In determining that Donald Trump did not engage in secret collusion with Russia, Robert Mueller may well have done Democrats a solid. Instead of going down the chimerical road of impeachment, they can focus on ousting him from office in 2020. At the same time, they can keep the base agitated with intimations that not everything was in the up and up with the manner in which William Barr and Rod Rosenstein presented the report’s findings.
Trump, who scored a big victory today, is already seeking to turn the tables on his accusers, accusing them of having pursued a witch-hunt that even Mueller couldn’t bring to a successful conclusion — ‘an illegal takedown that failed’ and ‘it’s a shame out country had to go through this.’ That failure may have had something to do with Paul Manafort’s refusal to cooperate with Mueller. My guess is that Trump will likely pardon Manafort and Michael Flynn this week, both of whom Trump has depicted as victims deserving of solicitude, a sentiment, incidentally, that Trump almost never expresses about anybody. He will also seek to move ahead in improving relations with Russia, which is probably another way of saying further prostrating himself before the Kremlin. Perhaps recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea is in the offing. And Trump would love nothing better than to invite Vladimir Putin to the White House for a state dinner, a move that would allow him to further taunt his detractors.
But a Trump unbound is not necessarily a Trump who can sail to reelection. His crusade against competent government continues. His nomination of Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation economic quack, to the Federal Reserve board is a case in point. His administration is waging war on the environment. Whether the economy will remain prosperous is an open question. And pursuing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton would open up Trump to charges of of pursuing a vendetta or — dare I say it? — a witch-hunt.
Removing Russia from the mix may focus more attention on the Trump presidency itself and less on his machinations during 2016. There will be much handwringing among liberals in coming days. The real, unvarnished Trump will be riding high now. The question is whether that will ultimately end up bringing him down.