Since most adult Americans seldom read anymore, much less something as daunting and dry (as in, fact-based) as a 448-page report from a special counsel like Robert Mueller, Trump and the Republicans thought that a distortion-riddled Cliff Notes summary account by Attorney General Robert Barr and a presidential bullhorn bleating false claims of exoneration would be a sufficient smokescreen to obfuscate the real, phenomenally-damning substance of the report.
So the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary and Intelligence committees organized back-to-back hearings Wednesday that were broadcast live for seven hours on all the major all-news cable channels and on PBS that was really like a one-day seminar on the report’s contents.
It “painted a picture for the American people,” as Rep. Elijah Cummings said afterwards. It was a stunning picture of lies and deception by one of America’s chief adversaries, Russia, and by the man who was the beneficiary of the effort, President Trump, and so, collaterally, by the entire Republican Party leadership.
With Mueller present to back up and verify everything that he included in the report, Democratic congressmen took turns citing chapter and verse in the report to lay out the documentation that is there of the extraordinary degree to which the Russians had a free pass to interfere in the election in a major way, the extent of the Trump campaign’s willingness to cooperate and enhance the effort and the Russians’ eagerness to keep that campaign in the loop, and then the Trump administration’s blatant and egregious obstruction efforts to deter any high-level federal investigation into all that.
Mueller asserted at the outset and stuck to the main ways in which the report totally repudiated everything Trump and the Republicans have insisted about it. Trump and the GOP have insisted the report exonerated the president and that the investigation was a hoax and a witch hunt. Mueller effectively blew all those claims out of the water, and moreover asserted that Trump could be indicted for obstruction of justice once out of office.
Then Mueller effectively put himself in the relative background, and the report in the foreground, for the rest of the day, as leading Democrats repeatedly quoted from it to make the devastating case against the Russians and Trump that is contained in it.
It is truly sad that the major media, looking for whether the whole thing would bring them higher ratings (one assumes) would try to dumb down the impact of what happened by critiquing Mueller’s “performance,” and by trying to make the issue whether or not the testimony would mean the Democrats are going to move ahead with an effort to impeach Trump.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was exemplary of the failures of the media handling the true import of the day’s events, mewling that because Trump claimed a “victory lap” at the conclusion of the hearings that its overall outcome was a political draw and not a setback for the GOP.
Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi could not have made it clearer at her press conference following the hearings: it is a matter of building the case against the president, who was outed by the day’s testimony once again as a liar, fraud and criminal. If the president can be indicted and sent to jail after he leaves office, as Mueller affirmed today, then why not focus on driving him out of office in the upcoming election, allowing the American people to be the judges of his innocence or guilt at the ballot box, instead of a corrupted Republican-controlled U.S. Senate?
The day’s testimony affirmed that Trump colluded with the Russians on at least a half-dozen occasions, and that he worked feverishly to kill the investigation into his collusion by insisting his minions lie and deceive on his behalf.
In every case, the object was not the good of the country, or the American people, but the aggrandizement of his own person.
As the eloquent Rep. Cummings said at the press conference concluding the day’s extraordinary events, “This is not about liking (or not–ed.) the president, it is about loving democracy. This was a watershed day pitting facts against totalitarianism for democracy.”
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.