“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States, and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.”
So said President Trump in his magnificent State Of The Union Address Tuesday night. And after two years of partisan warfare and an investigation that we now know was based on an “insurance policy” created within the FBI and based on a politically-motivated piece of fiction, we can say that he’s right.
Democrats wasted no time, though, in comparing this address to President Nixon’s SOTU in 1974, in which Nixon called for an end to the Watergate investigation.
It might make some sense to compare the two –- the Nixon/Watergate investigation and the “Trump/Russia” probe –- if they were alike. The Watergate break-in was a crime that actually took place –- the breaking and entering of the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel –- and then there was a cover-up of that very real crime in which Nixon was personally involved. There was hard evidence found of both the crime and the cover-up. But with Trump, the FBI began an investigation when there was no evidence of a crime. In fact, they knew –- because Bruce Ohr at the DOJ had made a point of telling them –- that the “dossier” was actually political opposition research paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and created by someone who desperately wanted Trump to lose. They fraudulently used this information to mislead a court to get a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign, and FBI Director James Comey succeeded in getting a special counsel appointed after he was (deservedly) fired by leaking his personal notes of a conversation with the President touching on Michael Flynn (which he appears to have misinterpreted) to the New York Times.
Very different. In this case, it’s the FBI that deserves to be investigated by a special counsel.
Democrats have been so desperate to get rid of Trump that they’ve stretched the concept of “cover-up” or “obstruction” to include just about anything the President says or does. Firing Comey was well within his authority, and both Republicans and Democrats really wanted him gone, albeit for different reasons. It was not part of any cover-up. In fact, it’s what escalated the partisan warfare.
The backstory of this special counsel investigation, a rabidly anti-Trump team which has been at it for 21 months, is so outrageous that it simply needs to end. A majority of Americans want it over and do not see it as credible, even though most of them haven’t even been following it as closely as you and I have. No one can say with certainty when Mueller will decide he’s done, but Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday that he thinks the investigation will be finished within a month. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said he thinks it’s in its final stages and “close to being completed.”
The only thing that makes me wonder about that is the Roger Stone indictment, as his case may take up to a year to come to trial, and it’s hard to imagine the special counsel wrapping up before then. But I imagine Whitaker is in a position to know more about that than I do.
William Barr, Trump’s nominee for AG, is anticipating the end and told senators last month that he wants as much of the report to be released as possible. In fact, the desire for transparency is so great that Sens. Grassley and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are actually working together to co-sponsor a bill that would require the Justice Department to hand the report over. (As of now, how much to reveal is completely up to the AG.) “Here’s where Blumenthal and I are on the same page, maybe for different reasons,” Grassley said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. “Blumenthal is on a bill with me, because he wants this report out, I suppose, because it’s going to make Trump look bad.”
Recall that this all started with the idea that Russians had interfered (“meddled”) with our elections in 2016. On Monday, Whitaker and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen submitted a classified report to the President that concluded foreign powers had no “material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure” of the 2018 midterm elections. But apparently we’re still assessing the effect Russia had in 2016, and there are some Democrats who insist we must NEVER accept that result. It had to be Russia!
So, yes, the Mueller report will no doubt make Trump look bad, not because of any evidence that’s been found against him, but because the report is allowed to be a one-sided narrative without any evidence. “I look at it from this standpoint,” Grassley said. “I don’t care what the report says. We paid $25 million, maybe $30 million to do it, and the public ought to know what their $25 or $30 million bought.”
But no matter how scathing the “Trump Report” turns out to be, the important thing to look for will be what it DOESN’T say. As a preview, Andrew C. McCarthy at NATIONAL REVIEW offers a great analysis of the Roger Stone indictment to show where it slips up. For drama, the document gets five stars, by presenting a hot-and-heavy 20-page narrative of Russian cyber spies in an anti-American conspiracy with WikiLeaks, along with an inflated portrait of Stone that makes him look like a major criminal (reinforced by that full-on SWAT-team arrest), and, of course, the Big Collusion Scheme, in which Trump instructs Stone to coordinate with WikiLeaks on the dissemination of Clinton dirt stolen by Russia.
McCarthy spells out the details of the narrative at the link. Trump, Stone, Corsi, Julian Assange, Ted Malloch (Corsi’s contact in London)...what a story! But that’s all it is, a story. As McCarthy says, Mueller doesn’t even pretend he can prove it. There’s no link to Trump other than conjecture. To me, Mueller’s story falls into the same category as the Steele “dossier,” as both were made up for political purposes and offer no proof.
When reality gets in the way of the story, McCarthy says, “the prosecutors float suggestions they cannot prove or leave out key details that blow up the narrative.” They add threads as “pretext for weaving the collusion narrative without having to prove it.” For example, the narrative involves Stone learning about WikiLeaks’ possession of Clinton Foundation emails from an intermediary (whom they say is Corsi), so Mueller conveniently leaves out the fact that Assange had already announced it in a widely-reported interview. Stone didn’t need an intermediary. He may also have heard about the emails from an acquaintance named Charles Ortel, who had learned from then-FOX News reporter James Rosen that WikiLeaks would be dumping the Hillary emails in September. Nothing underhanded.
There’s much more to it. (If you’re keeping up with it all, details are at the link; you will not be tested.) The point of all this is that Mueller is presenting a sensational story that he doesn’t have to prove. We learn from Roger Stone’s indictment that the “intermediary” is just a plot device for the Trump---Russia---Wikileaks “collusion yarn.” But, as McCarthy explains, if Stone pleads guilty to the charges in the indictment, the entire narrative will stand “as the government’s unrebutted version of events.”
This stinks. Anyone who compares it to Watergate is either blinded by partisanship and/or ignorance or is being paid to lie. Trump was right in his State Of The Union speech: This interminable investigation is gumming up the works in Washington and needs to end. It’s amazing how much the President has been able to accomplish in spite of it.
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