But no, he went on with the bogus investigation, trying repeatedly to get Trump in to testify in person (can you say “perjury trap”?).
Also on “Hannity,” Rep. Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, pointed out that on page 11 of the report, there’s a veiled reference to Rod Rosenstein’s elusive “scope” memo specifying what the Mueller team was supposed to investigate. Apparently, Rosenstein used the unverified dirt in the Steele “dossier” –- paid for by the Hillary campaign and the DNC and used in the FISA spying application –- as part of that memo. According to Nunes, that’s what directed Mueller to go after Carter Page and Paul Manafort. Wasn’t that helpful? And it kind of makes sense; it’s not as if they had an actual CRIME to investigate.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow lauds the first half of the report, noting that it’s a complete vindication of the President on collusion with Russia or any agent of Russia, which is the issue that started the investigation in the first place, almost three years ago.
The big take-away also comes from Sekulow: If Mueller conceivably could have made the case for obstruction, HE WOULD HAVE. That should be the last word, but it won’t be.
Since Barr doesn’t deserve the shameful personal pounding he’s having to take, here’s a highly recommended and very positive piece by Glenn Reynolds at PJ Media, titled “Bill Barr: Adult In The Room,” on why he’s just the attorney general we need right now, a steady rock in this time of partisan discord and overheated rhetoric. He knew the job was dangerous when he took it, and we can be confident he’ll weather the storm just fine.
And when Barr is being criticized for even holding a press conference, Andrew C. McCarthy offers an informative commentary explaining why it was appropriate and even advisable for him to do so.