In what might be the most anti-climactic grand finale since The Sopranos, Robert Mueller found no evidence that President Trump his team colluded with Russia in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
That is, at least, according to the summary report issued by Attorney General William Barr on Sunday.
Remember all those Fox News-watching Republicans who woke up the morning after President Obama won re-election in 2012 and were literally stunned by the news? For those who had become convinced that the Mueller report would be the silver bullet that would finally vanquish President Trump, this must be the equivalent of finding charcoal in their Christmas stocking.
To be sure, some Democrats are clinging to the hope that something else will emerge even as they foolishly double down on the very report that just cleared Trump. Presidential candidates are demanding the release of the full report. House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler says he wants Barr to testify about it.
Eventually, and sooner rather than later now, anyone who’d convinced themselves the Mueller Report would finally take down Trump will have to come to terms with reality, or separate from it entirely. This was not some haphazard investigation. It included the Special Counsel, 19 lawyers, and 40 FBI agents, and other staff, who “thoroughly investigated” allegations of Russian collusion. And they found no crime. Nothing.
Regular viewers of liberal-leaning cable news outlets may have an especially hard time grappling with the fact that the narrative has suddenly gone bust. If Trump’s presidency were a TV show (as people often joke), then this is the episode where someone says, “By the way, that whole last season was a dream.”
That’s not to say that it’s been smooth sailing in this presidency. It hasn’t. Look, let’s say you knew nothing about Stormy Daniels, Russia’s attempt to influence the elections, the Trump Tower meeting, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, or Michael Cohen—or any of the other numerous scandals and indictments that have transpired these last couple of years. If you knew nothing about those things, and they all dropped at once, there probably would be people in the streets clamoring for impeachment.
But the trickle of information, the drip, drip, drip has led not to a death of a thousand cuts, but to a desensitization. Eventually, we got to the point where the bar was set so high that anything less than a smoking gun showing Donald Trump colluded with Russia was a nothing burger. I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.
Again, this will not satisfy those afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome—an observable phenomenon that drives Trump’s enemies to do and say things that ironically help Trump and hurt them. They will say that Mueller’s lack of evidence doesn’t mean Trump didn’t obstruct justice—that Mueller didn’t really exonerate Trump. They will say, “It’s always been about the Southern District of New York!” They will continue to believe in some quick fix formula, when the truth is that Democrats would be better off persuading Americans to simply vote Trump out of office in 2020.
It will also be interesting to see how Robert Mueller is treated in the wake of this report. Just as James Comey went from being a liberal villain to something of a hero, will perceptions of Mueller change? One could imagine Republicans now conveniently stressing Mueller’s decades of service and reputation as an honest, straight shooter—just as some Democrats may begin casting him as a Republican hack.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media has suffered another reputational setback. For a while, many of us thought that there might be something truly damning in this report. It’s not healthy or fair that Trump has cast us as “enemies of the people” or the investigation as a “witch hunt,” but, for a lot of Americans, this is yet more proof that all the talk coming from Trump’s enemies is just talk. They’re out to get him. And he always wins.
Spin it anyway you like, but for the amount of breathless coverage these last two years about every little development in this case, what we are left with is Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault.