It didn’t take long for President Trump to decide the Mueller report wasn’t such a good thing after all.
On Thursday, the newly released report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was treated with near reverence by President Trump’s admirers and critics alike. The former embraced its conclusions — Mueller did not establish that members of the Trump campaign "conspired or coordinated" with the Russian government in its election interference, and sought no charges against Trump for obstructing justice — while the latter reveled in the report’s often damning details.
Trump himself was one of the first out of the gate, tweeting three versions of “No Collusion — No Obstruction” even before the report was formally released.
By Friday morning, however, the president was back in attack mode. The flip was predictable: The news media went bonkers Thursday, filling their websites and television programs with analyses of the Mueller findings that were most unflattering to Trump and his campaign. Yes, the investigation closed with a win for the president, but the report still casts him as a liar determined to impede the investigation (saved only by aides who wouldn’t carry out his orders), and his campaign as a sucker for Russian meddlers.
The smart play for Trump would be to sit tight and let Democrats exhaust and alienate voters with endless investigations into the 2016 campaign, the way he responded to Mueller’s investigation and his business practices. (As if on cue, the head of the House Judiciary Committee sent a subpoena Friday to the Justice Department, demanding the unredacted Mueller report and all the supporting investigative materials.) But that’s not how this president rolls.
Hello, “Crazy Mueller Report,” and welcome back, “18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters.” If it’s crazy, does that mean Mueller was wrong about “No Collusion — No Obstruction”?
(Before you dash off that comment, let me point out that Mueller did not, in fact, find “no obstruction.” He offered evidence of the president interfering with his investigation, while also noting that what Trump did may not meet the legal definition of obstructing justice. Ultimately, he left it to Atty. Gen. William P. Barr to decide whether to pursue an obstruction case against the president, and Barr emphatically declared that Mueller’s evidence did not support such a charge.)
The more Trump beats the drum for an investigation into the investigation — the “Illegally Started Hoax,” in Trump parlance — the more he’ll keep the spotlight on what Mueller found. The details in the report on Russian meddling, Russian efforts to court Trump campaign officials and Russian contacts with said officials clearly justify the time and effort spent probing whether there was any cooperation or coordination between a foreign power and a presidential campaign. And the details in the report on how Trump tried to squash said probe make the president look awful.