Your first clue that Donald Trump doesn't want you to know what's in the Mueller report is the date of its release: the day before Passover and Easter weekend, but a whole 25 days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered it and Attorney General William Barr assured Congress (and a gullible media) that the president had been totally cleared of wrongdoing.
Your second clue is that Trump spent the week prior rage-tweeting about the "18 Angry Democrats" on Mueller's team who had — the logic gets twisted here — nonetheless rendered a "NO COLLUSION! NO OBSTRUCTION!" verdict. Trump's lawyers (but not Congress) had gotten a sneak peek at the report's 448 pages, and the president seemed less than thrilled by his exoneration.
Your third clue is that, the morning of the "lightly" redacted report's release, Barr — whose history of covering up Republican crimes dates back to Iran Contra — held a press conference to repeatedly declare that there was "no collusion," as if he were the president's flak instead of the country's top lawyer.
This was a shameless attempt to preemptively frame a bullshit narrative. That should have been obvious to anyone who's been paying attention. But once the report dropped, we saw how deep the bullshit actually ran — and somehow, it was still shocking.
Before we get there, though, imagine that everything in the Mueller report was new and The New York Times and Washington Post hadn't revealed its contents over the last two years. (So much for #FakeNews, huh?) Imagine we learned for the first time that the Trump campaign welcomed Russia's help in swinging the election; that, during the campaign, Trump was trying to build a $300 million high-rise in Moscow; and that Trump repeatedly tried to intimidate witnesses and shut down the investigation, including ordering his minions to fire the special counsel. Imagine we hadn't become numb to the corruption and mendacity.
The calls for impeachment would be deafening. Instead, the frog has boiled slowly, and Trump is trying to claim vindication.
There is no vindication in Mueller's words, at least to anyone with a middle-school level of reading comprehension. Trying to summary his voluminous findings in a few hundred words is a fool's errand, but the report makes three things extraordinarily clear:
First, there absolutely was collusion — with WikiLeaks, which was disseminating information obtained by Russian hackers. Per Mueller's report: "By the late summer of 2016, the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks." There were also lots of shady campaign contacts with Russian operatives, including Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Kremlin-connected operative teasing "incriminating" information on Hillary Clinton. (Mueller concluded in part that Don Jr. was too naïve to realize that soliciting assistance from a foreign government was illegal.)
But collusion isn't a crime. The crime is conspiracy and coordination. The campaign coordinated with WikiLeaks to disseminate the emails, and while there's evidence that campaign officials knew where those emails originated, Mueller decided he couldn't prove a conspiracy.
Second, Trump absolutely tried to obstruct justice. Mueller "found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations."
In his summary to Congress last month, Barr brushed aside Trump's obstruction by saying that, since there was no underlying conspiracy, Trump had no criminal intent. But Mueller disputed that: "The evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the President's conduct." Among them: Trump saw the investigation as an attack on his legitimacy, and he worried that it might expose other illegal or unflattering conduct.
Trump got lucky; his advisers simply ignored him: "The president's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests," Mueller wrote. And he escaped prosecution by virtue of the fact that a "federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President's capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct."
But Mueller had the goods — that much was obvious. According to Department of Justice policy, Trump can't be prosecuted while in office. So if Mueller reported that the president committed a crime, the president wouldn't have a chance to defend himself in court. And an accusation "could carry consequences that extend beyond the realm of criminal justice."
So Mueller punted to Congress — and its impeachment powers.
Third — this cannot be understated — Trump lies, all the time, about everything. Everyone around him lies, too. They always fucking lie.
A small sampling: During the campaign, Trump lied about his Moscow business venture, and, Mueller wrote, "expressed skepticism that Russia had hacked the emails at the same time as he and other Campaign advisors privately sought information [redacted] about any further WikiLeaks releases." As president, Trump wrote a press release that lied about his campaign's meeting with a Russian operative, then his lawyer lied about Trump's involvement in that press release. Trump lied to NBC News about inviting FBI director James Comey to a private dinner in 2017, then lied about it not being his idea to fire Comey. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders lied about the "countless" FBI agents who wanted Comey gone; under oath, she confessed to making that up. Trump lied about reports that he directed the White House counsel to fire Mueller. And William Barr deliberately mischaracterized Mueller's report in an effort to hide the president's misdeeds.
As part of the Mueller investigation, several campaign officials and associates have faced charges for lying to investigators or Congress. Trump doesn't have to worry about that. Both he and Don Jr. refused interviews with Mueller.
The fish rots from the head, and this whole corrupt fugu needs to go.
Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.