A brief survey of friends and family finds their moods in line with mine: The results of the Mueller report, released Sunday afternoon, have left us disappointed but not surprised.
I myself never thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller would find collusion — that is, a conspiracy — that would lead to the highest office in the land. President Donald J. Trump may be intellectually incurious, but he is a sly survivor. He knows how to bury any inconvenient truth in a series of Russian nesting dolls of alternative facts and keep his hands clean, forcing others to take the fall. We’ve seen that with the Michael Cohen payout to Stormy Daniels.
As for obstruction of justice, Attorney General William P. Barr says “the special counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’” How can there be obstruction if there is no collusion? In 2017, Trump fired FBI director James Comey, in part because he would not go easy on National Security adviser Michael Flynn, by then deeply implicated in a compromising relationship with Russian intelligence. Trump admitted to both Russian emissaries and “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt on camera that the Comey firing was directly related to his feeling the Russia heat.
Ironically, the Comey firing only led to the appointment of the special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions having recused himself due to his own contact with the Russians. Even if we didn’t know this, Trump reminded us endlessly of how Sessions had betrayed him by not advocating for him — which is not the job of the A.G. His job is to advocate for us. Indeed, throughout the investigation, Trump acted like a guilty man — railing, dissembling. If you’ve done nothing wrong, why act as if you did?
OK, so each person reacts to accusations differently. Innocent people might be so nervous as to appear guilty. Or perhaps Trump was worried not so much about the exploration of any link to the Russians but rather any foray into his business affairs.
What matters now is that the Democrats tread carefully. Yes, investigate what you can, but keep your eye on the 2020 prize. Get mired in an investigation that’s now over and you risk alienating the moderates you’ll need. On the other hand, you can channel the outrage over the report to stoke the Democratic base and fundraisers. But the Dems should let the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York take the prosecutorial lead now. This is where the Trump story was always meant to end, because this is where it all began. SDNY will follow the money — which may be what Trump is most afraid of.
As for those who are disheartened by Mueller’s findings, I recommend the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who is surprised, confused and hurt by Laertes’ turning on him during Ophelia’s funeral, which follows the gravedigger scene in the play. But Hamlet takes comfort in the idea that the truth will out, justice will be served and the lowly vindicated:
Let Hercules himself do what he may.
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.