Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation into ‘Russiagate’ was meant to bring down President Donald Trump. That was the plan. For two years, the various ranks of the Democratic and ‘Never Trump’ Republican establishment have insisted that Mueller would prove the Trump campaign had colluded with Vladimir Putin’s government to win the 2016 election. President Trump would then be ousted from the White House, justice served, order returned to the cosmos.
But the cosmos had other ideas. Mueller has found no damning evidence of collusion, though not for want of trying. It was FAKE NEWS all along, as Trump himself said, often in capitals. Far from destroying the president, then, the Mueller investigation has achieved the opposite. The whole saga should go down as one of the greatest self-defeating acts in history.
It’s madness. The people who most hate Trump have somehow conspired to vindicate him and his world view. More than ever, voters really believe that there is a nefarious (albeit incompetent) ‘liberal elite’ which will stop at nothing. That might mean the President is re-elected next year.
If Trump does win in 2020, he should take a moment to thank all the people who spent his first term peddling the Russia story. The politicians, the insiders, the think-tankers, the pundits, the spooks, the former spooks, the journalists who speak to spooks — he couldn’t have done it without them.
Russiagate was made out to be a 21st century Watergate: bigger, badder, more apocalyptic. But it was really a shoddy conspiracy theory invented and leapt on by Trump’s opponents because they could not accept that Donald Trump — Donald Trump! — was the leader of the free world.
The media humiliated itself worst of all. Any sane person can tell that CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Guardian and The Washington Post, to name but five, have lost the plot over Trump and Russia. Some journalists have been deceived by shady sources. Others misled their audiences because, in their arrogance, they believed that the fourth estate had a higher purpose than just to tell people what is going on. It had to save America. ‘Democracy dies in darkness’ is the pompous slogan of The Washington Post. Well, journalism dies when journalists stop caring about what is true. That’s what happened here.
Little nuggets of mysterious Trump-Russia information would dominate the headlines for days. Much-hyped events never came to pass. We were told that Trump would testify. We were told that Trump would shut down the investigation and fire Mueller. We were told that Donald Trump Jr was going down, along with the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, perhaps even his daughter Ivanka. None of this was true.
Leading Democrats joined in the orgy of misinformation. Only last weekend, Beto O’Rourke, the man many hope will beat Trump in the election next year, said: ‘You have a president who, in my opinion, beyond a shadow of a doubt, sought to, however ham-handedly, collude with the Russian government.’
How silly these people now look. Every time Trump did something dramatic, the knowing heads on TV would insist that he was trying to distract attention from the Russia inquiry. Every time he went on one of his ‘NO COLLUSION’ tweetstorms, the same people would insist that he must be feeling Mueller’s heat.
If anything, the reverse was true. Trump could see what he’d call leverage in the Russia story and he used it. He and his spokespeople like to complain that the media’s Russia obsession means nobody talks about his achievements: the booming economy, destruction of Isis and so on.
That’s disingenuous. In fact, the Russia story has been a useful distraction from Trump’s failings. The longer people speculate as to his ‘client relationship’ with Vladimir Putin, the less they ask difficult questions about his failure to build a wall, his longer-term China strategy, his indecision over Afghanistan and his failure to capitalize on that diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean peninsula.
Trump seems to have realized that by shouting FAKE NEWS at the media, he could make them generate more FAKE NEWS. That means people talk less about REAL NEWS, which is usually GOOD NEWS for a sitting president.
The investigations into Donald Trump won’t stop. There are still unanswered questions. Investigators have unearthed a lot of muck on the Trump Organization. We can expect to hear more about Trump’s past, the Southern District of New York’s inquiries into his businesses, and his son-in-law Jared.
What’s mind-blowing is that the Trump-Russia delusion has scrambled these good lines of inquiry. Take the story, now barely disputed, that the President of the United States paid off one of his former mistresses, a porn star, to keep her quiet, or the further allegation that he may have paid for more than one abortion. Trump’s fans may say, so what? Nobody said he was a saint. But Americans still expect their Commander-in-Chief to have a modicum of decency, or at least the outward appearance of it. Such stories, if true, should damage him. Thanks to the nonsense around Russiagate, however, nobody believes the media. Trump can just shrug it all off and keep winning.
After the Mueller ‘no collusion’ news broke on Sunday, the president flew from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to Washington. Outside the White House, he turned to reporters and said: ‘America is the greatest place on earth. The greatest place on earth.’ Even he can’t quite believe his luck.
This article was originally published in The Spectator magazine.