The Corner

Politics & Policy

What Was Trump So Annoyed About?

President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2019. (Jim Young/Reuters)

One of the stranger arguments that I heard throughout the Mueller saga — and am hearing today, now that it’s turned out to be a dud — is that Donald Trump’s irritation with the process was unreasonable and counterproductive. This tweet, from CNN’s Chris Cilizza, is a nice illustration of the genre:

Certainly, Trump does not always help himself. And, certainly, there were times when it would have made more sense for him to have to stayed quiet. But the idea that people who believe they are innocent should remain sanguine about long and expansive investigations into their lives is a preposterous and illiberal one, closely related to the dangerous question, “If you’re so innocent, why do you mind the government poking around?”

This investigation, remember, was not mere neutral background noise, which the White House could simply ignore. It was the justification for endless public accusations of “treason”; the presumed driver of inevitable impeachment; the text — and subtext — of an entire midterm campaign. At times, it was even pointed to as a reason that the president should . . . well, not be president (“no judges should be approved while he’s under investigation!” etc.). It is true, of course, that we would not have the “credible and well investigated” report if we didn’t have the “credible and well investigated” report. But that logic, I’m afraid, is rather circular. It would also be true that an investigation into whether I was a murderer would demonstrate that I am not a murderer. That wouldn’t mean I’d have to be calm about the arrangement.

Once upon a time, self-described “liberals” grasped this intuitively. They also grasped that it was dangerous to repeatedly undermine our well-established standards of evidence, to reverse our presumption of innocence, and to insist in perpetuity that we find tangential process crimes to serve as substitutes for the lack of underlying infractions? Do they know these things now?

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