Let’s Muell This Over

The Mueller report is received more or less precisely as you would expect.

The Mueller report is finally out in full, and boy was it worth the wait. Nearly five hundred pages of information, some of it redacted and most of which isn’t even about President Trump, and barely anything that we didn’t already know or suspect.

Like the Star Wars films, scandals in american politics are often riffs on previous, better iterations. If the Watergate scandal was A New Hope, what we have now is the political equivalent of The Last Jedi. The plot is unclear, and there’s barely any character development to speak of: The ‘main villain’ of the report doesn’t even get a much anticipated backstory. Democrats/film critics were trying to sell us on a banger, claiming it would spell the beginning of a new era, but the audience response will have been nothing short of furious, confused, and mostly disillusioned.

The media response, echoing the report, is entirely unsurprising: Conservative outlets rejoice, gloat, and bring wood and oil to fuel the fire consuming the narrative from the other side of the aisle. The progressive press is up in arms trying to salvage what they can from this major blow to their credibility, but it still feels like repetition of what they’ve printed over the past three years: Trump is incompetent, he should be impeached, this changes nothing, etc.

Sure, some thought it would recapture the wonder and spirit of the original, made back in the 70s, but in the end it turned out to be a pale copy, a cheap thrill (figuratively, as the report seems to have cost anywhere from $25 million to $35 million in total) with no substance but the faint glimmer of nostalgia. In the end, what comes out of the Mueller report feels rehashed from three years ago: Russian operatives interfered with the 2016 US elections in two major ways. First, by hacking DNC email accounts; and second, by using social media personas (Facebook accounts, pages or groups; Twitter accounts, among others) designed to either support Trump or shoot down Clinton. The report leaves out that some of the Facebook ads paid for by the Russians supported Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders. No doubt this is to avoid muddying the water, as Mueller’s team was mainly looking at the Trump-Russia connection.

We learn that the DNC fell prey to spearphishing (GRU hackers would send official looking emails asking for account information or containing links that would download malware when clicked), and this means that it wasn’t just that their computer security was faulty but that apparently top staffers of the Clinton campaign don’t have even the most basic IT literacy.

The report also confirms that the three stooges, Manafort, Flynn, and Papadopoulos, are indeed chumps and should be prosecuted, and that there were many attempts at establishing contact from Russian officials or powers that be (oligarchs, generally people in the know and often tied to Vladimir Putin) towards the Trump campaign.  For the most part however those attempts were either unsuccessful or the Trump campaign simply never realized they were dealing with avatars of a foreign State -merely individuals with interesting information to sell, so to speak.

At nearly every turn, the report consistently states for all to see that all the evidence gathered from the inception of the Special Counsel’s Office’s mission cannot lead to the conclusion that there was collusion -or, as the report phrases it, conspiracy- between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to achieve Donald Trump’s election.

Yet, the saga doesn’t end there. The report’s conclusion is perhaps the most timid, risk averse statement possible: The Special Counsel does not ‘draw ultimate conclusions’ about Trump’s conduct, can’t state clearly that the President did commit obstruction of justice or not, can’t conclude whether he committed a crime but also can’t conclude that he didn’t. Evidently, the door is left open because we’ve yet to have an Episode IX of this utter debacle. Let’s hope J.J. Mueller can fix the plot this time around.

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