Truthout, March 25, 2019
From the moment the Mueller investigation began to the moment Attorney General William Barr released his “summary” of Mueller’s labors, Donald Trump acted like the guiltiest man on Earth. His efforts to obstruct the inquiry were egregious, vocal and constant, his denials facile and unconvincing in their serial repetitions. His now-notorious Twitter eruption the weekend before the report’s conclusion was every inch the child frantically deflecting blame after pushing his sister down the stairs.
The third week in January of this year provided a perfect example of the phenomenon when it was revealed that Trump made a habit of confiscating the translators’ notes after every meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin before swearing the translators to absolute secrecy. This was unprecedented behavior with potentially staggering implications, and never mind the hypocrisy; had Barack Obama done something similar during his tenure, the outrage on the right would have been visible from space. With Trump, however, it was business as usual.
The announced completion of Robert Mueller’s investigation on Friday launched a 48-hour period of media mayhem not seen since a certain white Bronco was on the loose in California 25 years ago. Those who were expecting a detailed impeachment map to be immediately revealed endured a number of existential crises after exposing themselves to the television coverage. DEAR GOD WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN was the going media refrain, and no answers were forthcoming until the attorney general released his review on Sunday afternoon.
To the astonished horror of millions, Barr’s very short “summary” announced that Mueller had found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and agents of the Russian government. Barr further announced that the report contained no actionable evidence to support charges of obstruction of justice against the president. No new indictments would be forthcoming from Mueller’s end of the pool.
Only one scant sentence out of Barr’s entire four-page letter — “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” — serves to correctly note that Mueller did not exonerate Trump from wrongdoing. More ominously, Mueller’s office refused to endorse the conclusions reached in Barr’s letter. Perhaps they are playing it with their usual caution, but such an endorsement would have ended the discussion with a resounding thud.
After the initial shock wore off, anger flooded the feed. “Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population,” writes Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi, “a group that (perhaps thanks to this story) is now larger than his original base. There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…. Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.”
Much respect to Matt — I’m a definite fan — but this journalist is going there, because something reeks. If the moment arrives when crow must be eaten, I will devour my fair portion because it is the writer’s lot to say so when they have been wrong at the top of their lungs. We are not there yet, and Taibbi himself accidently explained why. “There will be people protesting,” he wrote. “The Mueller report doesn’t prove anything!” Here’s the problem: We are not talking about the Mueller report. We don’t know what’s in the Mueller report. All we have to go on is the word of William Barr, and speaking personally, that simply isn’t good enough.
William Barr’s first star turn as attorney general came when he helped George H.W. Bush and his people get away with literal murder in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal. Before re-taking the post under Trump, Barr wrote a detailed letter explaining how it is legally impossible for a sitting (Republican) president to obstruct justice, and even if they did, they cannot be prosecuted for it while in office. His treatise went a long way toward putting his name at the top of the nomination list after Trump fed Jeff Sessions to the wolves for the crime of doing the right thing by recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
“It’s always interesting to me,” Trump said to *Fox Business Network’*s Maria Bartiromo late last week, “because a deputy, that didn’t get any votes, appoints a man that didn’t get any votes, he’s going to write a report on me.” It does beg the question: How many votes did William Barr get? From where does the media’s absolute faith in the judgment of a lifelong partisan like Barr derive? ...
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