The media's two-year obsession with 'collusion' was punctured by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's finding that no Americans -- let alone anyone associated with the Trump campaign -- coordinated with the Russians' election interference, so they're racing to new narratives. We'll address the latest shiny objects in a moment, but first, here's Mary Katharine Ham stunning a CNN panel by taking a blowtorch to the press' shifting standards. Accurately employing the term "gaslighting" against the media's Trump coverage is a savage touch:
On CNN, @mkhammer calls out the media for ignoring Mueller finding #NoCollusion after hyping it for 2 years: "I hope nobody missed leg day because carrying these goalposts, they're going to be very heavy if you want to do it for the next 18 months." Says media is "gaslighting." pic.twitter.com/pEx3GRHYkj— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking) April 18, 2019
She's absolutely right, and everyone knows it. As I wrote extensively yesterday, there are significant portions of the Mueller report that reflect very negatively on the president's temperament, judgment and truthfulness -- a point we'll revisit below. But it is a very, very big deal that on the central question around which the entire Trump/Russia controversy swirled for two years, the president has been exonerated. He and his team did not collude with the Kremlin to impact the election. There aren't any major "remaining question" to be answered; Mueller answered them. If people can't handle the answer, that's their problem. But it is galling, yet unsurprising, to watch so many Democrats and their media allies collectively stampede onto new terrain, leaving 'collusion' in the dust, as if it's an afterthought. It isn't. Others still cling to the outcome in which they've invested so much energy, distorting the meaning of a colorful presidential quote about being "f---ed" by Mueller's initial appointment. Some people never tire of being wrong.
On obstruction, I maintain that the Attorney General made the right decision in declining to file obstruction charges, particularly because justice was not ultimately obstructed, and there was no underlying crime or corrupt act to cover up. People are welcome to argue that attempted obstruction (in which the president clearly tried to engage, but was thwarted and defused) is still a crime, and that underlying acts aren't technically required to prove obstruction. But when the lack of provable criminal intent enters the mix (Mueller specifically notes that alternative motives are very plausible), prospects of a successful prosecution fade. If Democrats believe the most sordid details in the report amount to politically-defined 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' they can launch impeachment proceedings. They are already fraying over this point. Republicans may actually consider rooting for the media to agitate on this point until their base (also the Democratic base) demands action from House leadership.
Many liberals seem to understand that Mueller's findings likely preclude a realistic impeachment push, and that such an endeavor would hurt the Democrats and help Trump. But they need to channel their frustration somehow, so they're lashing out at Attorney General Bill Barr. This tweet is representative of the genre:
Seems clear that the Barr press conference this morning pretty bigly backfired. The Barr letter worked fairly successfully as a bluff, but the media began to realize it had been bluffed based on subsequent reporting. So now you make another big, brazen, obvious bluff? Just dumb.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 18, 2019
But there was no "bluff." Barr's original memo told us to expect a Mueller report that (a) found no coordination or conspiracy -- a.k.a. no collusion -- between Trumpworld and Russia, and that (b) made no determination on obstruction either way, spelling out evidence on both sides of the question, and offering no 'exoneration' of the president on that issue. As I said on Fox earlier today, this is exactly what the full document entailed. Barr was exactly right. Also note my point about previous conspiracies and hand-wringing about Barr falling by the wayside, only to be supplanted with new gripes, dutifully and immediately echoed by all the usual suspects:
Finally, the voices proclaiming that the president "did nothing wrong" or has been "fully exonerated" are spinning madly. Read the summaries on pages three through six of volume two for yourself. Any honest assessment of those paragraphs will not conclude that the president acted honestly and ethically during those episodes. Then there's the sheer volume of lying. One can easily cheer "no collusion," and concur with the lack of obstruction charges, but also express deep discomfort and revulsion at much of the president's conduct. On that score, I'll leave you with this scorching piece from David French:
I'm a longtime, quite open critic of Donald Trump. I'm supremely cynical about his conduct. Yet even I was surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and brazenness of the lies, falsehoods, and misdirections detailed by the Special Counsel’s Office. Intolerable: https://t.co/M44Tg8rpyP— David French (@DavidAFrench) April 19, 2019