March 26, 2019

Consequences of the Mueller Investigation

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Following Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report on Sunday, both sides weigh in on its effect going forward.

See our previous coverage of the Mueller report here. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left focused on larger questions stemming from the Mueller inquiry and report, while simultaneously noting that Dem 2020 candidates are focused on policy issues.

“The rampant criminality [the inquiry] revealed suggests the desperate need to thoroughly investigate financial, political and electoral criminality in the United States… Do we really imagine that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates are the only well-connected people in Washington who have had the idea of taking millions from foreign governments in exchange for promises of influence while seeking to conceal these payments? Does it seem likely that the Russians are the only ones who will ever try to hack an election by trolling, phishing and the intentional dissemination of defamatory propaganda?...

“And what are the odds that Mr. Cohen is the only man in New York guilty of major tax evasion and making major in-kind contributions to a candidate without reporting them?... The future of law enforcement will not be found on street corners. It will be along the K Street corridor, the offices of unsavory real estate developers and the darkest alleys of the information superhighway.”
Tim Wu, New York Times

“The [Mueller] inquiry was the calmest and, we presume, fullest review of Russia’s hostile 2016 activities the nation has seen. It led to the charging of a variety of Russian entities. As important as it is to get more information from Mr. Mueller’s full report on the question of whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, it is certainly no less crucial to learn what Mr. Mueller has to say about the Kremlin’s 2016 election meddling… The first duty of the nation’s leaders is to protect the country. That should be the top concern on their minds as we await release of the full Mueller report.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

Many argue that “even if Mueller’s full report is released in a timely fashion — and that’s still an ‘if’ at this point, not a ‘when’ — people will read it differently, in each case trying to vindicate their narrative of events. There will never be a shared sense of reality about what really happened in 2016 or whether Trump obstructed justice… How much further can this political relativism be pushed? What happens when the subject of partisan dispute isn’t election interference, but the legitimacy of the vote counting itself? And most broadly, how can American democracy work when there are essentially two polities living in two separate realities?”
Zack Beauchamp, Vox

It’s worth noting that “Democratic strategists were not completely disappointed to see the Mueller inquiry come to an end, even if it denied them a political weapon. They now hope liberal activists, and lawmakers, will offer party leaders the latitude to pivot to a more broadly appealing message that can win over some of the voters who only reluctantly supported Mr. Trump in 2016.”
Jonathan Martin, New York Times

“CNN has held nine town halls with 2020 candidates and potential candidates, from a conversation with former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke before the 2018 election (when he was a candidate for Senate) to a discussion with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) last week. Over the course of 143 questions asked mostly by members of the town hall audience, only four have dealt with issues that even tangentially overlap with Mueller…

“It’s certainly true that Trump’s position is stronger than it would have been if Mueller had found a smoking gun on the subject, but the idea that his campaign will now be supercharged is predicated on an incorrect assumption about the priorities of Democratic voters.”
Philip Bump, Washington Post

Minority view: Russiagate is this generation's WMD… As a purely journalistic failure… WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it’s led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We’ve become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.”
Matt Taibbi, Substack

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right sees the outcome as being great for Trump, and a blow to the reputation of the mainstream media.

From the Right

The right sees the outcome as being great for Trump, and a blow to the reputation of the mainstream media.

“Democrats will spend the next year hunting for the elusive ‘obstruction of justice’ brass ring that Mueller failed to deliver. They will nip at Trump’s business interests, Jared Kushner’s dealings, and possibly get some kind of indictment against people close to the president in New York. But in the end, the American public will remember that the Obama Justice Department started this investigation, based partly on accusations in a dossier funded by the Clinton campaign, and these accusations turned out to be false.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

“The FBI watches Russians on U.S. soil closely, the NSA’s surveillance and interception abilities are unmatched, and you would like to think that the CIA watches what Vladimir Putin is doing really closely. Didn’t it seem a little weird from the start that Christopher Steele would manage to uncover a vast Russian effort to blackmail one of America’s biggest celebrities and the Republican nominee for president — and the CIA, NSA, and every other U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agency completely missed it?...

“Trump fans complained the Mueller investigation was a waste of money. It now looks like the opposite. From Trump’s perspective, the $25 million or so spent on the probe are some of the best money the government has spent during his presidency because it’s now going to function as an inoculation against all of the other accusations made against him.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“It’s not that ‘winning’ on Russiagate will in itself produce higher approval for Trump, it’s that a small but significant part of the electorate might be willing to re-evaluate him on other things in light of his vindication on collusion. Until yesterday he was the guy who fired Comey and who may or may not have conspired with Putin to win the 2016 election. As of today he’s the guy who’s presided over a gangbusters economy and hasn’t done anything crazy abroad.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

Many argue that “the media would be wise to express humility, sorrow, and remorse, because that might go some way toward defibrillating their own flatlining reputation… three-fifths [of Americans] agree that the media covers matters in order ‘to delegitimize the views held by President Trump and his supporters.’ Sixty percent of independents and 93 percent of Republicans agreed with that last item. The media have become an amen chorus of liberals chanting liberal refrains to liberals. The signature phrase of our moment is Fake News. And the Hindenburg of Fake News just went up in flames.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

“There were many false alarms. And every time a story was debunked, we were told that reporters, like all humans, make mistakes. It’s true. Unlike everyone else, though, the many supposedly innocent blunders of mainstream reporters were almost always skewed in the same direction.”
David Harsanyi, The Federalist

“The irony, of course, is that while purporting to worry about Russian interference in American politics, by advancing this story the press was actually doing the work of President Vladimir Putin, sowing division and confusion through the American polity.”
Glenn Reynolds, USA Today

It’s a reckoning for Democrats who saw almost every development in this almost-two-year investigation as another dot connecting a conspiracy Mueller has not found. It’s a reckoning for many in the media that dutifully passed along this theory along without scrutiny or context. And it’s a reckoning for many national security officials who abandoned their traditional nonpartisan role as custodians of state secrets to engage in a campaign against a president they loathed…

“It is also a reminder, if anyone needed another one, that the FBI and the intelligence community can be wrong. And it is a powerful illustration of the importance of keeping spies and lawmen out of politics.”
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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