William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report essentially got to the heart of the matter: The special counsel found there was no collusion and that the evidence for obstruction was too limited and ambiguous for him to make a decision about. Barr cleared that up by officially determining that Trump’s actions did not meet the standard for obstruction of justice – for one thing, because Trump was hiding no crime. Some prosecutors are saying that doesn’t make a difference legally , but it certainly makes a difference in the eyes of the public.
Now that we have the full report, though, we can come up with another summary. Trump’s greatest sin was one that we already knew about – he was irate about this investigation clouding and distracting from his presidency. Therein we have the one paragraph that Trump’s critics have seized on. They say it proves that the president had a guilty conscience.
According to the report, Trump was told by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel last spring. Trump’s reaction was to slump in his chair and groan, “Oh my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”
You can’t exactly blame the media for jumping on this phrase, because it’s just the sort of thing that makes for a catchy headline and a viral tweet. The profanity only makes it that much juicier.
But as far as proving that Trump had a guilty mind, it doesn’t. Indeed, Trump is clearly not concerned that Robert Mueller will find that he colluded with the Russians to steal the election. Instead, he is concerned with obvious memories of Ken Starr and the Whitewater investigation, which strangely morphed from a probe of an Arkansas real estate deal to the Monica Lewinsky affair. You can’t blame Trump for feeling as though, yeah, this is going to be the “end of my Presidency.”
“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Trump said.
Trump is not talking about going to prison. He’s not concerned that his son might be implicated in a treasonous plot to undermine American democracy. He’s worried about the political ramifications of a special counsel investigation which can go in any direction, for any length of time, and which will dominate the headlines for months to come. And he was quite correct in predicting what it would look like.
If Democrats move forward with impeachment at this point, they will essentially be bringing charges against the president for being angry about the Mueller investigation. We’ll see how much stomach the country has left for this kind of blatantly partisan maneuvering. Our guess is: Not much.