The official Mueller report — with redactions — landed Thursday like a slimy bucket of raw chum. The partisan feeding frenzy immediately commenced.
Writing for CNN, Princeton professor Julian Zelizer called the document “shocking.” He also threw in “deeply troubling” and “damning” while urging Democrats to “make sense of what it all adds up to.”
Over at Fox, conservative analyst David Bossie had a different perspective. “As partisan Democrats and the liberal media hyperventilate” over release of the Mueller report, he wrote, “they’re willfully ignoring the fact that they already know what the report concludes. Two years and $35 million were spent investigating a lie.”
To be sure, the 448-page report is hardly flattering to President Donald Trump, painting him as an impulsive political neophyte unversed in navigating the special counsel’s probe and intent on fighting back against every perceived criticism. In other words, it portrays him as everybody already knows him to be.
But it is a victory for Mr. Trump that the probe did not “establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in election interference activities.” On the issue that prompted the investigation in the first place, the president was cleared. That’s significant and amounts to a modicum of vindication for the administration.
The second part of the Mueller report — labeled Volume II — delves into the murky area of obstruction of justice. As the report’s summary revealed when it was released last month, Mr. Mueller and his team punted in this regard: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Instead, the report identifies 11 issues and events the Mueller team analyzed under the rubric of potential obstruction. Some of these, the findings acknowledge, involved “facially lawful acts” under the president’s constitutional authority. Others “took place in public view,” hardly the usual modus operandi of somebody seeking to scuttle a criminal investigation. Finally, the report admits that the absence of evidence for any underlying offense — Russian collusion — “affects the analysis of the president’s intent” when it comes to obstruction.
Mr. Mueller’s conclusions amount to a tacit admission that hanging obstruction charges on Mr. Trump’s public statements or his lawful personnel decisions regarding the Justice Department would have raised a host of constitutional concerns and required expanding the traditional definition of such a crime.
The question now becomes whether the resistance fighters in the House will spend the next 18 months governing or continuing to pursue their fantasy of overturning the 2016 election. The latter carries obvious risks for a party that believes it has an easy path to the White House in 2020.