April 19, 2019

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL: Mueller’s Report Speaks Volumes: What’s in the special counsel’s findings is almost as revealing as what’s left out.

President Trump has every right to feel liberated. What the report shows is that he endured a special-counsel probe that was relentlessly, at times farcically, obsessed with taking him out. What stands out is just how diligently and creatively the special counsel’s legal minds worked to implicate someone in Trump World on something Russia- or obstruction-of-justice-related. And how—even with all its overweening power and aggressive tactics—it still struck out.

Volume I of the Mueller report, which deals with collusion, spends tens of thousands of words describing trivial interactions between Trump officials and various Russians. While it doubtless wasn’t Mr. Mueller’s intention, the sheer quantity and banality of details highlights the degree to which these contacts were random, haphazard and peripheral. By the end of Volume I, the notion that the Trump campaign engaged in some grand plot with Russia is a joke.

Yet jump to the section where the Mueller team lists its “prosecution and declination” decisions with regards the Russia question. And try not to picture Mueller “pit bull” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann collapsed under mountains of federal statutes after his two-year hunt to find one that applied. . . .

As for obstruction—Volume II—Attorney General Bill Barr noted Thursday that he disagreed with “some of the special counsel’s legal theories.” Maybe he had in mind Mr. Mueller’s proposition that he was entitled to pursue obstruction questions, even though that was not part of his initial mandate from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Or maybe it was Mr. Mueller’s long description of what a prosecution of the sitting president might look like—even though he acknowledged its legal impossibility. Or it could be Mr. Mueller’s theory that while “fairness” dictates that someone accused of crimes get a “speedy and public trial” to “clear his name,” Mr. Trump deserves no such courtesy with regard to the 200 pages of accusations Mr. Mueller lodges against him.

That was Mr. Mueller’s James Comey moment. Remember the July 2016 press conference in which the FBI director berated Hillary Clinton even as he didn’t bring charges? It was a firing offense. Here’s Mr. Mueller engaging in the same practice—only on a more inappropriate scale. At least this time the attorney general tried to clean up the mess by declaring he would not bring obstruction charges. Mr. Barr noted Thursday that we do not engage in grand-jury proceedings and probes with the purpose of generating innuendo.

Mr. Mueller may not care. His report suggests the actual goal of the obstruction volume is impeachment: “We concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority.”

Note as well what isn’t in the report. It makes only passing, bland references to the genesis of so many of the accusations Mr. Mueller probed: the infamous dossier produced by opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign. How do you exonerate Mr. Page without delving into the scandalous Moscow deeds of which he was falsely accused? How do you narrate an entire section on the July 2016 Trump Tower meeting without noting that Ms. Veselnitskaya was working alongside Fusion? How do you detail every aspect of the Papadopoulos accusations while avoiding any detail of the curious and suspect ways that those accusations came back to the FBI via Australia’s Alexander Downer?

The report instead mostly reads as a lengthy defense of the FBI.

Good luck with that. I suspect accountability is on the way there.

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