April 18, 2019

OKAY, I WROTE THIS FOR USA TODAY right after the Barr press conference, but they don’t want to run it because it doesn’t incorporate the Mueller Report. Since I don’t have time to read and digest the report this afternoon (I’m teaching two 2-hour classes back to back), I’m just posting it here. Enjoy!

_____

BILL BARR: ADULT IN THE ROOM

Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Bill Barr’s press conference regarding the Mueller Report release was notable for both style and substance.

On style, he reminded us that in an age of shrieking media hysteria and out-of-control twitter-pols, there is still a place for stolid, stodgy, rule-following bureaucrats. Standing at the lectern with his lieutenants behind him, he calmly and carefully explained what was in the report, what had been redacted and why, and what the applicable laws and rules were. He didn’t play to the media, or to the social media. In tone and manner he was, well, boring.

It was refreshing.

On substance, he made clear that, after two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and endless media speculation, the “Russian collusion” story was, as some of us had noted all along, a story about nothing. No member of Trump’s campaign — and in fact, no American anywhere — colluded with the Russians to influence the campaign.

In Barr’s words: “As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter. That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed.”

Nor do fallback claims of “obstruction” hold water: “In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”

Barr also noted that the White House did not ask for any redactions in the report, and President Trump chose not to exert Executive Privilege, even though, in Barr’s words, “he would have been well within his rights to do so.” What redactions were made in the report were made by the Department of Justice attorneys and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s staff, and were designed to protect ongoing investigations and prosecutions, and some national security matters.

So no collusion, and no obstruction, and no serious grounds for complaining about the redactions. No doubt some politicians, eager to keep their base heated up, will try to pretend otherwise, and some cable news channels and media outlets, desperate for viewers and clicks, will go along.

But normal people should be pleased and relieved that there was no collusion, even as they should be angry that a huge chunk of our political class seriously maintained that the President of the United States was a Russian puppet. That claim, based more on a desire to undo the 2016 election than on any actual evidence, was a poisonous corruption of our political discourse, and those involved should be — but won’t be — ashamed.

They should, however, be ignored in the future.

InstaPundit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.