The Briefing, Vol. VII, Issue 12 – This week:
- Mueller investigation ends with a whimper
- Wailing and gnashing of teeth by Democrats whose hopes had been puffed up
- A competitive Senate race in Michigan?
Judgment Day: For those awaiting the Final Judgment, it arrived over the weekend. Trump failed to make his expected appearance among the damned, and the Left is apoplectic as a result.
For the last 22 months, CNN and MSNBC have been airing new reports almost every night about the impending doom of the Trump presidency at the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Print publications ranging from the New York Times to BuzzFeed have predicted his demise.
The drum-beat has been consistent, incessant, and deafening in the media, to the point that it will now be hard for them all to live it down. The Mueller investigation was supposed to expose President Trump’s collusion with Russia. There were supposed to be indictments going up to the top — perhaps even of Trump’s son — and the president himself would likely be caught up in the mix. It would be the end of his presidency.
Alas for all of them, it was not to be. And it never really seemed like it would be, for anyone paying attention to the facts and ignoring these ridiculous voices.
Attorney General William Barr’s letter to Congress summed up the two important points. First, the investigation found no evidence of “collusion” by Trump or anyone in his campaign with Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. Second, as to the question of whether Trump took action to obstruct the investigation, Mueller found it debatable on its legal merits. He left it in the hands of senior Justice Department officials — Barr and Rod Rosenstein — to decide on whether to pursue charges. They chose not to do so.
If you were a fan of the Buffalo Bills in the 1990s or the Chicago Cubs before 2016, then you understand what it’s like to live through such great disappointment as the Left is living through right now.
Wailing and gnashing of teeth:
Instead of the predictable five stages of grief, Democrats and the media initially responded with denial, anger, and depression all at once. Chris Matthews was livid when it emerged Friday that there would be no new indictments. Rachel Maddow nearly appeared to cry. Joy Reid posited that a coverup was underway.
Then there was the bargaining. Many Democratic lawmakers took solace in a quotation Barr took from Mueller’s report: “[W]hile this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” But no one thought the report would positively exonerate Trump, showing he had done nothing wrong. What we got was about as close to an exoneration as Trump could have possibly expected. He’ll take it with a smile.
As of Sunday, when Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report was released to the press, the Russia collusion story was busted. But Democrats and liberals clung to the fading possibility that Trump might at least be guilty of obstructing justice in some moral sense, even if, as Barr said, the Justice Department has decided there’s not enough there to prosecute it. Or perhaps the hope is that Trump will be prosecuted the next time a Democrat is in the White House.
In short, this is some pretty weak stuff. We have yet to see the details from Mueller’s report on exactly what evidence there is for to hang one’s hat on a process crime where the underlying crime of Russian collusion has already been exhaustively investigated, with thousand of subpoenas and hundreds of interviews.
So where does this leave President Trump? In pretty good shape. The media that has spent so much time beating him up is badly discredited. Several major news organizations are left with a bad black eye.
The #Resistance is demoralized, with so many people having put their hopes in . And for the moment, he’s running against a Democratic field filled with crazy far-left ideas. Although Trump could face a serious challenge from someone like former Vice President Joe Biden, it won’t be easy for an old, relatively moderate (at least by today’s standards) white male to win the right to face him.
Going into 2020, Trump’s approval numbers, in the low 40s, are not much different than they were when he was elected. But without the Mueller investigation hanging over his head — with only explicitly partisan and Democratic investigations facing him from here out — Trump could break out of that range and reach new highs of popularity, if he plays his cards right. His prospects look much better this week than they did last week.
Michigan: It’s not at all clear that he wants to run, but a poll earlier this month found 2018 GOP nominee John James in a near-tie with the state’s low-profile junior Sen. Gary Peters, D. James, an underdog who outperformed expectations in his 2018 Senate race with a respectable 46 percent against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D, trailed Peters by just one point, 44 to 43 percent.
More importantly, Peters’ 44 percent is a shaky number for an incumbent in a state where President Trump is very likely to focus resources in 2020. Republicans have gotten up false hopes in Michigan before, but it would be a big mistake for Democrats to take it for granted again, like Hillary Clinton did.
Montana: Although Sen. Steve Daines, R, was likely in good shape either way, Republicans can draw a sigh of relief that Gov. Steve Bullock, D, will not be running for Senate. Bullock is surely the only Democrat who could start such a matchup at even odds. It would have been very nice to put this seat on the board, dramatically enhancing Democrats’ chances at taking over the Senate. Better luck next time.
Texas: Rep. Joaquin Castro, D, is now considered very likely to run against three-term Sen. John Cornyn, R.