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Um, no, the Mueller investigation wasn’t a waste — and it definitely wasn’t a hoax

Um, no, the Mueller investigation wasn’t a waste — and it definitely wasn’t a hoax
In this Nov. 20, 2016, photo, then-President-elect Trump, right, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Rudy Giuliani, a personal lawyer and frequent mouthpiece for President Trump, spoke for many Republicans on Monday when he told interviewers on Hill.tv that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe never should have happened.

Noting the conclusions reached by Mueller and Atty. Gen. William P. Barr, Giuliani said of the nearly two-year investigation, “It’s a very bad thing for the country that we had it, because it’s not true. It never should have happened in the first place.”

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Giuliani went on to say, “The extraordinary thing about this is not that the Russians tried to interfere in our election,” because, you know, foreign governments do that all the time! "The extraordinary thing is they basically charged the president with treason."

Um, no. The extraordinary thing is hearing a former federal prosecutor say that if you don’t have proof of wrongdoing at the start, you don’t investigate.

The smoke being blown by both sides about the now concluded Mueller probe is overwhelming, but there are a few points that cannot be lost.

First and most important, Mueller found persuasive evidence of two types of Russian meddling in the election, and brought indictments against the Russian figures he believed were responsible. Giuliani’s comments elided Trump’s repeated attempts to cast doubt on whether Russia actually tried to help him win in 2016. Mueller’s findings should settle that once and for all.

Second, Mueller also has brought charges against multiple figures in or around the Trump campaign related to their dealings with Russians. He also found, according to Barr’s summary, that Russians tried to persuade people in the Trump campaign to accept their help. So there was ample reason to run those leads to ground.

Third, plenty of Democrats viewed the Mueller probe as a confirmation, not an investigation. They already knew that the Trump campaign had to have colluded, so it was just a matter of time before the special counsel would confirm it. What they got instead appears to have been (although we won’t know this until we see more from Mueller’s report) a genuine search for evidence of collusion that came up empty.

Fourth, Mueller gathered evidence that Trump interfered with the probe of Russian meddling and potential collusion. But Mueller was not persuaded that there was enough evidence to build a case against Trump, so he left it to Barr to decide. And Barr — who famously argued, in an unsolicited letter to the Justice Department before he was nominated to be attorney general, that “Mueller’s obstruction theory is fatally misconceived” — quickly decided that there was no case. That’s a legal decision legitimately open to second-guessing, which Democrats in Congress have already begun to do.

There’s no question that the collusion cloud hanging over Trump has now been lifted. And that’s a good thing for everyone, frankly; only a blind partisan would root for a sitting president to be accused by a special prosecutor of colluding with an antagonistic foreign government to win an election.

But Democrats didn’t put the cloud there alone — the suspicions were raised by the efforts of people in and close to the campaign and by Trump’s own comments. It took someone like Mueller to dispel them. Otherwise, they’d still be there.

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