President Donald J. Trump’s response to the long-awaited special counsel’s report was hardly surprising.
“The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!” he tweeted even before the report had been released to Congress. “Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats.”
The assessment didn’t exactly match up with the words in the report, but that didn’t deter one of the president’s chief defenders, Kellyanne Conway.
“We’re accepting apologies today, too, for anybody who feels the grace in offering them,” she said.
She argued that The New York Times, in particular, should print a “16-page apology.”
Others pointed out that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report actually confirmed many of the stories the president and his supporters had been calling fake news.
Of course, like most things these days, your assessment of the Mueller report had a lot to do with the conclusions you had already reached.
Take Conway’s husband, George, an outspoken critic of the president. He wrote an essay for The Washington Post arguing that Congress should remove the president from office.
“What the report disturbingly shows, with crystal clarity, is that today there is a cancer in the presidency: President Donald J. Trump,” he wrote. “Congress now bears the solemn constitutional duty to excise that cancer without delay.”
One thing the report made clear, at least to some of us, was that Attorney General William Barr had done a less than adequate job in summarizing the report.
As the nation was sifting through the more than 400 pages, Daniel Dale, Washington bureau chief for the Toronto Star, offered a tongue-in-cheek assessment.
“Starting to think William Barr is not a great summarizer,” he tweeted.
After a news conference in which Barr repeatedly insisted the report showed no collusion, Chris Wallace of Fox News offered a take that might have come as a surprise to faithful viewers.
“The attorney general seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense … the counselor for the president, rather than the attorney general, ...” Wallace said. “I suspect that Democrats’ heads on Capitol Hill were exploding.”
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, might have been among them.
“The attorney general is not the president’s personal lawyer, although he may feel he is,” Schiff said.
Schiff insisted the attorney general had done a disservice by misrepresenting significant parts of the report and trying to put a positive spin on the special counsel’s findings.
Elie Honig, a legal analyst for CNN, offered an example. Days ahead of the report’s release, Honig had sent out a tweet concerning a passage in Barr’s letter. The passage quoted part of a sentence noting that the special counsel’s investigation “had not established that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government. …”
“Barr omitted first part of that sentence,” Honig had tweeted. “Want to bet it starts with ‘Although’?”
It turned out Honig was right.
“Nailed this,” he tweeted after the report was released. “Here’s what Barr cut off: ‘ALTHOUGH the investigation established ... that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts. …’ Seems relevant.”
We’ll no doubt learn more such relevant details as Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives call Mueller and others to testify.
How will it all end? The report says the president himself offered a prediction the moment he learned of Mueller’s appointment.
“Oh my God,” he is quoted as saying. “This is the end of my presidency.”
It wasn’t, of course, but we don’t yet know whether he was entirely wrong. Time will tell.
Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at email@example.com.