Monday, May 20, 2019

“This is the End” or “Game Over”?

Almost two years from the start (May 17), the Mueller Report landed like a bombshell on the White House and Washington politics. The President immediately tweeted “Game Over,” reinforcing his “complete and total exoneration” comment of March 24 after Attorney General Barr’s four-page summary of the Report.

But, the Report quotes the President believing “This is the end” of his presidency when he first heard Robert Mueller was hired to investigate allegations Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and his campaign’s involvement with it. (A lot like the initial reaction to the “Access Hollywood” tape.)

Contrary to Trump’s doomed view, his presidency survived the investigation, but also contrary to his exclamation, the game is clearly not over. In fact, the politics of the Report are just beginning. How Congress, especially the Democrats, reacts will be the first fallout from the Report. Do they now have to consider impeachment or just continue with their various investigations? It will likely quickly evolve to the courts considering subpoenas, presidential claims of privilege and the Justice Department’s policy of redaction.

No doubt, his base of Republicans will stay with him. Those Republicans who doubt his fitness are unlikely to be moved by bad campaign behavior given he was not criminally conspiring with Russia. Democrats need no additional evidence that Trump shouldn’t be in the Oval Office. And independent voters, who have been learning against many of his most controversial policies, such as shutting down the government and calling an immigration emergency, may not rate the Report as that important and it may not weigh much on their choice between Trump and the Democratic nominee. Hence, there’s extensive damage, but Trump’s presidency is likely to continue into the November 2020 election. One senses that was Bob Mueller’s intention – let the voters decide.

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