In December of last year I wrote a column outlining what I think would happen if the Mueller report came up with no evidence of collusion with Russia. Here is an unedited excerpt of that column: “If the report comes back with no proof that Donald Trump was involved in collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign, the left will still believe he is guilty and the right will be convinced he’s innocent. In these days of ‘making the data say what you want it to say,’ it’s much easier to manipulate a narrative than numbers. Since we already do it with numbers, it shouldn’t be so difficult to do it with the Mueller report. The report will undoubtedly show many wrongdoings by the Trump campaign, and even if there is nothing in the report showing collusion, Democrats will still have the opinions of ‘well, he didn’t collude, but I knew he did something.’”
So now that the report is complete, and there was no evidence of Russian collusion found in the Trump campaign, I get to play the “I told you so” card and analyze all of the ways the media has tried to spin this story so that it remains that somehow they were still correct. But before we have a grand old time looking at the spin doctors from the New York Times, MSNBC, and the Washington Post, I would like to recall a point during the 2016 campaign when these same media outlets were outraged by the fact that then-candidate Trump said he’d only accept the results of the election if he wins. The media had a right to be irritated by that statement, but since then have done everything in its power to embody it. For two years they have been talking about how the election was won illegally. Now that they have been proven incorrect, they have not learned from their mistakes, and still won’t back down.
So let’s do it. Let’s take a look at the media’s best efforts to continue to push their own narrative, that somehow, some way, there is still reason to believe that Robert Mueller, the great white hope, has found something extraordinarily damaging to President Trump.
The first theory comes from New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, who, on her March 28 podcast, claimed that the possibility still exists that President Trump “was compromised and being manipulated. Nothing in the Barr letter rules that out at all, in part because being compromised and manipulated is not necessarily a crime.” The idea here is that President Trump was, and continues to be, unknowingly controlled by Vladimir Putin. During the campaign and through his term in office, Trump was being manipulated to do things for the Russian government. And because Trump is such a dunderhead, he doesn’t even realize he’s being controlled.
I have to hand it to Goldberg here. This one is creative. It’s not a crime to be dumb and easily manipulated, so there isn’t really anything to be guilty of, but at the same time she’s basically calling Trump a Russian asset. This is an interesting tactic since it was only two weeks ago that she was saying that Trump definitely colluded with Russia, which, one would have to assume, would take a high level of intelligence to orchestrate. But since we now know that that didn’t happen, we have to move in the opposite direction, that Trump is a clueless worm.
The next line of attack comes curtesy of Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, who, on her March 25 show, opined, “Did [Attorney General William] Barr…base his determination that the president hadn’t committed any crimes on his own legal theory?” This is an idea kicked around a lot on the left, but since I first saw it from Maddow in January when Barr was first nominated, I’m giving her the “credit.” The idea is that US Attorney General William Barr circulated an unsolicited memo in June of 2018 that posed the idea that a lawful action of the sitting president cannot violate obstruction. The “lawful action” being discussed here is the May 2017 dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.
It’s easy to understand Maddow’s line of thinking here. Is Trump innocent of obstruction because of the legal definition of obstruction or because of Barr’s understanding of how obstruction works? Interestingly enough, prior to releasing his findings, Barr consulted with the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (which is like the lawyer’s office for the DOJ) before deciding not to charge the president with obstruction. Obviously, if Barr was relying strictly on his own definition, he wouldn’t have even bothered to ask for help. Somehow, Maddow simultaneously brings up this point, and ignores it.
Instead of forcing me to scour the Internet for the remaining “hot takes,” the Washington Post lines them up nicely in a March 27 article entitled “What Mueller’s Trump-Russia Probe Revealed.” In this article, the WaPo makes the following claims:
Russia tried to help Trump.
People around Trump were receptive to the help.
Trump was trying to do business in Russia during the campaign.
His close advisers sought Russian back channels during the transition.
Lots of people around Trump lied to investigators.
What the article doesn’t seem to care about is that
Trump refused the assistance from Russia.
None of this indicates Trump did anything wrong himself.
None of this indicates any wrongdoing on the part of the Trump campaign.
Those who lied to investigators have been indicted, and were or will be prosecuted, and still haven’t led Barr to Trump.
The media seem to still be hell-bent on proving that something nefarious went on during the 2016 election. They clearly have not learned from the past two years of mistakes in reporting. There were so many media missteps during the investigation, highlighted by the January 2019 Buzzfeed report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to investigators and ABC News’ Brian Ross’ December 2017 report that Trump had instructed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials during the campaign. Both stories were proved false, and at least in Ross’ case, cost him his job.
The media malfeasance continues, though not as egregious as the two examples cited above. Literally the only thing that makes sense at this point is to wait for the full report, an argument actually being made by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The media is assigning fault where it does not exist or at the very least where they have no shred of the existence of proof. Short of that, the media just needs to accept defeat on this one. They were wrong. They have been wrong for two years, and no attempt to spin the wrongdoing of the president will change that.
But there is one more thing I had written back in December that still holds true. The temperature of the country now is such that nobody can be proven wrong. Had the Mueller report actually determined that there was some illegal activity out of the Trump campaign, the right would have the same reaction the left has now. “Trump backers gonna back. Trump haters gonna hate.” And if there is anything that Bob Mueller has proven, it’s that facts seem to no longer matter. Everyone already has made up their own mind. And when the final report is released, you can bet that we’ll be going through this all over again. The right will claim there is nothing to see, and the left will claim that Trump is obviously guilty and is only being protected by Barr. Honestly, if I were the AG, I would release the entire report with no redactions, save for one innocuous paragraph, so the left can hold that as the equivalent of the missing 18.5 minutes of the Nixon tapes, that if they only had that one passage, Trump would be proven guilty – when in fact, that paragraph was actually talking about some irrelevant tweet the president sent. That would be epic trollery.
Izzo Zwiren works in healthcare administration, constantly concerning himself with the state of healthcare politics. The topic of healthcare has led Izzo to become passionate about a variety of political issues affecting our country today. Aside from politics, Izzo is a fan of trivia, stand-up comedy, and the New York Giants. Izzo lives on Long Island with his wife and two adorable, hilarious daughters.