Newsletter: ‘Total exoneration’ by Mueller — another Trump whopper


Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, April 20, 2019. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

A liar typically has the advantage of his victim not knowing the truth. But just as he breaks almost every norm in politics, President Trump takes prevaricating to a whole new level, as his persistent refusal to accept anything other than total exoneration by the Mueller report, even though the report is now public and explicitly does the opposite of what Trump says, shows this.

If there’s any scintilla of truth to be found in Trump’s statements, you could argue that the president not facing criminal charges for obstructing the Russia investigation — even though the report all but invites Congress to consider impeachment as a means of holding Trump accountable — provides some relief. But in the L.A. Times editorial board’s assessment, the damning details in the Mueller report make a mockery of Trump’s claim of total exoneration:

It’s true that the special counsel didn’t establish that Trump’s campaign criminally cooperated with Russia in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign. Instead, the report provides evidence that a Russian organization with ties to the Kremlin tirelessly promoted Trump and bashed Hillary Clinton on social media with the (evidently) unwitting aid of Trump campaign officials and Trump himself. It also notes several overtures by Russians to supply stolen emails and other “dirt” to the Trump campaign, drawing interest rather than alarm from campaign officials.

But the report absolutely does not clear the president of the serious accusation that he tried to obstruct justice through a variety of efforts to abort or interfere with the Russia investigation....

To name just a few: Trump attempted to have then-Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions reverse his own decision — required by ethics rules — to recuse himself from the investigation. Trump fired FBI director James B. Comey — at least partly because of the “pressure” from the Russia investigation — and then lied about why he did so. He directed White House counsel Don McGahn to order Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller soon after the special counsel’s appointment. McGahn refused to carry out the order and prepared to resign, and Trump later backed down. When the New York Times reported on Trump’s demand, the president asked McGahn to deny it....

Americans didn’t need the Mueller report to establish that this president is ignorant, erratic and irresponsible or that he is contemptuous of the rule of law.

But the special counsel’s account underlines the importance of making Donald Trump a one-term president.

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The biggest dupes in the Mueller report? Americans. Trump didn’t get elected in 2016 without the consent of 63 million voters, many of whom were easy targets for the Russians’ clumsy social network agitprop. “The Mueller report is so rich, and its lessons are infinite,” writes Virginia Heffernan. “Here’s my first one: Refuse to be drafted into the next infowar, and certainly don’t enlist.” L.A. Times

Some advice for Trump: Stop tweeting. All Trump had to do after the report’s release was wait for the Democrats to inflict Mueller fatigue on the public, but he couldn’t resist going into attack mode. Problem is, says Jon Healey, the more Trump mentions the Mueller “hoax,” the more he invites readers to reacquaint themselves with the report’s damning details. L.A. Times

More on the Mueller report: House Democrats would be foolish to pursue impeachment, says Scott Martelle. (Some readers agree.) For once, the American people have a common set of facts that are not (yet) under dispute, writes Jon Healey. We still need to know if Trump poses a threat to national security, warns investigative reporter Seth Hettena. Finally, Michael McGough says we didn’t need to hear from William Barr.

Who saved Notre Dame? Its Dark Age builders. The fire looked catastrophic, but the early eulogies to the supposedly destroyed cathedral in Paris were premature. Yes, the old wooden roof burned, but much of the interior stone vaulting remained intact. The medieval rose windows survived mostly undamaged. Wooden pews on the floor remained in neat order. All this was by design. L.A. Times

Here’s what can’t be saved after the fire: Notre Dame’s singular sound. Contemporaneous composers altered their music as the medieval cathedral underwent different phases of construction over two centuries. The great tragedy of the fire is that those acoustics may be gone forever, writes Michael Scott Cuthbert. L.A. Times

Why are Trump and the GOP so afraid of Bill Weld? The president is clobbering his only declared Republican primary challenger in the polls, but Matt Welch says “the Trump machine is taking a bazooka to this thumb-wrestling match, inserting Trumpist yes men in regional party leadership positions.” The last time a popular incumbent got so paranoid about a primary challenger, he resigned in disgrace two years after reelection. L.A. Times