Issues & Insights

Mueller’s ‘Dog Whistle’ Now a Foghorn – Because Obstruction Was Always His Target

Clearly, Robert Mueller realized his dog whistle to Congress to impeach President Trump — devoting an entire “volume” of his report to obstruction of justice, including an assertion that his investigation “did not exonerate” the Chief Executive — wasn’t going to do the job.  

Something even bigger and louder would be needed to catalyze the already rabid forces in the Democratic caucus to overcome Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sensible objections to such a politically risky course of action.

So the outgoing Special Counsel went for a foghorn.

A go-for-broke resignation announcement, in a nationally televised press conference, designed from word one to light a fire beneath House Democrats, 23 presidential candidates, and media allies panting to reverse the results of the previous election.  Not to mention, based on follow-up coverage surely encouraged and informed by his office, to further undermine Attorney General William Barr’s credibility.

Mueller could have engaged in the ritual exchange of brief resignation and “thank-you-for-your-service” letters with Barr.  And declined invitations to testify before Congress in written communications.

But the wily operator sought the loudest possible megaphone — a morning nationally televised press conference to enable all-day commentary — to add fuel to the impeachment fire. 

First, Mueller shamefully took up multiple decibel levels his report’s “did not exonerate” defamation: “If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Then coupled that grenade with an explanation of why he didn’t recommend an obstruction charge — because Trump is unindictable under Justice Department rules — a pointed indication that it wasn’t because he felt there was no case.

And added the coup de grace:  “The (Justice Department) opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”  In other words, get to work, Congress.  And I won’t testify because I’ve given you everything you need – and don’t want my arguments and credibility picked apart by Republican members.

As for undermining Barr, on its face, the statement defended the AG and his “good faith.” But its real purpose is found in a Politico  article headlined “Mueller remarks put Barr back into harsh spotlight.”  

The article asserts, “Wittingly or not, Mueller spotlighted differences with Barr on several points.”  (And we know by now that Mueller and his team never engage in any media action “unwittingly,” but always with a purpose of kneecapping the President.)  The article goes on to exaggerate imaginary “conflicting statements” between the Special Counsel’s statement and previous assertions by Barr.  

Which led House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), surely teed up by Mueller’s office, to call the Special Counsel’s statement “a “direct rebuke” of Barr, and renew the Democrats’ claim that the AG had “deliberately and repeatedly misled the American people,” an argument echoed by various cable news talking heads. All intended to back the bogus narrative that America’s chief law enforcement officer is “carrying water for the President” (i.e., his boss) and that his conclusion that there was no case for obstruction can’t be trusted.

Most curious is Mueller’s hyperfocus on obstruction — 445 words versus 261 on potential Russian interference – along with his highly defensive justification of the obstruction investigation as part of his mandate and critical to getting at the truth.

It was always puzzling why former FBI director Jim Comey (illegally) leakednotes of his confidential conversations with Trump discussing investigations of former National Security Director Michael Flynn: “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Why would Trump’s alleged plea (not directive) on Flynn — “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy ” — be relevant to an investigation of Russian interference?  

Especially since Comey surely knew that agents had concluded that Flynn had not lied about totally proper contacts with Russian officials (in an interview designed to catch him off guard).  And also what FBI investigator Peter Strzok admitted to counsel Lisa Page in a text just two days after Mueller’s appointment:  that on Russia, “There’s no big there there.”  

The inescapable conclusion: establishing Russian collusion was never the investigation’s primary rationale — otherwise, it certainly would have wrapped up within months.  No, from day one, it was about making an obstruction case against the President.  And, as the Issues & Insights editorial board points out, the purpose of making that case was to promote the cause of impeachment.

Despite his best efforts, as with the prior leak of a Mueller letter complaining about Barr’s summary, the Special Counsel’s statement will ultimately change nothing in terms of an impeachment pursuit.  The case is still “laughable.”  And Pelosi surely will not allow it to go forward to avoid a voter backlash.  

But this effort will play into Madame Speaker’s “cover-up” ploy: garner all the political benefits of an impeachment process without the muss and fuss. 

And, as with Mueller’s past efforts to warp public opinion and bend Congress to his will, accomplish something else I never thought possible: even further lower my estimation of this slimy, manipulative egomaniac.

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at

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