One of the most annoyingly overused phrases in modern popular culture is “game-changer.” It is a dumbed down substitute for “watershed moment” – a change in the course of events; a fulcrum upon which the very path of living history pivots. Though Democrats have eagerly awaited the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report concluding his investigation into Russia’s attempts to tamper with the American political process, do they now fully appreciate how much of a game-changer the release of this report will be? How congressional Democrats choose to react to the report’s conclusions will determine nothing less significant than the future of their party.
For two years, President Donald Trump’s foes have insisted that Mueller’s work on the Russia investigation will answer all the questions and reveal all the facts. Now that the investigation is over, it appears that the answers are not what Democrats had expected, and the facts are probably not nearly as damning for the president as they had hoped. What course of action the Democrats choose now will put their credibility on the line for years or even decades – especially as it relates to the 2020 general election.
Despite the unhinged rantings of numerous Democratic lawmakers, many elected officials and political operatives on both sides of the aisle have suspected, for some time, that Mueller’s report was not going to provide Democrats with an air-tight case for impeachment. In anticipation, the party initiated plan B: Investigate, via congressional committees, everything the president has done since taking office and almost everything he did prior to winning the 2016 election.
Dems’ Investigations Now Have Credibility Issues
The problem these zealous inquisitors now face, though, is that the special counsel investigation provided their attempts to hound the president and his administration with a veneer of credibility. To the general public – most of whom had long ago lost interest in the Russia collusion conspiracy theory and now pay little attention to it – the Democrats’ congressional investigation seemed to have some purpose, proceeding in tandem with Mueller’s work.
Now that Mueller is done, though, it is only a matter of time before Americans start to wonder why Democrats are still investigating. Didn’t they say that Mueller would provide the answers, solve the puzzle, and unearth the president’s crimes?
News that the Mueller report contains no recommendations for additional indictments was a massive disappointment for those who so despise this president. Democrats desperately needed the report to catalog a list of crimes committed by Donald Trump and his family members. Had that been the case, the numerous investigations opened by House Democrats would have had a purpose.
The report is a prosecutorial product, and it is unlikely to vindicate the president entirely. It is not going to be flattering – that is not what prosecutors do when they set out to prove wrongdoing. It will likely paint a picture of disarray and dishonesty within the 2016 Trump campaign team. The report may conclude that a lot of rules were bent – either intentionally or unwittingly – but the evidence necessary to cross the threshold into criminal wrongdoing is simply not there.
Spinning the New Narrative
In the absence of clearly documented criminal or treasonous activity, the report is not going to provide Democrats with the cover they need to continue investigating the president. Thus, the party’s spin machine is already in high gear. The new narrative is already emerging: Either Mueller missed something or the Department of Justice is about to orchestrate a cover-up.
Nobody honestly believed that Attorney General William Barr could simply hand the Mueller report over to Congress and release it publicly as soon as it was delivered to him. That just is not how things are done. Barr will provide Congress with a summary of the findings. There will be a period of discussion about what parts of the report may need to be redacted or even omitted altogether before it is provided to Congress and the public.
The White House will almost certainly get to examine the report, which is only fair. This is the culmination of a two-year investigation of the Trump campaign and the idea that the president and his legal team would be denied the opportunity to read the findings is preposterous.
Knowing these facts, Democrats have already demanded the report be immediately released – and in full – and that the White House not be allowed to read it. They are deliberately asking the impossible so that, once the president’s attorneys receive the report and once redactions and omissions are applied to it, they can immediately claim a cover-up has been perpetrated. Of course, the evidence of collusion is there in the report, Democrats will claim, but it has been redacted by Trump’s Justice Department!
If Mueller’s report does not damn the president – and it appears that it will not – Democrats will have encountered their game-changer. They hoped they were on the path to impeachment with the special counsel’s backing but now realize that the greatest weapon they had against Trump may be a bust. They can either quietly scale down their many probes into everything Trump and shift their focus to legislation, or they can go full speed ahead with congressional investigations and reveal themselves as indulging in political persecution with no regard for facts and justice.