It’s clearly been a long and difficult night for the folks at CNN. The Attorney General’s letter regarding the Mueller report hit some of the reporting team pretty hard. (Some have been calling the report a “gut punch.”) When I got up this morning I noticed that the network had rolled out John Berman at least an hour early and he was leading a panel discussion during the five o’clock hour. The Boston Globe sums up the new attack strategy we’re seeing.
Barr’s summary, they pointed out, also quoted a line from the Mueller report that said it “does not exonerate” the president on the issue of obstruction of justice. The special counsel instead declined to determine whether the president had illegally attempted to shut down the investigation into him — and left it to Barr’s Justice Department, which found there was not enough evidence to show obstruction of justice…
Democrats demanded Mueller’s report be released in its entirety and raised pointed questions about how Barr had determined so quickly that the president had not obstructed justice, when Mueller had apparently left the question open.
There was a bit more spring in the CNN panel’s step than last night, or so it seemed. The reason quickly became clear. The panelists were still obsessing over the line in Barr’s letter saying that, in the matter of obstruction of justice, the report found no evidence of a crime but also “didn’t exonerate” the President. Having had the night to think it over, the group concluded that what Bob Mueller was really doing was “leaving the door open for Congress” to take the lead and figure out the obstruction question. Nearly everyone on CNN’s panel heartily agreed.
Seriously? The panel was complaining that Mueller was supposed to detail his decisions in terms of indictments and declinations. That was his number one job. But when it comes to obstruction of justice, he didn’t do it. But that’s a rather strange claim to make unless the full report includes a video of Mueller pacing back and forth, shrugging his shoulders and saying, “Gee, guys… I just don’t know.”
Here’s a news flash for you. If he didn’t indict, he declined. That’s sort of the definition of the word. If Mueller investigated the question of obstruction of justice and he didn’t issue an indictment, even if he’s saying his findings didn’t “exonerate” Donald Trump, he concluded that there wasn’t a sufficiently strong case to prosecute. So he declined to issue a recommendation to prosecute. But this is now apparently being seen as a red carpet invitation for Democrats in Congress to ignore the report and move forward with their own investigation.
The obstruction issue should also leave us with an additional question. Even if you believe that evidence exists to move forward on such a charge, can you really obstruct justice if the alleged crime under investigation (collusion with the Russians) never took place? Sure, I suppose it’s technically possible by standard legal definitions. But from the perspective of the layman (and all of the voters trying to sort this out), if a two-year investigation determined that some alleged crime never took place, how much could you really impede the progress of the investigator?
Just some food for thought on a Monday morning.