The Mueller report is finally here and nobody who is currently pontificating about its contents has actually read the entire thing, myself included. The full document is well over 400 pages long and would, in a perfect world — or at least in a sane one — prompt several days of careful study before the analyses and reactions start flooding in. But we do not live in such a world. Opinions are formed in an instant. Narratives are crafted in minutes. And when those narratives are plainly false, it is necessary to combat them before they metastasize.
Overall, in very broad strokes, it appears that the report essentially vindicates Trump against the collusion claim, as Attorney General William Barr noted in his press conference to begin the day. Mueller says upfront that “the investigation did not establish” that Trump or anyone else with the campaign “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” Many details are provided about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, but no direct evidence links Trump to those efforts. Considering the fact that the Left has been shouting “collusion” for the past two years, this ought to be the headline. But, in the blink of an eye, the goal posts have been shifted. We are meant to forget about these past many months of “collusion” hysteria and instead pretend that the real issue is obstruction.
In volume two of the report, Mueller goes into detail about potential obstruction of justice by the president, though he does not conclude that obstruction actually occurred. There is no underlying crime here, so there would be no reason for willful obstruction by the president. Rather, Trump seems to have acted out of anger and frustration on numerous occasions, saying things and taking actions (or almost taking actions) that could have potentially been considered obstruction if his intent had been to obstruct. But his anger and frustration seem to be warranted. He believed he was being targeted for political purposes and that he was accused of crimes he didn’t commit — and it appears that Trump was right on both counts. His loudmouth recklessness — a trait that his most committed fans, for some reason, still find endearing — could have easily gotten him into serious trouble, but for the cooler heads around him prevailing time and time again.
This is evidently the point of Trump’s “obstruction,” which the goal-post-shifting media will now spend the next two years carrying on about. Trump was mad about the damage that the investigation was doing to his reputation and his presidency. And he was mad (rightfully so) that there was no basis for the investigation, to begin with. One particular anecdote, filed under “evidence” in the report, clearly illustrated Trump’s non-criminal intentions. But this very anecdote is being taken wildly out of context to paint a drastically different picture. The media is making much of the fact that Trump, when he heard about the special counsel investigation, responded by exclaiming: “This is the end of my presidency. I’m f***ed.” That one phrase — “I’m f***ed” — has appeared in dozens of headlines already. We are supposed to interpret it as some sort of admission of guilt by Trump, but, if you keep reading just a few more sentences, you see that it is nothing of the sort.
After berating Jeff Sessions for “letting [him] down,” Trump says: “Everyone tells me that if you get one of these special counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
It is obvious from the full context that Trump is worried about the political impact this investigation will have on him and his ability to govern. He is reacting exactly as anyone else might react to an IRS audit. You might say “I’m f***ed” about an audit not because you’re guilty of tax evasion, but because the whole process will be extremely unpleasant and painful and inconvenient. The fact that Trump is expressly worried about that practical and political damage the investigation might do, and not about what might be found out, only serves to underscore his innocence. But that, of course, is not how the media will play it.
Indeed, this is why the Left so desperately wanted to see the full report. They knew there would be plenty of tidbits and pieces they could use to cobble together their own narrative, their own series of events, even if the full context doesn’t support their version. And that’s how the next two years will play out. We will not hear again about “collusion.” That ship has sailed. The slogan until 2020 will be “obstruction,” even if the charge is not justified.