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It Was Super Ugly, But Thanks in Part to the Mainstream Media, Trump ‘Won’ the Mueller Report

Al Davis, the legendary former owner of the Oakland Raiders football team, was famous for urging his players to “Just win baby!” The clear implication of that phrase was it doesn’t matter how much you have to lie, cheat, or steal to do it, in the end, all that matters is getting a “W.”

Today, on what should have been the worst day of his presidency, and probably the beginning of the end of his term in office, President Trump has somehow gotten a “W” in the ugliest fashion imaginable. The contents of the “Mueller Report” (which, a strong argument can be made were actually dramatically undersold by Mueller) would be devastating to any other modern president, but, largely because Trump has lived out that Al Davis credo, he is going to survive this.

Ironically, one of the main reasons that Trump will not be removed from office, or even significantly handicapped politically, is the behavior of the very same anti-Trump media which so regrets not having done more to prevent him from getting elected in the first place. By focusing so much on “collusion” and raising expectations for what Mueller would discover and be able to prove (which, as the report makes clear, contrary to Bill Barr’s overt efforts to deceive the public, are two very different things), the news media helped create the foundation for this shocking final report to be somehow be perceived, at least in the circles which matter, as mostly underwhelming.

Whether by dumb luck, grand design, or a little bit of both, Trump has engaged in an insidious and ultimately successful campaign to inoculate himself from the findings which, according to the report, even he immediately predicted would leave him “fucked.” Here were the key elements of that plan, which I have previously called, using another football reference, as the “O.J. Simpson Defense”:

  1. Focus all of his political energy on pleasing “Cult 45” base and generously feeding the state-run media so that they would become completely invested in his presidency.
  2. Viciously discredit Mueller, and those even tangentially involved in the investigation, within the 40% of Americans who support him.
  3. Muddy the waters by claiming all sorts of nonsensical Clinton and Obama-related conspiracies related to the investigation.
  4. Set the goalposts of the investigation at “collusion,” which he had to know either didn’t happen in a criminal sense, or, at the very least would be nearly impossible to prove, especially against him, a guy who doesn’t even use email.
  5. Delay and lie as much as possible so that the other parts of his plan would have enough time to come to fruition.
  6. Avoid, at all costs, providing an interview for Mueller, even after promising “100%” to do so (one of the more startling parts of the report is when Mueller essentially says that he didn’t seek a subpoena for Trump because he feared he would shut down the entire investigation before it could get resolved), and then laughably claim over 30 times in his written answers that he doesn’t remember rather huge events.
  7. Fire Jeff Sessions as Attorney General the day after the midterm election and eventually replace him with a guy, Bill Barr, who literally campaigned for the job by telling Trump he wouldn’t allow him to be indicted for Obstruction of Justice, all while the news media naively looked on with almost no suspicion about what was really happening.
  8. Have his special chosen Attorney General “neuter” the Mueller Report in every way possible, especially among his supporters and their favorite media outlets.

While Trump has clearly taken a hit today, despite the overly hopeful reactions on outlets like MSNBC, in the big picture he “won” because it should have been exponentially worse. Here are the primary reasons why the Mueller Report, while it will likely be talked about for months, is now impotent with regard to posing a mortal threat to Trump’s presidency:

  1. The report is simply too long and too difficult for the average American, who is a moron, to read and fully comprehend. This is especially the case for Trump supporters who have no interest in hearing bad things about Trump and would much rather have Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity tell them how the report (which, if it came out about a Democrat, would have them demanding immediate resignation) somehow exonerates their hero.
  2. We live in a world where one, sexy, easily understood and clearly proven allegation is far more damaging than a dozen serious transgressions which are complicated and open to some theoretical interpretation. The Mueller Report lacks the one episode which the average guy in the bar could/would easily discuss with the person on the stool next to them. Bizarrely, Trump benefits greatly here by having done SO many things that are possibly impeachable that none of them will get the attention needed to gain any real traction.
  3. Our attention spans, including that of the news media, are far too short for enough of the public to ever get up to speed on the voluminous amount of information in the report. Likely by design, the report was released just before a long holiday weekend. By next Tuesday, if not sooner, the media will move on to the next Trump distraction. While there will be other events, like Mueller’s seemingly inevitable testimony, which will garner huge amounts of attention, without a legitimate impeachment process to keep things going, and with the 2020 election cycle gearing up, this story will, amazingly, and much to Trump’s delight, eventually fade away.

It is the perfect encapsulation of our upside-down and totally broken political culture that the day that proved for sure that Donald Trump should not be our president, is actually going to ensure that he will remain in that office for at least the next 21 months, and maybe much longer than that.

[photo via Olivier Douliery-Pool / Getty Images]

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