The most striking part of the last two days is how Donald Trump and his allies are acting like losers, more aggrieved, bitchy, and petulant than ever. Somehow, “total exoneration” sounds like less like a win and more like a whine.
There are a few fundamental tells in Trumpworld. Trump’s outrage and projection tweets are always a barometer of his real mood, and since the release of the Mueller Report, it’s not exactly “Happy Don, America’s Fun-Lovin’ President.”
His flunky patrol has been testy, too. Rudy Giuliani gave a wild-eyed, feverish mess of an interview to Chris Cuomo. Kellyanne Conway demanded apologies from anyone who dared report the news now that William Barr has certified it all false. Sarah Sanders, confirmed by Robert Mueller to be even more of an egregious liar than was already evident, tried to talk her way out of what her words had talked her into.
The clickservative commentariat gave the same response they would have no matter the outcome, joining the hallelujah chorus of “No Collusion.” On Fox, the bellow-fest of Hannity, Frau Ingraham and the rest were wild-eyed and vengeful, pledging furious retribution to anyone who so much as mentioned the word “Russia” in the last two years.
As I anticipated just before the report’s release, Americans now have confirmation for the history books of the most crucial in-kind donation to an American presidential campaign, ever. We see in black-and-white the degree and depth of the Russian active measures, propaganda, and intelligence warfare efforts that were the secret sauce of Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t just MAGA or the Wall or celebrity bullshitting. An essential element of Trump’s victory was the work of Putin’s Little Helpers.
And we have confirmation that at this critical moment, we had an attorney general who put Donald, not America, first.
The smart legal folks are still parsing the things that kept Mueller from charging Trump, leaving that decision to his old friend Bill Barr. What’s clear from his report is that Mueller had the goods on obstruction, but saw no way to make the case given the DOJ’s rules.
We also know, with even more certainty than we already did, that Donald Trump’s cadre of people who lie with ease and dispatch made it hard for Mueller to do his job.
This is a damning portrait of a president with almost no command of his emotions or his government, one with no compunctions about wrapping up his most loyal staffers in his lies and crimes. The portraits of this White House as madhouse from Fire and Fury to Fear to freaking Omarosa are of an administration where no one is in charge, nothing is true, and chaos rules each day. All are borne out in the special counsel’s report.
In this White House bedlam, Trump has been saved his own ineptitude—with a big assist from Bill Barr—by aides and allies just brave or afraid enough to ignore his criminal diktats.
We learned the Trump campaign staff was on par with Trump’s decades of shit-tier projects; it was not an election effort of patriots or virtuous men and women. In a normal campaign, the first phone call after the Russians reach out is to the FBI. In the Trump world, Russian entrees are greeted with fist-pumping and glee. They were ready and willing to take any and all assistance to get Hillary’s emails. Despite literally thousands of White House and Trump surrogate lies, the stink of the Russians was all over the Trump campaign’s senior echelon.
That Mueller didn’t report a chargeable conspiracy is because a conspiracy requires intent, and in Trump world, intent fucked incompetence during a late night bender at the (now mercifully shuttered) Trump Taj Mahal. The fact that they were too disorganized and stupid to shake hands on the deal may be the eighth known wonder of the world, a miracle on every axis.
The Mueller Report blew up a cherished trope of the Trump Team’s Russia bingo card. They had hoped it would provide some evidence of the perfidious Deep State cabal supposedly arrayed against Trump, some fingerprints of the Soros/Clinton/Angry Democrats conspiracy to which Trump has devoted so much Twitter energy, including since the report’s release.
They had hoped to turn the Mueller Report against itself—“no puppet” style”—to argue it exposed prosecutorial excesses and a conspiracy against Trump. Of course, it demonstrated nothing of the sort. Robert Mueller's investigation as special counsel was, as expected, professional, bounded, and dedicated to finding the truth.
That didn’t stop Bill Barr from continuing to incinerate his reputation. As if his absurd memo and prior statements didn't convince you the Toady General was all-in, even a cursory reading of the Mueller report leaves no doubt. Barr mischaracterized, lied, elided and manipulated the findings from the moment of his four-page agitprop memo. At least 10 times during his absurd and nakedly political pre-release press event, Barr acted in his capacity as Donald Trump's personal defender, a pudgy Roy Cohn with less venom and a higher BMI. With Mueller nowhere to be seen, Rosenstein stood behind Barr in silence, looking like the star of a hostage video.
As the Trump world is declaring that the game is over, and the board swept clean, Mueller farmed out 14 elements of his investigation to other U.S. Attorney offices, including 12 we only learned existed with the release of his report. Those will continue to roll out more information, more news, and more convictions in the months to come.
Congress now gets its bite of the apple, and the hidden secrets of Trump’s 2016 campaign and his reign of misrule will continue to come into the light. Mueller’s obstruction section practically screams for Congress to dig deeper, and exercise their right to hold the president accountable for his actions, including—most certainly—abuse of the powers of his office.
Never take a victory lap until you’re sure the race is over. Trump hijacked the Game of Thrones font to tweet “Game Over,” but it still looks more like Winter Is Coming.