This post has been updated.
Days before special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation concluded, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) made a bold claim about President Trump and obstruction of justice.
“There are indictments in this president’s future,” Blumenthal said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Whether they’re after his presidency or during it — obviously the Department of Justice said [it] cannot indict a sitting president.”
It is one of at least a dozen speculative or inaccurate predictions made over the past two years by Democratic lawmakers involving potential indictments against Trump campaign officials or Trump himself on conspiracy or obstruction charges, examples of which you can watch in the video above.
Now, Trump and his allies are pointing to such remarks to attack critics, demand apologies and, in some cases, ask cable networks to ban certain guests. But lost in this “reckoning” is the equating of “collusion” and “conspiracy” and conflating the Mueller probe with at least half a dozen ongoing state and federal investigations into Trump and the organizations he ran.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) made this distinction in December, saying alleged Trump campaign finance violations could lead to “jail time” or could be “impeachable offenses.”
But at other points over the past two years, the nuance disappeared completely, with Democrats predicting criminal indictments from Mueller against Trump, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) even called Trump an agent of Russia as recently as January (“I haven’t seen a single piece of evidence that he’s not,” Swalwell said at the time.)
And less than two weeks before Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William P. Barr, former CIA director John Brennan predicted that Mueller would indict Trump campaign officials on conspiracy charges. (Brennan told “Morning Joe” on Monday that he “suspected that there was more [evidence] than there actually was.”)
Much of the Mueller speculation often amounted to innuendo about “collusion,” a hard-to-define term. There is no federal criminal statute relating to it, and the term is found nowhere in Barr’s summary of Mueller’s findings. Indeed, some Democrats have yet to rule out “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia, pointing to the more than 100 contacts between campaign officials and Russians before Trump’s inauguration.
While some news reports about the Russia investigation were wrong, the total coverage was overwhelmingly accurate, which meant that much of what Barr wrote in his summary of Mueller’s findings on Sunday was not new information.
But even if it did contain new information — aside from the conclusions on the issues of conspiracy and obstruction — it is unlikely that it would have changed voters’ minds: 41 percent of registered voters told Fox News this month that nothing in Mueller’s report would change their minds about Trump.