By Bob Maistros
A scant 11 days since the release of the Special Counsel’s two-part tome had Democrats and the commentariat pouring and exclaiming over every syllable, you barely hear a peep about it.
Other than, of course, the Chief Executive’s own mouthing-off on his “exoneration tour” – and the current snore-fest over procedure (can House Judiciary Committee counsels question Attorney General William Barr?) for the “can-you-top-this” outrage orgy when the nation’s top law enforcement officer does ultimately appear.
It will make for another day of network news drama – but also the last dregs of the nectar of wild speculation, manufactured allegations, and flat-out untruths that has so intoxicated Democrats and the media.
Because, first, no collusion. Mueller was hailed as the be-all-and-end-all on the subject. So his report ends all discussion.
The redaction overreaction? A nothing-burger with cheese. Redaction was practically mandatory.
Barr has no authority to release grand jury records. And no one with any sense (which excludes most House Democrats) should want to make public material that could put someone’s life at risk, compromise ongoing investigations, or invade the privacy of innocents.
So what does that leave? Bob Mueller’s “dog whistle” to Congress, the media and anti-Trump-disposed voters – an entire volume of legal navel-gazing on whether President Trump obstructed justice.
On that question Mueller and his staff of largely Democratic lawyers came down deep in the mud, as in the slinging type: “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Tweeeeeet! On cue, the New York Times’ online headline blazed in all-caps, “Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy, but Stops Short of Exonerating President on Obstruction.”
Democrats moved inside a news cycle from their two-year collusion delusion to their shiny new obstruction toy. Even the public was somewhat taken for a ride: 53% of Americans think the report didn’t exonerated Trump; 47% believe he committed obstruction.
Now the House majority can move directly to impeachment without passing “Go” or collecting $200, right? Not hardly. This President didn’t lie on camera or direct top aides to implement a far-reaching cover-up.
Rather, Mueller raises 10 comical grounds for obstruction:
One. Trump suggested former FBI Director James Comey might want to let onetime National Security Advisor Michael Flynn off for allegedly lying. News flash: Trump was Comey’s boss.
Two. Trump didn’t want former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the investigation. Ditto.
Three. Allegedly, Trump’s real reason for firing Comey was his refusal to tell Congress whether the President was personally under investigation – a slimy act designed to cast a cloud over the new Administration.
Four and Five. Trump allegedly tried to have Mueller removed for conflicts and later ordered White House counsel Don McGahn (another underling) to fire him.
Six. Trump tried to keep information on Don Jr.’s infamous Trump Tower meeting (a nothing-burger with double-cheese) from going public.
Seven. Trump (still Sessions’ boss) again asked the Attorney General to oversee the probe.
Eight. Trump asked McGahn to deny that he had earlier ordered the Counsel to fire Mueller. (Which obstructed the probe how, exactly?)
Nine. Trump said nice things about Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who were being cruelly roasted over the coals by Mueller – the implication being he was holding out the possibility of pardoning them. And his lawyer had first friendly, then testy exchanges with Flynn’s legal team.
Ten. Trump had suggestions about what Michael Cohen should say to Congress (but specifically never told him to lie).
Listen. Instead of reportedly issuing an expletive, Trump should have issued orders to shut down Mueller’s witch hunt from day one. It was engineered by Comey, who illegally leaked documents to a reporter, and Democrats who maneuvered Sessions into recusing himself based on encounters with the Russian ambassador that Mueller confirmed were benign.
Then Trump should have ordered Sessions to have career Justice Department attorneys probe any Russian election interference within regular channels. And while he was at it, the origins and use of the fictitious Steele dossier, whether his campaign was spied on, and who ordered and “unmasked” surveillance of Flynn.
There might have been political heat. But it all would have been within his prerogative and powers as president. Arguably, his duty.
And don’t forget Barr’s key determination: no obstruction because there was nothing to obstruct. Mueller and his team almost certainly knew early on that Trump was innocent. But they stretched their investigation over two years while leaving the President and his Administration to languish under unfair suspicion, vicious attack and cynical innuendo.
Members of Congress also know that the President was innocent of collusion and remains innocent of obstruction. So like the warning that it’s better to be thought a fool then to speak and remove all doubt, Democrats will conclude that it’s preferable to leave the fog of obstruction hanging over the President than to follow up on Mueller’s sorry, silly “evidence” of obstruction – and be left as laughingstocks.
Mueller’s dog whistle didn’t fall on deaf ears with Congress or the public. But as credible grounds for impeachment, it’s dead on arrival.
Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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