During his Thursday news conference, Attorney General William P. Barr communicated clearly and with confidence and authority the “bottom line” that neither President Trump, nor any member of his campaign or family, nor indeed any American anywhere colluded with Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. Barr did exactly what the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, charged with executing the laws of this country should do: thoroughly explain the law and the decision in this matter. Barr was under no legal obligation to discuss this report with the media, but he did so in the interest of public confidence in the process — confidence that should and will increase with those who are open to reason.
No collusion. No obstruction. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III made the first call. Barr, with the assistance of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, made the second call. Now, the lightly redacted report has been presented to Congress and the people.
The president did not assert his executive privilege. He directed his staff to cooperate completely with the investigation. As the attorney general stated, Trump faced an “unprecedented situation." (Challenged by a journalist whether the characterization of “unprecedented” wasn’t “being generous” to the president, Barr responded with a question: “Is there another precedent for it?” The journalist responded that, in fact, there wasn’t one. Barr responded that his characterization was thus accurate. Those who believe that Barr has brought much needed clarity to the Justice Department cheered as his response seemed to stand for a broader rebuke of an endlessly hysterical as opposed to curious media.) The president often acted in anger and/or haste, the redacted report revealed, as many an innocent man wrongly accused would act. But he was well served by those who let him cool down or change course.
Many commentators are ignoring the “first rule of holes”: When in one, stop digging. They can’t because, well, ratings. Three years of speculation up in smoke. Month after month of hysteria revealed as, well, hysteria. Attacks on the attorney general’s integrity are not just pebbles thrown at a battleship; they reveal a fundamental unwillingness in some portions of the media to accept Mueller’s — not Barr’s, Mueller’s — conclusion that no collusion occurred by any American with the Russian attacks and hacks. That’s it. Game. Set. Match. In service of props from #TheResistance, however, a bunch of commentators are digging in, and thus deeper into the land of conspiracy theorists and tin-foil hats.
Watch now Democratic leaders, including candidates for president. They will not be lingering long near this giant, smoking wreck of many people’s credibility. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer’s (D-Md.) dismissal of impeachment talk provided the day’s conclusive “tell.” The rejection essentially translated to “the Judiciary Committee can hold hearings, but we are done here.”
Except we are not done. The attorney general soon will have the report of the inspector general reviewing the actions at the highest levels of the FBI and the intelligence community during the campaign and the transition. Just to name a few issues worth investigating: I do think former FBI director James B. Comey should have told President Trump he was keeping a file on all of his conversations. I don’t think any of that file should have been shared with others who subsequently leaked it to the public. And there is nothing in the redacted Mueller report resembling a predicate for a FISA warrant against Carter Page, a U.S. citizen, though the redactions prevent a conclusive opinion.
The results of the inspector general’s deep dig are yet to come — and they are truly the most interesting of all. In the meantime, thanks to Barr discharging his duty to make the call he did, we know that no obstruction occurred. Combined with Mueller’s conclusion of no collusion, the theater of the absurd of the past three years has reached an end for President Trump, his family and campaign team. It is the beginning of the end for those who set the counterintelligence investigation in motion. Who is lawyering up now?