Attorney General William Barr gave Donald Trump a two-week lead on spin, providing a letter to Congress that has proven to be both ridiculous and grievous misstatement of the actual contents of the Mueller report. Republicans in Congress, and on Fox News, have been doing their best to take this spin and whip it up to a hurricane of lies in an attempt to convince the public that Trump has somehow been “exonerated.”
There’s a reason that Republicans were desperate to “put this behind us” before it was even in front of us, and why Trump was saying Democrats had “no right” to see the report. That’s because the actual Mueller report condemns Trump’s actions in the strongest possible terms. Not only does the report reveal Trump as a liar who, far from cooperating with the investigation, attempted to obstruct it at every turn, but it also shows that Trump instructed his staff and family to lie to investigators, lie to Congress, and cover up evidence. In fact, the one thing that saved Trump’s campaign from even more indictments was that many of Trump’s staff ignored his orders to take clearly illegal actions.
The report makes it clear: Trump wasn’t indicted for obstruction entirely because Mueller intended the question of whether a sitting executive could commit obstruction to be settled by Congress, and Trump’s campaign wasn’t charged with conspiracy only because Mueller defined that act very narrowly. Even then, conspiracy charges might have been produced, except for all that obstruction, witness tampering, and destruction of evidence.
So … what does Trump do about this? The answer is that he becomes even more incoherent. Over the last two days, Trump has posted tweets claiming that the Mueller report exonerated him, and also that the “Crazy Mueller Report” is “fabricated & totally untrue.”
Trump has claimed he wasn’t obstructing justice because he was “being framed” and “fought back,” in between images blaring “no obstruction.” He’s tweeted “no collusion” and also that the report is “total bullshit.” In short, Trump’s messaging, which is nothing but a replay of Fox and Friends segments in the best of times, is now all over the place, contradictory, and flailing in a nonsensical mush. He’s not alone. Both Fox and Republicans in Congress are trapped in the mess of trying to act as if Trump has somehow been thrown a lifeline, when they know the report is actually an anchor.
Trump’s messaging, Republican messaging, is weak, confused, and solidly engaged in chewing its own tail—which makes it all the more important that Democrats stand up, stand firm, and stand together.
The facts about the Mueller Report
- The Mueller report shows that Russia sought to help Trump through a sweeping range of tactics that ran from stealing private information from Americans to putting Russian boots on American soil to conduct espionage and run propaganda events.
- Trump’s campaign welcomed and accepted Russia’s help. It eagerly sought out meetings, looked for ways in which it could assist the Russian effort, provided Russia with critical data, and helped them to both evaluate and disseminate the stolen information.
- Russia had leverage over Trump in the form of his business connections, and in particular his desire to build a billion-dollar complex in Moscow. Trump covered up the timing and extent of his involvement with this project, including ordering people to lie about it, to cover up the extent to which he was in bed with the Russian government.
- Trump personally lied to the public and investigators. He also suborned perjury from both his campaign and White House staff.
- Trump’s campaign and White House staff ignored Trump’s orders to lie on many occasions. However, they did lie, withhold information, and destroy evidence of wrongdoing critical to the case.
- Both Trump and the campaign obstructed justice, lied to investigators, lied to Congress, destroyed evidence, and impeded the investigation in every way possible.
- The only reason that Donald Trump was not charged with obstruction was entirely based on concerns about whether anyone from the Justice Department had the authority to level that charge, and nothing else. The report concludes that Donald Trump did take actions that would have resulted in obstruction charges for anyone else.
- Mueller clearly left the decision about how to handle Trump’s obstruction not to William Barr, but to Congress.
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