Read it and sleep

One of my favorite pastimes when any big news story breaks is gauging the way people react to it, especially when it involves the release of a publicly available document they couldn’t be bothered to read themselves. In this regard, the Mueller Report is the granddaddy of ‘em all—a 400-page summary of two years and $30 million worth of work—and yet, I feel like I could’ve hired a group of high school kids to investigate the 2016 election and arrived at roughly the same conclusion.

           

Because I’m a glutton for punishment and I may be teetering on the brink of insanity, I decided to read the whole thing over three weeks. My take? The report is shocking in its banality.

 

The entire second half mulls over the question of whether tweets constitute obstruction of justice and then punts on answering it—all while summarizing pretty much every story the New York Times and the Washington Post published about the Trump-Russia ordeal.

 

It exonerates Trump on the issue of collusion but documents his myriad attempts to fire Mueller, steer the investigation in his own direction and ensure that his friends would stay off the hook. It explains that Julian Assange and Wikileaks preferred the president as a candidate over concerns that a hawkish Hillary Clinton would push for more wars with bipartisan support and that a divided Congress might temper Trump’s worst impulses—while noting that the hacking organization shamelessly exploited conspiracy theories about the death of Seth Rich to shift blame for the release of Clinton’s emails.

 

It lays out clearly that Trump and Michael Cohen were still pursuing a skyscraper in Moscow well into 2016 but adds that conversations surrounding it were limited and unproductive. It makes an incriminating case against Michael Flynn for communicating with a Russian official about sanctions while Obama was still in office and documents the way Trump tried time and again to stop James Comey from investigating Flynn further.

 

It reveals, as I’ve hypothesized before, that Don Jr. attempted to collude and failed when he was duped into a meeting aimed at persuading the campaign into a commitment to lift Magnitsky Act sanctions that mostly affect rich Russian oligarchs who have assets in other countries.

 

In a farcical twist that perhaps best sums up the irony of the entire report, it includes a line from Putin about how the Russian government was struggling to get a hold of the higher ups in the Trump campaign after the election and did not know who to contact. The report reveals that while several individuals associated with Trump participated in hijinks and shenanigans and made overtures toward the Russians, any overarching Manchurian candidate conspiracies were fever dream fantasies from the get-go.

 

It’s hard to parse Trump’s motivations beyond enriching himself and promoting himself, and maybe he does just want to get along with Russia. A new Cold War mindset won’t do any of us any good, and the asset theory rings hollow as the U.S. and Russia sit on opposite sides of the conflicts in Venezuela, Syria, Iran and Ukraine.

 

In short, the Mueller Report is whatever you want it to be. If you’re ready to argue that it’s a complete vindication of Trump, you’ll find passages to make that case for you. If you still believe he’s a shady sleazeball who’s incapable of telling the truth and must’ve cheated somehow, there’s a section for you. And if you think that the redactions are hiding some grander misdeeds from the public, you’ve got plenty of black lines to choose from.

 

By the nature of its inconclusiveness, it welcomes the endless circus we’re now set to endure, with contempt votes (I still can’t figure out why Barr is suddenly the boogeyman in all of this), more subpoenas and an undying zeal to turn this into Watergate, somehow, some way.

 

It doesn’t cast the Democrats in a particularly favorable light, but then again, the GOP did the same on Lewinsky, Benghazi and Clinton’s e-mails. Everything is partisan, and we’re foolish to pretend otherwise.

 

And it leaves us to wonder why we spent two years waiting for a report that largely functioned as a recitation of things we already knew in painfully insipid language.

 

Was it worth reading all the way through? Not really. Next time, I’ll go with the Starr Report and the Warren Report: maybe they’ll actually have some interesting information in there somewhere.