Politics & Policy

Seven Things to Remember Post-Mueller

President Trump talks to reporters outside the White House, March 22, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Trump achieved a major victory.

Just in case you haven’t yet gotten your fill of post-Mueller commentary, I offer my download in list form, hoping that some of these key takeaways will find consensus agreement (they won’t, but they should), and hoping that they will serve as a useful summary for those looking for a concise breakdown of what has just transpired.

1. President Trump did not collude with Russia to steal the election. Of course, all I am saying here is what the two-year, $25 million investigation said. It did not merely fail to prove collusion — it made this finding “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” If the point of the special counsel was to determine whether President Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to steal this election, we now have our answer and can presumably move on with our daily practice of not listening to each other, misrepresenting each other’s views, and choosing sides in each issue with as much tribal bias as humanly possible.

2. President Trump did not obstruct justice. Not only did both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (no friend to Trump) and new Attorney General William Barr (as respected a legal practitioner as D.C. has had in a generation) both say so, but our own logic and human reason mandates this conclusion. For the firing of James Comey to constitute obstruction, President Trump would have had to fire someone he had every legal right to fire because that person was investigating a crime that President Trump did not commit. It is an incoherent view, and any insistence from the Democrats to keep fighting over this issue will prove fatal to the Democrats’ cause.

3. Now, before we get carried away here, the statement that President Trump did not collude with Russia (he didn’t), or could not collude with Russia (truly, that campaign team could not have done so — just in terms of basic acumen and sophistication), in no way means he would not collude with Russia. We already know from the Donald Jr. escapade what these folks think about the ethics of collusion. So I believe that he is, all at once, legally vindicated, operationally stunted, and, yes, morally flexible. All of these things strike me as somewhat undeniable by any pro-Trump or anti-Trump observer.

4. I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that Robert Mueller looks like an extremely objective and fair jurist in this whole escapade. I understand that many feel that some of the tactics along the way have been extreme (the early-morning raid on Manafort, for example), but does anyone believe that Paul Manafort was not as guilty as O. J. of the crimes he was accused of committing? At the end of the day, all nearly anyone knows about Mueller is that he has been radio silent through this entire affair, and in the end, went where the evidence brought him, which is an overwhelmingly unpopular place with the intelligence complex that he supposedly was loyal too.

I have been sandbagging this note from someone I respect as much as anyone I have ever met, and who worked closely with Mueller for many years: “I did not know Comey, only knew a few things about him. I had met him and had the opportunity to speak with him briefly. He has proven himself to be a narcissist, a coward, and an opportunist. He damaged the FBI, and the country for his own benefit with no regard for the consequences. I blame him for the recent failures of FBI leadership in DC. Mueller, I know. He is a man of integrity. He is an honorable man and I believe he will bring the investigation to a conclusion without leaving any matters unattended. Mueller is a no nonsense, hard nosed patriot. He is not afraid of his detractors nor is he a politician. He has my confidence.”

It seems hard to conclude differently at this point in time.

5. Trump’s innocence in the collusion charge notwithstanding, there is no reason to give him a pass for his ridiculous choice of lieutenants throughout the campaign, the early part of his administration, and for much of his adult life. A very simple question can be asked here: Would there ever have been an investigation had President Trump not retained the services of a lowlife such as Paul Manafort, or used Roger Stone as a political consultant, or rebuffed the advice of everyone under the sun to avoid Michael Flynn, or hired a degenerate like Michael Cohen? I am not suggesting that President Trump deserved this attack, because he did not. I am not advocating for a guilt-by-association ethic. I am merely saying the same thing I say to my own kids: Never forget that whom you associate with will end up sticking to you, either positively or negatively.

6. The Democrats risk losing the most winnable election of their lifetimes for a lot of reasons, first among them being the possibility they will nominate some type of pro-infanticide socialist who has sworn allegiance to a social-justice mission of identity politics that is repugnant to the vast majority of Americans. But they are also driving off the cliff with this insane narrative of Trump as a Russian stooge. There are cooler heads in their leadership who will do what they can to avoid this, but it is a political loser, and for good reason. Hillary Clinton lost the election in 2016 fair and square, and the $25 million that has been spent to delegitimize President Trump will now create ten times the benefit to his reelection campaign, twenty if they do not move on.

7. And last but not least, there is a significant amount of shame that ought to be spread around here. Yes, I agree with my friend David French that the Sean Hannity/Seth Rich conspiracy should not be forgiven. But as it pertains to this case, the opportunism of James Comey, the outrageous behavior of John Brennan, and of course the media coverage (from CNN to MSNBC to Buzzfeed to the major networks) have been nothing short of despicable. They ought not be forgotten, and all of these people deserve the humiliation they are enduring this week.

The aftermath to the special counsel’s report is playing out much the same way that the lead-up did: in line with each observer’s own tribalistic instincts. This is the state of American politics now, and there is no real end in sight. The Left has beclowned itself throughout this saga, and yet the points I make above (see Nos. 3–5 in particular) are likely to be met with opposition from many on the Right, for the simple reason that they don’t go along with a narrative many want. I believe it is up to the president to lead the way out of this mess, to bring the China trade deal to a close, and to spend the next 18 months leading, guiding, and speaking with a more credible and morally authoritative voice.

And as has been the case since January 2017, the last thing I worry about in that objective for the president is Russian collusion. Rather, I just worry about his own temperament and discipline. But at least for this week, he has the benefit of achieving a major victory over a powerful enemy who wished to do him harm. His move.

David L. Bahnsen is the managing partner of a wealth-management firm, a trustee of the National Review Institute, and author of the book, Crisis of Responsibility: Our Cultural Addiction to Blame and How You Can Cure It.

Most Popular


Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More