Is this really from today, not from the campaign trail in Texas last year? I can’t believe any Democrat would have the stones to double down on collusion the morning after we find out that not only won’t Trump be indicted for conspiring with Russia, none of his inner circle will either.
Beto O'Rourke this morning in SC: You have a president, who in my opinion beyond a shadow of a doubt, sought to, however ham-handedly, collude with the Russian government, a foreign power to undermine and influence our elections.
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) March 23, 2019
Yes, right, we haven’t seen the report yet and so it’s possible that Mueller believes Trump conspired with Russia but declined to indict him due to the DOJ policy that prevents sitting presidents from being formally charged. Ed aptly explained earlier why that’s unlikely. It would mean that no one higher-up in the campaign, including the participants in the famous Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer, committed the crime of conspiracy except the president. How probable is that? Unless Mueller has Trump on tape scheming with Putin about Hillary’s emails, he’s obviously going to be cleared of the charge O’Rourke makes here.
What you’re seeing in the clip is Beto test-driving a popular form of Democratic spin to come: Even if POTUS didn’t collude within the letter of the law, he colluded within the spirit of it. We all watched that disgraceful Helsinki press conference, right? The president’s so soft on Russia that he trusts Putin’s assurances over his own intel bureau’s assessments. But note the sleight of hand in O’Rourke’s logic. One reason why the Helsinki presser was such a sensation among Trump-skeptics was that it seemed to corroborate the central thesis of Russiagate: Trump and Putin worked together during the campaign to their mutual advantage, and here was Trump paying Putin back onstage in Finland with the whole world watching. Mueller now seems to have smashed that thesis — so O’Rourke’s substituting the Helsinki presser in its place, as if Trump’s creepy longstanding solicitousness towards Moscow, not a conspiracy to influence the outcome of the presidential election three years ago, is what Mueller’s probe was about.
The alleged crime, in other words, is going to shift in the Democratic telling of this story from a presidential candidate supposedly courting a foreign power’s help to gain power to the president being publicly obsequious towards Putin, which is many things, virtually all of them bad, but not a crime. It’s like charging someone with murder, making an elaborate case at trial for why the defendant had a hundred different motives to kill the victim, then having the victim waltz into court very much alive — and deciding that the defendant’s kinda sorta guilty regardless because he still had murderous intent.
But there are other spins coming. Beto offers a stronger one elsewhere in this same clip, wondering about obstruction of justice. That’s a crime too, of course, even if it turns out that Trump’s innocent of conspiracy. I’m curious to see what the report says about that but it’ll be hard to make voters mad at Trump for firing Comey if Mueller confirms that POTUS did nothing wrong on the underlying collusion claim. “I’d be mad at Comey too if I knew I wasn’t guilty,” many voters will reason, not all of them Republicans.
Another effective line of spin:
Just as a mental exercise: What if Mueller had held his fire and then yesterday announced all at once the indictments of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos?
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) March 23, 2019
It’s not as if Mueller didn’t find *any* wrongdoing among Trump’s closest advisors! Indeed, but I’m sure Mueller recognized how shady it would have looked for him to indict all of the people named there in one fell swoop, causing an unholy media feeding frenzy, with the fine print all but overlooked that … none of them were indicted for campaign conspiracy with Russia, the ostensible central focus of the inquiry. It’s gratifying that each of them paid for their misdeeds but the political question here, the only reason the public cares about the investigation, is whether Team Trump invited Russia to put a thumb on the scale for their guy in 2016. The answer, apparently, is no.
Another avenue of spin to come, of course, is out-and-out conspiracy theorizing:
Trump’s going to turn Bob Mueller into the finest public servant in American history if he ends up being cleared by the report so it’s inevitable that some lefties will turn Mueller into another alleged Putin stooge. Admittedly O’Rourke doesn’t go that far in the clip above, but he settles for a milder form of denialism: Bob Mueller’s entitled to his truth and I’m entitled to my truth. And my truth is that Trump colluded.
Gonna take awhile for them to come to grips with this. In the meantime there are myriad House investigations to soothe them as well as whatever it is that the Southern District of New York is working on. I wonder if they realize yet, though, how much harder it’ll be for them to get political traction to impeach Trump for *anything* down the road if in fact he’s been cleared by Mueller. There’s always a chance that they’ll find a smoking gun in his finances or the Trump Org’s business dealings that would so infuriate the public that Dems would feel safe in acting, but that smoke would need to be very thick. Any misdeed that falls to clear the bar of “utterly outrageous” will be viewed through the lens of Mueller’s Russiagate verdict as a Democratic vendetta to persecute Trump after their collusion narrative fell apart. It’ll reek of vindictiveness and illegitimacy. Which, ironically, is probably good news for Nancy Pelosi. She’s not the one who wants to impeach him, the lefties in her caucus are. A clean-ish bill of legal health for Trump in the Mueller report may have flattened any opportunity for them to do that, at least until after the election.
Exit question: Which Democratic candidate will attribute Trump’s evasion of charges here to “white privilege”?