Total exoneration? Pshaw! The Mueller report makes it clear that Trump, to use his own evocative language, was and remains a bad hombre. But whether any more voters conclude that he’s one than already had is an open question.
If you like, you can read the efforts of the New York Times reporters reading the Mueller report. There are some nice salacious tidbits. Informed by Jeff Sessions about the appointment of a special counsel, Trump slumps in his chair in the Oval Office and announces, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.’
Not quite. The Mueller report turned out to be a galvanizing force for Trump, allowing him to paste the Justice Department, CIA and FBI in toto as comprising a deep state out to topple the valiant populist who had defied all the odds and won the presidency. Now it’s the Southern District of New York that is scrutinizing his businesses. Russia, a large source of funds for the Trump Organization, at least according to the word of Don Jr, could turn out to have been laundering money through Trump. But how quickly that investigation will move is an open question.
Democrats have already gone into a hugger-mugger about the manner in which the Mueller report was disclosed. Attorney General William P. Barr delivered a kind of infomercial this morning, claiming that Trump felt ‘frustrated’ by the investigation. No doubt. But Mueller points out in the report that the only reason Trump didn’t seem to obstruct justice is that his surrogates refused to do his dirty work. Trump did his best to obstruct wherever and whenever he could. We learn, for example, ‘The incidents were often carried out through one-on-one meetings in which the president sought to use his official power outside of usual channels. These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony. Viewing the acts collectively can help to illuminate their significance.’ A new Associated Press poll indicates that 6 out of 10 Americans want Congress to keep examining Trump’s ties to Russia.
Did Mueller provide a roadmap for impeachment to Congress? Mueller hands off responsibility for whether he really did it or not to Congress in Volume II, page 3: ‘The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.’ Plus Mueller notes: ‘The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong.’
None of this is likely to prompt Speaker Pelosi to push for impeachment. Trump has dodged a bullet. But he still gets singed by the Mueller report.