Progressives Face a Bleak Post-Mueller Landscape
Democrats have grown infuriated by Attorney General William Barr's indifference to their hysteria over the Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
Barr recently released a brief summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's conclusions that Donald Trump did not collude with the Russians to warp the 2016 election. Barr added that Mueller had not found enough evidence to recommend that Trump be indicted for obstruction of justice for the non-crime of collusion.
Progressives, who for 22 months had insisted that Trump was a Russian asset, were stunned. But only for a few hours.
Almost immediately, they redirected their fury toward Barr's summation of the Mueller report. Yet few rational people contested Barr's synopses about collusion and obstruction.
Both the Mueller report and Barr's summation can be found on the internet. Anyone can read them to see whether Barr misrepresented Mueller's conclusions.
Again, there have been few criticisms that Barr was wrong on his interpretation that there was no collusion and not enough evidence to indict on obstruction of justice.
But now Democrats are calling for Barr to resign or be impeached for not regurgitating the unproven allegations against Trump. In other words, Barr acted too much like a federal prosecutor rather than a tabloid reporter trafficking in allegations that did not amount to criminal conduct.
The besmirching of Barr's conduct is surreal. He certainly has not done anything even remotely approximating the conduct of former President Obama's two attorneys general.
Has Barr dubbed himself the president's "wingman" or called America a "nation of cowards," as did former Attorney General Eric Holder?
Has Barr's Department of Justice monitored reporters' communications or ordered surveillance of a television journalist? Has Barr used a government jet to take his family to the Belmont Stakes horse race, as did Holder?
Has Barr met secretly on an airport tarmac with the spouse of a person his Justice Department was investigating, as did former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who had such a meeting with Bill Clinton?
The Mueller report ignored the likely illegal origins of the Christopher Steele dossier, the insertion of an FBI informant into the Trump campaign, the unlawful leaking of documents, and the conflicted testimonies of former high-level intelligence officials.
All of those things were potential felonies. All in some way yielded information that Mueller drew on in his investigation. Yet Mueller never recommended a single indictment of any of the Obama-era officials who likely broke laws.
Mueller was instead fixated on possible collusion with Russia. But it is a crime to knowingly hire a foreign national to work on a presidential campaign -- in other words, to "collude." That is exactly what the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee did when they paid British subject Christopher Steele to smear Trump.
Did Mueller argue that the possible crimes of John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe and other former government officials -- lying to federal investigators, perjury, obstruction of justice, deceiving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, planting an informant into a political campaign, unmasking and leaking the identities of individuals under surveillance -- were only peripheral to his investigation?
Not really. After all, Mueller indicted Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone and others for crimes that had nothing to do with collusion and were far less serious than the improper behavior of top Obama administration bureaucrats.
So what really explains the furor now directed at Barr?
One, progressives are terrified that a number of Trump's critics -- Brennan, Clapper, Comey, McCabe -- may soon be indicted. They apparently seek to preempt such indictments by attacking Barr, a seemingly no-nonsense prosecutor who will likely follow up on any criminal referrals from any inspector general that reach his desk.
Two, the 2020 progressive agenda -- whether defined as the Green New Deal, a wealth tax, Medicare for All or open borders -- will not compete well with Trump's currently booming economy. Impeaching Trump for collusion and obstruction is seen by progressives as the best (or perhaps only) way to return to power. That effort so far is failing, causing even more hysteria.
Three, the Mueller investigation is over, finished after 22 months, $34 million and a 448-page, two-volume report.
There will be no indictments of Trump for either collusion or the obstruction of justice during the investigation of that non-crime. So now what?
Since late 2015, Trump, as the supposed Russian puppet or the Machiavellian obstructer of justice, was nightly cable-TV news fare. Now, such fantasies are shattered. But progressives are not willing to let the Mueller investigation rest in peace and move on with their lives.
Perhaps they feel in the political sense that there is nothing to move on to. And they are probably right.
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of the soon-to-be released "The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won," to appear in October from Basic Books. You can reach him by e-mailing [email protected].
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