By Danielle Ryan*
The Mueller report has finally dropped and instead of being relieved to discover, once and for all, that the president didn’t collude with a foreign power to steal an election, Democrats and media pundits are utterly devastated.
This is America in the era of Russiagate.
The partly-redacted, nearly 400-page report, delivered to Congress on Thursday afternoon, offered no new evidence or indication that Donald Trump or his 2016 campaign were in cahoots with Moscow to prevent Hillary Clinton from ascending to what Democrats believed was her rightful presidential throne.
Of course, their high expectations for the report had already come crashing down when Mueller wrapped up his investigation mid-March and Attorney General Bob Barr sent a four-page letter summarizing its anti-climactic findings to Congress. No evidence of collusion, it said.
The opposition party and the media’s most ardent Russiagate pushers had been moving the goalposts on “collusion” for months. In the earliest days of the two-year investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was given savior status; he would be the one, they said, who would deliver them from the evil of the Trump presidency. “Wait for the Mueller report!” they had screamed, as the weeks and months dragged on with “bombshell” after “bombshell” evaporating into thin air.
“Wait for the Mueller report!” quickly morphed into “Barr must be lying — wait for the full Mueller report!”
But Barr hammered the final nail into the Russiagate coffin on Thursday as he emphatically reiterated during a pre-release press conference that evidence to support theories of collusion did not exist and that all Americans should be “grateful” to hear that news. They were not grateful, though. In fact, they were acutely distressed by the news that Trump had been telling the truth about “no collusion” all along.
On the question of whether Trump had obstructed the investigation, Mueller’s report offered Russiagaters slightly more hope, in that it did not make a final determination and suggested that congress has the authority to take action in that regard.
But Barr enraged reporters by arguing it was necessary to take “context” into consideration when assessing potential obstruction. He said Trump faced an “unprecedented situation,” “relentless” media speculation and held a “sincere belief” that the investigation was “undermining his presidency.”
He also noted that Trump “took no act” that deprived Mueller of documents necessary to conduct the investigation and said he believed there had been no “corrupt intent” to hamper it. Not only that, but Barr also told shell-shocked reporters that Trump had not exerted executive privilege over parts of the report (as he legally could have done), “in the interests of transparency.”
Russiagaters masked their disappointment by trying, in endless formations, to spin the situation into a vindication of their theories; ‘Barr is lying for Trump!’ ‘Maybe Mueller was in on it?’ ‘He didn’t investigate the right things!’ ‘It wasn’t about collusion, it was about obstruction!’ – and the most pathetic of all attempts: ‘It doesn’t matter anyway, we know in our hearts collusion is real!’
The fact that the report was partly redacted (“standard for prosecutors handling sensitive information,” as the New York Times put it), triggered yet another meltdown from Democrats and Russiagate media stalwarts in advance of its publication. Casual observers of this seemingly never-ending saga might have been led to believe the report would be redacted beyond all comprehension. Indeed, it appears as though that’s what Russiagate truthers would have preferred. The more redactions, the bigger the scope for new conspiracy theories to emerge. Sadly for them, Barr also said an almost completely unredacted version would soon be made available to a bipartisan group in congress.
In a sign of just how desperate they had become, Democrats also spiralled into a total frenzy on Wednesday upon hearing that the aforementioned press conference would be held before the report was handed over to Congress. They genuinely seemed to believe that Barr might stand in front of the entire news media and lie about the contents of a document he was about to post publicly online a couple of hours later.
Why did it matter that he held a press conference summarizing its findings before the release? It didn’t matter, of course, but it was something to cling to. Remember, the Democrats and the media spent two years convincing Americans that Trump and members of his family were going to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the White House in handcuffs – so, at this point, they’ll latch on to anything.
Focus will now shift to Mueller’s expected testimony before Congress, which is due to happen no later than May 23 – and some are still holding out hope that the investigator will pull through at the last minute and say or do something to rehabilitate the entire narrative.
Journalist Aaron Mate, who has painstakingly covered the Russiagate drama, noted on Twitter that Mueller at times used “suggestive wording” in his report while simultaneously acknowledging that no evidence of collusion actually exists. This is likely what Democrats will be watching for during his testimony; any shred of doubt or uncertainty from Mueller on even the tiniest of details.
At the end of the day, however, the fact will remain that Mueller overturned every Russiagate rock and did not charge or arrest even one American for conspiring or colluding with Moscow, despite issuing more than 2,800 subpoenas, 500-plus search warrants and interviewing about 500 witnesses in excruciating detail.
But Russiagate was really always about Democrats and their inability to accept two basic truths: Hillary Clinton lost the election because she ran a terrible campaign – and because of the abject failure of the US political system to deliver basic changes that Americans want and need. Trump offered them hope, however false, of something new – and he won. There is no bigger mystery.
But the cries of “collusion!” will continue for months, if not years, and the media will meticulously pick apart the pages of the Mueller report for weeks, hoping to land on something that can credibly carry the conspiracy forward – and as they do so, they will be handing Trump a great gift going into the 2020 election.
Years from now, when Trump is hosting some post-presidency reality TV show or living out the rest of his days at Mar-a-Lago (rather than in a prison cell), Rachel Maddow will probably still be ruminating over the finer details of the investigation and inviting the most discredited analysts onto her nutty show to help figure out how it all went wrong. Luke Harding is likely gearing up to write a sequel to his “COLLUSION” best-seller as we speak. Maybe he can call the next one “COVERUP” and profit off Russiagate for another two years.
The elaborate and demented conspiracies of Russiagate could fill a library, but the strangest thing of all about this saga might just be how much they fiercely wanted it to be true.
*Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ