The Mueller report could not be more clear regarding collusion. According to Attorney General William P. Barr’s letter to Congress, the report states verbatim that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Obviously, President Trump’s opponents and critics in the media will want to mostly ignore the findings and look ahead, but they cannot ignore that Mueller’s investigation failed to conclude that Trump or anyone in his campaign colluded with the Russian government. Trump may be a miscreant, but he is no traitor. The immediate reaction by Democrats has mostly been lame backpedaling and stalling and calling for the complete report to be released — whatever that means.
To be certain, the Mueller report’s findings do not mean the president is in the clear. Trump will never be in the clear. From his charitable foundation to his dealings with his former attorney Michael Cohen, who knows what he may be guilty of? The president still has plenty of legal challenges associated with the New York state attorney general’s office, bothersome partisan congressional investigations and other federal inquiries that may be underway. But those are just pinpricks compared with the howitzer round that would have been a blast from Mueller. No remaining challenger that the president must deal with is as formidable as Mueller. (Just see David Von Drehle’s comparison piece in The Post.) But as far as President Trump is concerned, the wolf is away from the door.
For the pro-impeachment crowd, Mueller’s report appears to have left enough of an opening. Most of the 2020 Democratic presidential wannabes are going to say Mueller’s language regarding obstruction of justice is deafening in its silence. They will find refuge in an excerpt of the Mueller report cited by Barr that notes that the investigation “does not exonerate [the president].” But the question of bringing an obstruction indictment in a matter where no underlying crime is prosecuted is a mind-bending exercise best left to law professors. It will not have much traction outside of the most partisan Democrats and the most biased Trump critics in the media.
So, as far as 2020 goes and the overall partisan political dynamic, you can bet that most, if not all, of the Mueller report will be released. This will leave the Democrats to obsess, overwork it and chew on each bit. They are probably heading for their own unfulfilling, Benghazi-like quest much like that which preoccupied Republicans for years during the Obama administration.
With the question of collusion behind him, Trump and his allies would be wise to proceed cautiously. Is there any chance that Trump has learned anything from this experience? Doubtful. This was never really about Trump and collusion but Democrats’ undying need to delegitimize the president and remove him from office. The Mueller report will slow down that effort but not end it.