It didn’t take long for the Trump opposition media to decide how to counter the notion that President Donald Trump had somehow been “exonerated” by the Mueller report. Upon the initial news stories that special counsel Robert Mueller had turned over the report to Attorney General William Barr, those in the media who had been pushing the Russia-collusion conspiracy theory for two years were crestfallen. There were no more indictments coming from the Mueller investigation, meaning no Don Jr. or Jared Kushner, nor anyone else.
By the time Barr released a four-page letter summarizing the bottom line findings of the Mueller report, and the media had a chance to digest it, the first reaction was an insincere sense of relief that at least they now know our President didn’t conspire with the Russians to steal the election in 2016. This was expressed on CNN by Anderson Cooper, and by Chuck Todd on NBC, among others, but it was clear they didn’t mean it.
The next point to hang their hat on was the fact that Mueller “punted” the decision on the issue of obstruction of justice. Quoting the Mueller report, Barr wrote that “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Barr argued that to charge someone with obstruction, there must be corrupt intent, and obstructive conduct that actually affected the underlying investigation or proceeding.
Most legal analysts that I heard, whether pro- or anti-Trump, concluded that without the underlying crime of conspiracy/collusion, there was little chance that anyone would prosecute obstruction. That is the case even if it wasn’t the President who, according to memos written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, in 1973 and again in 2000, cannot be indicted while in office. This has been disputed by memos from the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of Independent Counsel. On CNN, Jeffrey Toobin, among others, cited the Martha Stewart case as an example in which the crimes she was found guilty of related to obstruction, but not the underlying crime of insider trading. In fact, she was found guilty of conspiracy and making false statements—as well as obstruction.
So Mueller’s “punt” was the next hook for those people and “news” organizations who absolutely refuse to accept the position stated in his report that the “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Ah, but does the report establish that they didn’t conspire or coordinate? I guess we’ll have to wait for that answer. At least until they get to see the entire, unredacted report, now known to exceed 400 pages, most people invested in Trump’s guilt will not concede anything. And even if they get to see the whole thing, which they probably won’t, few minds will probably change.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA) laid out his case that collusion had occurred, during a heated exchange with the Republican members of the committee who unanimously called on Schiff to resign his chairmanship, which he indignantly pushed back on. Schiff has claimed for years that he had seen “compelling” and “direct” evidence of collusion, “in plain sight,” that Trump was guilty, and this week he again made his case, in spite of Mueller’s conclusion. Schiff did say that whether or not what Trump had done amounted to criminal collusion or conspiracy, it was wrong. The implication was that it was all valid material for impeachment proceedings, which is a political process rather than a criminal process, though high crimes and misdemeanors remains the Constitutional standard for impeachment.
With Barr’s release of a two-page letter on Friday afternoon announcing that he will be releasing the redacted version of the 400+ page Mueller report by around mid-April, and that he is prepared to testify before Congress shortly thereafter, the next round in this ongoing battle has begun. On April 1st the House Judiciary Committee announced plans to vote to authorize subpoenas for the full Mueller report if Barr doesn’t comply with their April 2 deadline to turn it over to them, unredacted.
Some analysts have suggested that Mueller’s decision to not “draw a conclusion” as to whether or not there was enough evidence to conclude that Trump had obstructed justice was in fact a compromise with his group of rabid anti-Trump prosecutors and investigators.
CNN was pushing a poll they took asking, “Do you think the report exonerates Trump of collusion?” They reported that 56 percent said No, and 12 percent said Yes. No surprise there, as NBC News cited a poll that says 99 percent of CNN viewers thought Trump was lying about Russia collusion, when it turns out it was CNN and the rest of the establishment media that were lying. Or, to be generous, in some cases they were just wrong—motivated by their hatred for Trump and bitterness that Hillary had lost despite their best efforts—in pushing their conspiracy theory for the past two years. And remember, whatever meddling the Russians did during the 2016 presidential election campaign happened under the Obama administration’s watch, which first became aware of it in 2015.
As I pointed out in a column nearly two years ago, “It appears that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has realized that the investigation he has been chosen to oversee is a dead end. As a result, he is moving past investigating the possibility of collusion during last year’s presidential election between President Donald Trump and/or his associates, and people with ties to the Russian government…Mueller is investigating whether Trump engaged in obstruction of justice through his interactions with former FBI Director James Comey.”
The investigation into whether Trump had criminally colluded with Russians to effect the outcome of the 2016 election was clearly a political hit job by people who had planned an “insurance policy” in case Trump won the White House. And it served to protect high ranking members of the Obama administration who perpetrated this hit job, who actually did collude with Russians to effect the outcome of the election, and who weaponized the Justice Department and the Intelligence Community. They couldn’t have maintained this double lie without the full support of the mainstream, establishment media. The media’s failings were not just factual errors or badly sourced stories. They were and remain totally invested in the Trump conspiracy theory, and the complete avoidance of the real scandal going on right before their eyes. And that doesn’t figure to change.
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