Littwin: If Mueller can’t beat Trump — according to AG Barr, anyway — what about the Dems?

Donald Trump speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr: Creative Commons)

Let’s begin by agreeing that the Barr summary of the Mueller report is devastating for Democrats, anti-Trumpists and, I’d argue, for all Americans. 

That said, we can now get on with our lives, which, sadly, are still wrapped very tightly in the disaster that is the Trump presidency. In other words, much has changed and nothing has changed. We just keep trudging on.

I don’t know if Donald Trump has read the Mueller report — guessing it might be too long for the short-fingered, short-attention-span president — but I think we can assume he knows basically what it’s in it and that it might not be as bright and cheery as the spin Attorney General William Barr put on it.

Here’s my evidence:

One, instead of just reveling in the Barr summary of the report, Trump spent the day after its release angrily calling critics who pursued the Russia investigation “treasonous” and saying they should be investigated. It’s nuts, of course, but it’s the next step in the propaganda tour against whatever bad news for Trump is actually in the report, which is expected to be released in some form.

Oddly, though, when Trump, who has called Bob Mueller a liar and far worse, was asked if he thought Mueller had acted honorably, he said that he had. Does that mean there was no witch hunt? Does that mean Trump owes Mueller an apology? Just kidding on the apology part — this is simply what we know as the Trumpian cognitive dissonance continuum. By the way, since Trump is off the hook in the short term, it’s also probably bad news for any Trump aide hoping for a pardon.

Two, even as Republicans gloat, Trump knows that the impact of the report — as well as that to come from continuing state and federal prosecutions on top of whatever we learn from the Dem-controlled House investigatory committees — is far from over. Presumably Barr and Mueller will both be subpoenaed to testify in front of at least one House committee. And one point that will be made repeatedly is that Mueller, re Barr, found that Russians aggressively tried to help Trump win the 2016 election while Trump, we know, stood meekly by Vladimir Putin and said he trusted Putin’s word that he hadn’t.

Trump also knows that he and his henchpeople have consistently lied about their contacts with Russians. Some are even going to prison for lying about them. The question remains: Why did they lie? Here’s hoping the report sheds more light on that. Meanwhile, The New York Times writes that a cloud has been lifted from the Trump presidency. I’d agree that the sun has briefly broken through, but who doesn’t believe the clouds will make a strong comeback?

Three, and this is the critical point, that in the post-Barr-summary era, Trump will still be Trump. Today, tomorrow and forever more. He will remain the unprecedented Trump, for whom all models of behavior do not apply. Trump is sui generis, which is a good thing and very much a  not-so-good thing. We don’t know yet what this report will mean for the 2020 election cycle. But we can be certain that Trump’s behavior will continue to enrage a majority of the electorate right up to November 2020 — which, as we saw in 2016, still doesn’t mean he won’t win. But as Steve Bannon put it, now that the Mueller investigation is complete. Trump will go “full animal.” I’m struggling to pull up the image.

If this were over, Trump could have simply declared victory and left it there. Instead Trump called the summary of the undisclosed report a total exoneration even as Barr, in his letter, says it was not, in fact, an exoneration, total or otherwise. So, Trump lies. Barr sighs. And anti-Trumpists desperately search for a reason to believe.

But let’s assume for the moment that the obstruction of justice part of the report looks pretty bad for Trump — a fair assumption, given Barr’s summary — and that we will probably learn more, say, about the Russian meeting with Don Jr. and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. And more about Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi and the rest. More about Wikileaks. More about the Trump Tower.

And as for collusion, it’s fair to ask, as Washington Post anti-Trumpist columnist Max Boot does: If Mueller determined that Trump had not “conspired: or “coordinated” with the Russians, isn’t it obvious, from Trump’s own statements, that he welcomed Russian interference? 

At this point, Trump has won a huge political victory — there’s really no argument there — and Democrats and other anti-Trumpists who thought this report would somehow lead to Trump’s impeachment and then removal from office have to re-examine all their premises.

The impeach-and-replace movement was never going to happen. In the case of Donald J. Trump, there probably can’t be a Nixon-like smoking gun. Look, we’ve already seen so much smoke, and we’ve also seen that nothing — politically anyway — seems to change.

Trump’s Fifth Avenue shooting hypothesis still holds. You could see the strength of the hypothesis on the stump, both in the 2018 midterms and in the 2019 presidential primary, as most Democratic candidates have spoken little about Russia. Nancy Pelosi wisely counseled against impeachment. 

And here’s a guess: The most meaningful consequence of the Barr summary of the Mueller report will be that, for wounded Democrats, the electability question will become ever more important in the long, long, long slog to select a candidate to oppose Trump. The only way to get rid of Trump, after all, is to defeat him.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Great column!

    Honest, balanced and no spin.

    “At this point, Trump has won a huge political victory — there’s really no argument there — and Democrats and other anti-Trumpists who thought this report would somehow lead to Trump’s impeachment and then removal from office have to re-examine all their premises.

    The impeach-and-replace movement was never going to happen. In the case of Donald J. Trump, there probably can’t be a Nixon-like smoking gun. Look, we’ve already seen so much smoke, and we’ve also seen that nothing — politically anyway — seems to change.”

  2. The most discouraging thing for me is that 90% of (the remaining) Republicans don’t even bother to hold their nose anymore to support Trump. They have become totally inured to the deadly stench that surrounds Trump and his henchpeople. I worry about our democracy.

  3. Fascism is on the move inside our nation…Cory Gardner cannot explain his slavish and total support of trump, trumpism, and corruption…Gardner must be replaced, along with trump…these folks are going to try to use the word “socialism” as a scary word for the magamorons, but we all know that it is fascism that the republicans are defending, and are trying to implement along the same lines as Vlad Putin and the russian oligarchs…Gardner is a FASCIST, and a RACIST with the intent of ignoring the Constitution…he cannot come to Colorado to hold town hall meetings because he cannot justify, nor explain away is corruption and his criminal support of trump and the crime syndicate…
    Bill Barr has just opened the door to fascism….and it looks like trump is going to go through the door…

  4. According to wikipedia, Facism includes “strong regimentation of society and of the economy”. That sounds like Political Correctness, stifling government regulation, nationalized healthcare, and in general a very close cousin of the progressive ideology (Prohibition anyone?). And lets not forget – it has been established that the whole premise of the investigation was based on a political-party- paid-for opposition-hit-piece of “research”, and then the leaders of government law enforcement agencies duped the courts (who are supposed to protect our rights) and targeted their political enemies while giving a pass to their preferred candidate. I don’t care what everyone thinks about Trump personally, but if the above is even somewhat true, which it appears to be, THAT should scare the crap out of everyone. Yeah, so the Democrats and Hillary and Comey did it to Trump this time. But if we don’t fix that, it really *could* be some far-right actors doing it next time. We have to ensure our Constitution is protected, from both the left and the right.

  5. Too funny. Mueller knew that Barr would put on the lipstick but refuse to release the pig. Why do the rubes always get taken by the obvious cons? Why do you think he involved the SDNY? The longer they wait the worse it’s going to be for them when the House finally gets the report. Their obstruction of releasing the report is not going to age well after it’s out. It ain’t going to be pretty.

  6. “Partisan” politics have devolved into mere mindless entertainment, akin to amusements like WWE Wrestling or the Jerry Springer Show.

    Passive spectators feel the need to take sides, despite being wholly detached from those acting their parts.
    The tough talk, that empty rhetoric, between the “Dems” and “GOP” is too eerily similar to that of pro wrestlers.

    And yet regardless whether “Dem” or “GOP” the same ultra wealthy & powerful elite Lord’s continue to amass ever-more wealth & power.

    The Koch’s got even richer under Obama. They continue to do so under Trump.
    Ditto for Gates, Bezos, Musk, Zuckerberg, Brin, Page, Buffett, et al.

    The mindless masses are too busily distracted criticizing the opposing team, whilst remaining ignorant of the malfeasance of their own, to realize the whole system is corrupt.

    Politicians from either side don’t give a hoot about you.
    They exist solely to serve the neo-feudal Lords.

    You are all merely serfs.

  7. @ Mr. Freeman…

    Yours is the best comment posted on Mr. Littwin’s columns in quite some time. Most will flame you for it but that only provides more evidence of the truth of it.

    Thanks for posting this…

  8. If you think both parties are equally at fault for our corporatocracy then you need to do some reading.

    Doesn’t pass the smell test even a little.

  9. @Jay – I DO think that both partied are equally at fault – The idiot Dems are just as guilty as the idiot Repubs. Just check out Mazine Waters – lives like a millionaire (cuz she is) but doesn’t live in her own district. And don’t even get me started on Nancy Pelosi. On the other side, four out of the top five richest congressmen (House and Senate) are Republicans.
    Bottom line is that there is MORE than enough blame to go around.

    I know that the majority of people who read and comment on Mr. Littwin’s columns are left wing – just like the majority that read Mr. Gingrich’s columns are right wing so most of the people here – ;like you – will place more blame on the Repubs just like the other side will place more blame on the Dems. I get it. Really.

    And BOTH sides are correct and both sides are equally as guilty- as Mr. Freeman noted. I don’t subscribe to either party – and while that does not make me smarter than any of the rest of you, it does make me un-biased. I doubt seriously that you can say the same. To quote you – that does not pass the smell test even a little…..

  10. Nope. You can throw all the tantrums you want…but from a policy perspective…the “both sides” argument is a complete myth.

    Republicans have enabled the establishment and continuation of our corporatocracy to far greater lengths than have the dems, who certainly aren’t without fault.

    So…yeah…that’s just straight bullshit to pretend the Dems and Republicans are “equally” to blame.

    Again…this ain’t exactly breaking news, so some reading on this subject might help. I don’t even know any Republicans who still try to make that argument with straight face.

  11. Ah, c’mon Jay – put your big boy pants on and TRY to put your liberal views in time out for a second or two. I was not “throwing tantrums” – I was stating a viewpoint. Period. I was not taking sides as I have absolutely NO use for either party. Sorry if it upsets you that I don’t hate Repubs more than Dems, but that’s the way it goes.

  12. You can have no use for either party and still be completely factually incorrect about both parties being equally at fault for the corporatization of America.

    Do you see how they’re not connected?

  13. No – I see evil and greed on both sides. I see intolerance on both sides. I see blindness on both sides. I see uber-partisanship on both sides. I see total failure on both sides. The two major parties are two sides of the same coin. Ultra-liberals think they are the only ones who have the solution and the conservatives are all evil. The ultra-conservatives believe the exact opposite. If you cannot see that, then we will have to agree to disagree.

    You are welcome to the last word as I am done with this discussion and will not visit this thread again – you will not change my mind and apparently I will not change yours. I think you are being very closed minded about this, but that is certainly your prerogative. At least you have an opinion (right or wrong…) and that’s more than most people have. I credit you for that.

  14. Trying to spread the blame equally between Republicans and Dems for transgressions that the Republicans have by far been a greater part of smacks of anything but centrism. It seems a little apologetic for things we should be holding folks of a particular party for, by saying “everybody does it”. Furthermore, I don’t find strawman arguments persuasive. Policy talks. I’m not worried about what the fringe does…I’m concerned with actual behavior and policy decisions. I’m not trying to change your mind, just pointing out that you’re factually incorrect when making the “both sides” argument.

    Just as wrong as Trump was in Charlottesville…same phenomenon…different details. It isn’t an intellectually honest position.

    This is going to keep coming up as folks try to excuse Republican behavior. Even cleverly, like you.

    As we have to make responsible, pragmatic decisions that actually affects policy in order to make a difference…by voting for viable candidates…which still means Rep or Dem (like it or not that’s reality)…these factual distinctions become important. Taking your ball and going home when someone points this out isn’t intellectually honest either.

    Do with that what you will….but I’ll wear my boots next time in case it gets deep in here again.

  15. It is so wonderful to have our great columnists back! As for Trump, unfortunately with a fully corrupt republican party there can be no accountability until the democrats have a 2/3rds majority in both houses. It is shameful, and AG Barr is now leading that parade.

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