What the Mueller Report Means for Trump in 2020

Playboy's White House Correspondent on why Trump could be with us for six more years.

Donald Trump was in a celebratory mood Sunday as he returned to the White House from his home in Mar-a-Lago. 

The president had just spent the weekend playing several rounds of golf with members of his staff and cabinet and Kid Rock, waiting, sources say, nervously for a breakdown of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

After the report was handed down on Friday, Attorney General William Barr began drafting a four-page memo based on Mueller’s findings, which he made public on Sunday.

According to Barr's summary, Mueller cleared the president of collusion in the 2016 election, but said it could not be determined whether or not the president had obstructed justice: “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’" Trump, who hadn’t taken to his favorite megaphone–Twitter–in at least a day, was ecstatic.

“Total Exoneration” Trump and his surrogates told the world. That term apparently has a new meaning with an administration filled with people as giddy as school kids huffing nitrous oxide, especially since Mueller specifically said the investigation did not exonerate the president.

The president further illustrated this point when he showed up on the South Lawn on Sunday evening and declared, “I just want to tell you, America is the greatest place on Earth. The greatest place on Earth.”

It wasn’t quite on the level of banality as when Richard Nixon announced, “It really is a great Wall,” when he first saw the Great Wall of China, but both statements sounded like they came from the same bottle of anti-depressants.

Make no mistake: we all should be happy the president did not covertly collude with a foreign power to fix the 2016 election. The general public—all too familiar with point-shaving scandals—isn’t keen on the idea of having a presidential race rigged.

But those of us who report on this administration have known for some time that the level of intelligence and planning needed to pull off such a move just isn’t within the Trump White House.

These are people who do not know what the Posse Comitatus Act is, can’t figure out how to make a conference call, and have difficulty using the in-house speakers to let us know when something’s going on at the White House.

These are not mental giants. These are people who complain about having press gaggles on the North Lawn in the cold, but can’t figure out the easiest way to avoid the problem is to hold briefings in the James Brady briefing room roughly 35 feet away from where they are standing.

This is a group of people who routinely get caught in the most ridiculous lies, including whether or not the president is even in the Oval Office. 
(W)hile this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
In retrospect, we all probably should’ve seen this coming. But daily doses of “Fake News” and “Enemy of the People,” had even the most jaded reporters secretly waiting to laugh last—and many of them had put their money on Mueller for the win. 

But the Teflon Donald emerged from the debacle positioned to spin the Mueller report into a re-election plank—apparently sending out a fundraising plea to donors even before the ink on the Barr memo had dried.

According to the Attorney General, the Mueller investigation issued more than 2800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses. “The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public.

Further: “The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

Of the more frightening aspects, according to Barr, “The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.

Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” 
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The gravity of the Barr memo cannot be dismissed, no matter what Trump personally gained from it. Russia tried to influence our election in 2016 to get Donald Trump elected, and Trump has done little or nothing about it after the fact. 

Lest anyone forget, Trump also made a public plea—on television in 2016—to have Russia hack into his opponent’s emails.

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the candidate Trump said at a news conference in Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Hillary for America policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement at the time. "That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue." 

What Trump and his minions did may not have reached the level of illegality, but their actions remain harmful. It would be helpful to see the complete Mueller report, if for no other reason than to understand why the president’s publicly acknowledged actions did not rise to the level of criminal activity. Moreover, it might be nice if he were publicly chastised for them as well as other crass actions he’s taken. But for now, that’s not happening—and you’ll turn blue and pass out if you hold your breath waiting for it to occur. 

The country, predictably, remains as divided as it has been since Trump took office. Those who support him sound like a pack of coyotes yipping at the recent Super Worm Full Moon. Those who can’t stand him are screaming “Deep State,” and sound as if someone suddenly cut them off from their opioids. 
At this point, it isn't a stretch to say Trump could be with us for another six years.
The fact is this: Few have actually read all of Mueller’s report. Barr’s summary letter is his interpretation of it. While it gives us all cause for relief that our president isn’t conspiring with our enemies, there are many questions that remain without answers, and we may get them if the complete findings were made available—as Trump himself said on the South Lawn last Wednesday in answering my question about the Mueller report. He said then he would have no problem if the full report were made public—though he deferred to Barr as being the ultimate gatekeeper in the matter. The truth is, Trump could make it all public if he chose to—but he won’t.

The Mueller investigation bagged a lot of bad guys. It was neither a witch hunt nor a hoax, and the president should publicly thank Robert Mueller for his service to our country. Since Trump still insults John McCain months after the senator’s death, I also wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Trump to offer any appreciation to Mueller.

In Trump’s mind, the Mueller probe will always be an anathema. Trump will only remember how tortured he was on a daily basis for the last two years by the specter of the Mueller investigation, without ever realizing or caring it was his own public actions that led to the need for it—including firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating the problem. Trump will never understand there is a reality that exists outside of his head, and that it's one that cannot be bent to his will. He sees “total exoneration” because he doesn’t see any negative consequences for his classless actions. His bad behavior thus is reinforced and our bumpy Trump roller coaster will therefore continue.

The Democrats, caught in their own moral dilemma of whether or not they should impeach Trump will also probably snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in 2020. Trump, at this point, with a healthy economy and the Mueller investigation complete, looks as strong as any candidate heading into the re-election season. 

At this point, it isn’t a stretch to say Trump could be with us for another six years. 

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