Politics in the post-Mueller world

Attorney General Barr released a summary of the Mueller report today. President Donald Trump and his supporters immediately claimed that the Mueller report vindicated the president, while some Democrats are claiming they want to see the full report and keep the House investigations going full force.

Proving the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians was always going to be difficult. The Mueller indictments of Russian organizations that affected the 2016 election were significant in demonstrating what all the US intelligence organizations asserted–that Russia used disinformation and other techniques to shape voters perceptions of the presidential candidates.

Early responses to Barr’s summary indicate that the Mueller confirmation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign is insignificant. Representative Jim Jordan is claiming that Mueller’s report means that all Congressional investigations should immediately halt. House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, on the other hand, wants to bring Attorney General Barr in to be questioned. President Trump claimed that that the Mueller probe was an “illegal investigation that failed.”

President Trump and his supporters always realized that the legal implications of the Mueller probe mattered less than the political ones. From the beginning of Mueller’s work, Trump rhetorically shifted the focus of the investigation from the role of Russia in the electoral process to a showdown between the justice system, represented by Mueller, and him. Charges of the investigation as a “witch hunt” and the “conflicted Mueller and his 13 angry Democrats” allowed Trump to portray himself as the aggrieved party in the case, rather than focusing how the democratic process can be protected.

It is amazing that, in the short span of one generation, that Russia can change from being what Ronald Reagan referred to as the “evil empire” to being a sympathetic character in the political drama directed by Trump.

Democrats and media pundits are equally culpable in this transformation of Russia and the shifting of attention away from its role in disrupting the election. Both have consistently made the Mueller probe about the president’s guilt, rather than what Russia did.

With the next presidential election just over nineteen months from now, efforts to prevent Russian, and other governments, inference in the communication channels or electoral processes should be redoubled. If the immediate response to the Mueller report is any indication, it is unlikely this will happen.

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