This is where we are at. The charge of collusion having amounted to nothing, we are now haggling over whether President Trump obstructed an investigation of a crime of which he has been proven innocent.
Having punted in his report, Mueller now hints that Trump is guilty of obstruction and that Congress should impeach him for it.
None of this moves the needle on the President. Trump-haters will continue their Inspector Javert-like pursuit of him. Trump voters like me will stand by him. Indeed, we will suspect his accusers of attacking him to keep the focus off crimes they committed in their pursuit of him.
What interests me most in all this is the reaction I heard on NPR this week. And what they don’t get about our reaction.
The liberal NPR commentators, of course, thought they had struck gold. They wanted listeners to know that the presidential obstruction of justice at which Mueller hinted was a real crime. It was not the lesser “process crime” scoffed at by the President’s defenders.
There are two problems with the NPR reaction. First, as the Wall Street Journal notes:
Mr. Mueller’s analysis of the obstruction evidence in his own report makes clear that no investigation was obstructed. Not the FBI’s counterintelligence probe, and not his own. No witnesses were interfered with, and Mr. Mueller was allowed over two years to issue nearly 500 search-and-seizure warrants and interview anyone he wanted, including anyone in the White House.
Call it a real crime or call it a process crime. It doesn’t matter. Either way, there was no crime because there was no obstruction.
But liberal commentators who want to understand the present state of our country—if there are any—should not be so quick to dismiss the complaint about process crimes.
Context is everything. And the context behind the complaint over process crimes is at the heart of the conservative reaction to the Mueller probe. It is why we pro-Trump voters won’t budge on this.
In 2007 Scooter Libby, an aide to then-Vice President Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in a special counsel investigation whose real target was the Vice President. This 2018 op-ed on Trump’s pardon of Libby argues that Libby did not perjure himself.
But even if Libby did commit perjury, here’s the part that matters today:
From the start, Mr. Fitzgerald knew that the critical ‘leak’ to Novak had come from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. He nevertheless commenced an extensive investigation to ‘discover’ what had happened.
The special counsel knew that the leak he was investigating came from a source unrelated to Vice President Cheney. But he pursued Cheney’s subordinates anyway, until he got one on a—wait for it—process crime.
This history is rarely mentioned in mainstream media. But Trump voters, many of whom have long since abandoned traditional media outlets for other sources, know it well.
It is why Special Counsel Mueller’s little show this week means nothing to us. Nor will anything the Democrats do as a result of it. We have seen it all before.
Mueller knew well before the end of his investigation that the Trump campaign had not colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. He kept it going anyway, in search of process-crimes.
But he whiffed in his report. His second bite at the apple this week failed too.
There will be no Scooter Libby this time. And Trump voters were right to treat the whole thing with contempt.