On Thursday, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Tom Perez appeared on Fox News to discuss the Mueller report with Bret Baier.
Perez began the segment by quoting directly from the Mueller report, which states in part: "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment."
Perez then added:
So, the notion that there is no obstruction is just hogwash. As you correctly point out, there are a list of really, really very serious things. He tried to fire Mueller, and the only reason he didn't succeed is because people that he directed to do it wouldn't carry out those orders. If you try to rob a bank and don't succeed, that doesn't mean you haven't committed wrongdoing.
Later in the exchange, Baier read the following quote from the Mueller report pertaining to the notion that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 election: "The investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
He then asked Perez: "You have a lot of Democrats who spent a lot of the past 23 months talking about that the president was an agent for Russia. Is there something that the Democratic Party has to say, Mueller did not find it?"
Well, again, I think there's a distinction, Bret, between something that may rise to the level of a conspiracy that you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt...
However, Baier stuck to his original question, repeating the quote from the Mueller report:
That's not written here though. That's not in the black-and-white here. It says: "The investigation did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
Perez then pivoted away from collusion proper, and spoke instead about "a pattern of corrupt behavior" from Trump:
I think the question you have to ask here, and it's a different question from the question that Robert Mueller is asking, the question presented here is, is there a pattern of corrupt behavior by this president? Is there a pattern of behavior where the president is putting his own interests ahead of the American people's interests? When you get a call from a foreign actor, a foreign adversary, that says, "Hey, I got dirt on your opponent, and I want to help you win," what you should do first and foremost is say, "No," and then call the federal authorities. What we know from the investigation is that's not what they did. They welcomed it.
With the release of the Mueller report essentially exonerating the president of collusion with the Russian government, the Democratic Party has begun to hinge their anti-Trump arguments on "obstruction of justice" or the slightly more adaptable "pattern of corrupt behavior."
Prior to the Mueller report’s release, several Democratic politicians leaned heavily into the collusion narrative, reports Politifact.
For example, during a September 2017 speech, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) stated: "Here you have a president who I can tell you, I guarantee you, is in collusion with the Russians to undermine our democracy."
During an appearance on MSNBC in November 2018, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said: "The evidence is pretty clear that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians."
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was also a promoter of the collusion narrative, frequently appearing on cable news to speak on the matter.
While it will certainly be difficult for the Democrats to swivel away from collusion, given their long reliance on it, the rapid overturn of the political news cycle may help to smooth out any bumps along the way.