You know the moment in a really suspenseful movie when That Thing happens and everyone in the theater simultaneously realizes that nothing will ever be the same?
Everything slows down. The camera focuses on a face, or an object. Birds suddenly take flight. Characters turn to each other, their expressions changing in slow motion from light-hearted to tense, sensing danger. Eyes widen. A single, high-pitched note pierces the scene.
Think Arya Stark watching from the crowd when her father Eddard is beheaded. The glass of water on the table in Jurassic Park, rippling to the beat of a dinosaur’s footsteps. Private Ryan’s mother doing the dishes, not noticing as we all watch that government vehicle coming up her driveway.
That Thing happened on March 24 when Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election and any links or coordination with members of the Trump campaign. The summary reported the bottom-line findings of the Mueller team: no conspiracy or coordination, and no decision on obstruction of justice, although there was no finding of a crime.
As attorney general, it fell to Barr to make that decision, and he did. In consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and DOJ prosecutors, Barr found that the evidence provided in the report was insufficient to warrant an obstruction charge.
In doing so, Barr brought the sword down on Eddard Stark’s neck, uncaged the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and drove that black sedan up to Mrs. Ryan’s front door. Everything stopped. In Washington and New York, thousands of Democratic politicians and media luminaries froze, as their worldview and credibility instantly shattered under the weight of Barr’s words. A single, piercing, foreboding note echoed across the country, from Washington to Los Angeles. Everything had changed, and nothing would ever be the same.
Here’s Where It Diverges from a Movie Plot
In the movies, there has to be a denouement of some sort—an untying of the plot that brought us to this moment—to give meaning and substance to the story. It can’t end with a plot twist. The plot twist is just the beginning of an ending that could include anything from redemption to revenge to triumph.
Unfortunately, for all us this isn’t a movie, and there will be no proper denouement—at least not in the near term. After two years of shamelessly and enthusiastically hyping the notion that the president of the United States is a compromised agent of the Russian Federation—a process that involved dozens upon dozens of anonymously sourced falsehoods, falsely interpreted statements, demonstrably false characterizations of classified evidence, and false predication for official sanction to spy on fellow citizens—those who perpetrated those acts will do everything in their power to avoid this unexpected and unwelcome introduction of truth into their narrative.
Under any circumstances other than those that include a collusive media, the Democratic politicians and former intelligence officials who perpetrated this hoax would be the laughingstock of the world.
There’s a reason beer companies pay millions for 30-second ads, and millions more to advertising companies to draw from a variety of well-studied human influence techniques to craft their commercials: it’s worth the money. It sells. The strategy is simple—just make sure the message and the logo are out there as often and consistently as possible, and the return will validate the investment.
The same applies to cable news networks and national newspapers staffed and managed by left-leaning Democrats. The constant barrage of reflexive leftist messaging and 24/7 cover, support, and venue for Democratic talking points is literally priceless, from an advertising perspective.
There is no possible way to quantify the influence of legacy media in aiding and abetting the notion that President Trump was a compromised agent of Russia, but think about how much Budweiser pays for 30 seconds, then think about the cumulative messaging influence of Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon, Jim Sciutto, Jim Acosta, Joy Reid, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Malcolm Nance, Chris Hayes, Chris Matthews, Gloria Borger, April Ryan, Andrea Mitchell, Simone Sanders, Asha Rangappa, John Berman, Paul Begala, Max Boot, and Anderson Cooper.
Each of these people is as influential during his nightly five-minute to one-hour pro-collusion, anti-Trump advertisement as is the Trivago guy in convincing us to visit his site in his 30-second ad. It sells. The only difference is that you can probably trust the Trivago guy to accurately represent the capabilities of his travel site, because we have laws that guard against false advertising on a commercial level. Those laws don’t apply to cable news hosts and political punditry.
The Next Ad Is About What’s Not In the Report
At some point on Thursday, Barr is going to release the redacted Mueller report to the public, and every Democrat in Congress is going to run to the nearest camera to declare the redacted information crucial to understanding Trump’s complicity in collusion and obstruction. There will be no acknowledgement of the direct quotes from the Mueller report reflecting what Barr put out in his summary, declaring no conspiracy or coordination.
There will be no acknowledgement, once the evidence of obstruction against Trump turns out to be 90 percent tweets and public statements, that there’s no “there” there. And there will be no acknowledgement that the Steele dossier and every subsequent anonymously sourced bombshell alleging collusion between Trump and Russia is thoroughly debunked in the Mueller report.
From Thursday onward, we’re going to be talking about redactions. If the report reads: “After dedicating two years to examining every allegation, interviewing every witness, reviewing every communication of everyone involved, and summoning the collective might of the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus to support our investigation, we found no evidence to support conspiracy or cooperation between Trump or his campaign and the Russians,” we would undoubtedly hear from Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and all of cable news that the redaction invalidated the conclusion of no conspiracy or cooperation.
Take it as a matter of faith that Democrats and left-leaning media will completely reject the Mueller report, despite being able to read for themselves the same exculpatory sentences Barr included in his summary, and claim that the redactions either hid horrific and collusive behavior by Trump and his campaign associates, or left open the possibility that Barr improperly redacted impeachable behavior that didn’t reach the threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt” but may well meet congressional standards for impeachment.
Sowing Dissention Is All They Have Left
Left unstated will be the unimpeachable fact that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic-controlled Congress have no intention of attempting to impeach the president. They simply want to keep the idea alive, keep people talking, keep people doubting, and sow discord and confusion into the body politic.
That is, quite literally, all they have left. And if you think they’ll consider for one moment the obvious desperation inherent in their predictable and dishonorable response to a report of investigative findings by a man they swore they’d fight to the death to protect, you’d be wrong.
Consider the course of events since March 24, when Barr, a highly respected former attorney general, issued his summary. Pandemonium. After a brief period of recovery from the solar plexus punch that stole their air for a moment, the media and their Democratic congressional associates set about the task of delegitimizing the attorney general’s authority to decline prosecution on borderline cases.
They didn’t argue the facts of the case, as they had nothing other than the public allegations we’ve all heard on which to base their argument. Instead, they attacked Barr. They said he was “speaking to an audience of one”—an oldy but a goody—and “he was covering for his boss, Donald Trump.” The idea was to begin to plant into our psyche the notion that this has all been a big Trump/Barr conspiracy, that the legendary Mueller was too weak, or perhaps too patriotically subservient to the AG, to object to Barr’s abject mischaracterization of his conclusions.
I realize this is crystal clear to the vast majority who read this, but that’s simply a load of baloney. Mueller is not afraid of anybody, nor is he the kind of guy to sit idly by while a senior government official engages in conduct Mueller believes to be unethical or untoward. He’s no Jim Comey, and there will be no hastily scribbled “Barr made me feel all cold inside” notes turned into a book at the end of this saga.
If Mueller had a problem with what Barr wrote in his summary, he’d have made it clear to Barr first, then Congress, then the media. None of them heard a peep out of Mueller.
Democrats and the media have simply invested so much of their personal and professional credibility into Trump and his campaign conspiring with the Russians to win the election that there is a less-than-zero possibility they will acknowledge that they got it wrong. To the contrary, they will draw strength from each other to weather the storm. Democratic politicians will invent specious fantasies of what lies beneath the redactions, and the media will host them, encourage them, parrot them, and thank them for keeping hope alive.
Don’t Call It Spying, Call It Surveillance
The problem with this strategy is that Barr doesn’t care what they think. He made that clear in his hearing in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee when he said that he believed the Obama administration “spied” on the Trump campaign, and that he planned to get to the bottom of whether that spying was lawfully predicated.
He will get to the bottom of it, and those most vocally opposed to his interest in determining the legality of the origins of the investigation—those salad days of foreign intelligence agency reporting, John Brennan meetings with Harry Reid about the Steele dossier, unlimited unmasking of NSA intercepts, et al.—those are the people and activities Barr will be most interested in reviewing.
Predictably, “progressives” who used to call themselves “liberals” lost their minds about his use of the word “spying.” It was as if Barr had expressed skepticism for “global warming,” unaware that the issue was actually “climate change.” They were incensed that Barr’s use of the word “spying” may give Americans the impression that government agencies under the Obama administration were actually “spying” on American citizens—a horrible, detestable notion—as opposed to what was actually happening.
What was happening was the complete surveillance coverage of every word they wrote, received, uttered, forwarded, or saved, including months prior to the order and everyone up to two hops away from their communication circle. “That’s not spying, Barr,” said Democrats. “The connotations of that word are troubling. That’s called surveillance, and we’re cool with that.”
Taking Refuge in Complete Denial of the Truth
There will be no proper denouement of this particular movie because a proper denouement would require the media to acknowledge their almost universal failure, and the effect their political bias had on their erroneous reporting. It would require Democratic politicians like Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and Swalwell to admit that they were wrong and (in the movie) to dedicate themselves to working to regain the respect and trust of the man they wrongfully accused of treason to his country. That would be the movie ending. That’s not going to happen.
What’s going to happen is that the Mueller report will have enough information in it to convince a fair-minded observer of Trump’s innocence about collusion, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice, but the only conversation that will resonate on cable news media and in national newspapers Thursday will be the assumption-fueled speculation of what lies under the redactions. The unredacted, exculpatory facts will be downplayed or ignored, in favor of the sweet, sweet comfort of the unprovable, and thus easily manipulated, redactions.
Remember this Thursday night, when all of the primetime cable news anchors are convincing you of their clever and discerning stance that there’s no way anyone can trust Barr to do anything but illegally cover for the president by indiscriminately redacting large portions of the Mueller report. Remember that Mueller himself (and his team) is participating in the redaction process. Remember that Barr hasn’t said a word, thus far, that isn’t demonstrably true. Remember that the report could include 399 pages of evidence proving Trump innocent of all charges and one redacted page, and the media and Democrats would team up to highlight the impeachment possibilities hiding underneath that one redacted page.
It’s a shame we have to do it like this. It’s a shame it’s so predictably callous and unserious. But it’s even more of a shame that people who marketed themselves as patriots are engaged in a game of hiding the truth and mischaracterizing evidence in service of their personal and political agendas.
We will see all of this in its full glory Thursday and beyond. Watch closely, because the only honest response to the Mueller report by both Democrats and media is, “We got it wrong.” It’s not often one can be so certain, in advance, of disappointment in one’s fellow man. Unfortunately, in this case, you can bank on it.