The big news story today, if you believe the press, is Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Much could be said both about the hearing and the press reaction to it; here are a few observations.
First, the story began yesterday with Robert Mueller leaking his March 27 letter to Barr to the Washington Post. This leak was a purely political act. It was intended to provide fodder for today’s hearing, and it did. Mueller is a political player in D.C., and his investigation was a political investigation. His report was a political document. Mueller’s nakedly political act in leaking his letter to the Post was clarifying.
Second, Mueller’s letter complained about the short summary of the Mueller report’s conclusions that Attorney General Barr released in advance of the report itself. But Mueller did not claim that anything in Barr’s summary of findings was incorrect or untrue. On the contrary, Mueller’s letter of March 27 merely asserted that Barr’s short account did not fully capture the flavor of Mueller’s 400-plus page report:
The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.
Of course it didn’t. It didn’t purport to. But that sentence is the only criticism of Barr’s statement that Mueller has made. Barr says that he talked with Mueller on the telephone after receiving the letter, and in that conversation Mueller admitted that nothing in Barr’s statement was incorrect.
Third, today’s faux controversy represents a ridiculous moving of the goalposts. Mueller was charged with investigating whether anyone in Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians. No one did, and Mueller so reported. That is pretty much the end of the matter, as far as nearly all voters are concerned.
Now, instead of talking about collusion, the Democrats want to talk about whether Attorney General Barr’s statement accurately summarized the findings of Mueller’s report. Who cares? Read the report for yourself, it has been made public. One thing Barr got right for sure: the Mueller report finds no collusion.
Fourth, Mueller’s real grievance is that his report hasn’t hurt President Trump as much as Mueller had hoped. Knowing that collusion was a dud, Mueller and his team of Democratic Party loyalists worked as many anti-Trump nuggets into the report as they could. Yet for the most part, these have been ignored or have fallen flat. Most people thought Mueller was investigating collusion, and when it became clear there was no collusion, they moved on. Mueller is trying to serve his party by focusing attention on the random smears of Donald Trump and his administration that are contained in the report.
Fifth, despite all of the above, the Democratic Party press has gone off the deep end, promoting the idea that Mueller’s March 27 letter is somehow important. Thus, we see headlines like these:
Then there is my old law professor Larry Tribe. Larry was sane when I knew him, but that was a long time ago:
AG Barr flat-out LIED to the American people about the Mueller report’s incrimination of President Trump. He’s been outed as a total fraud. We can’t let Barr — or Trump — get away with such gross abuse of power. Barr must be impeached if he doesn’t resign first.
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) April 30, 2019
Barr has lied? About what? The contents of Mueller’s report, which is now public, and whose conclusions are exactly as Barr described them? These people are nuts.
Finally, why do the Democrats continue beating this dead-as-a-Norwegian-blue-pining-for-the-fjords horse? Because they had an enormous emotional investment in Mueller’s investigation. They viewed the whole thing as a set-up–a consummate Washington insider, close friend and ally of the people on the anti-Trump side, turned loose with an unconstrained mandate to find something–anything–on Donald Trump, with an unlimited budget. How could he fail? He could fail because there was no collusion. The idea that Trump colluded with Russians was ridiculous from the start. And the public didn’t care about much else associated with the faux investigation.
I am not up on the stages of grief, but the Democrats are in one of them, grieving through their loss of the belief that Robert Mueller would deliver them from the illegitimate Trump presidency. They can’t quite give it up. Thus, when they view the slightly-redacted Mueller report–far less than one percent is blacked out, and Congressmen can view the unreacted version at their leisure–they are like the boy in the old joke. They are convinced there must be a pony in there somewhere.
Happily, as it turns out, there is no pony. Hence the wailing and gnashing of teeth that we see in the press today.