Surprised by the conclusion? Shocked? Hardly
WASHINGTON -- Cathartic, it was not.
The relentlessly plodding Mueller report finally ended after a 22-month whodunit that climaxed to the sound of pffft.
There is no evidence of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign, special counsel Robert Mueller concluded. But, just in case Democrats needed a crumb to sustain them in further pursuit of a longed-for conspiracy, Mueller added that his findings (or lack thereof) do not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.
What this means is yet to be discovered since the report has yet to be released. What little information that Congress and the public have thus far comes from Attorney General William Barr's four-page summary.
Surprised by the conclusion? Shocked? Hardly. Most Washington insiders on my daily rounds gave up the collusion delusion at least a year ago. Short of a video showing Trump and Vladimir Putin fist-bumping and chanting Collusion, collusion, collusion, ha! an indictable charge against the president seemed increasingly unlikely.
The vast majority of other Americans surely stopped fretting about collusion and even Russia's interference with the election, the latter of which Mueller did confirm, long before that. Sustaining suspense for two years isn't possible in the age of Twitter and Instapots -- the slow cooker that's fast!
Yet -- and yet, again -- the show goes on. Indeed, in the swamp, the show never ends. Always gurgling with gossip and innuendo, Washington's croaking and hissing denizens slither and slander along rivulets of intrigue, coiled in wait for conspirators, canards and the occasional coo-coo bird. Mueller may have drained away some of the sleaziest serpents, including the axis of deceit that includes Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone. But, as one who has lived among Florida's marshes and South Carolina's Lowcountry, I can aver that the swamp persists.
Thus, it would seem that Trump has been vindicated. Even some Democratic leaders are ready to accept Mueller's findings, including Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who said Tuesday that the investigation is "a chapter that's closed."
Hallelujah? Not quite. Other Democrats are still hoping to find fresh threads to unravel once -- and if -- the Mueller report is made public. Among media sleuths, the consequential question is why Mueller didn't pursue a charge against Trump for obstruction of justice. After all, Trump did ask then-FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to Comey.
Mueller's answer, as Barr has related it, was that the evidence didn't meet the standard for an indictment. If this sounds familiar, it's because Comey said much the same thing about Hillary Clinton when the FBI completed its investigation into whether she had committed a crime by using her personal email account and server for classified information while secretary of state. Though Comey was deeply critical of Clinton and her staff for being "extremely careless," he said her actions didn't meet the standards set by previous department investigations. Commenting on Comey's report, Trump tweeted on July 2, 2016: