President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2019 (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Some of you will be familiar with a lefty, partisan Democratic organization called MoveOn, formerly MoveOn.Org. It was founded during an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s shenanigans (which were not, Democratic mythology notwithstanding, strictly sexual in nature) and argued that it was time for the country to “move on” from the Clinton scandals. Congress disagreed, and impeached President Clinton.
The investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationships with various foreign actors and into the president’s possible obstruction of justice has come to a conclusion, and that conclusion is that there was no criminal collusion and insufficient evidence to support an obstruction prosecution. In a reasonable world, this would be the obvious time to move on. Of course the Democrats believe, or want to believe, that there is unfinished business here. Some Republicans do, too, and would like an investigation into whether the investigation was improper and whether investigators acted improperly.
It does not seem to me that the investigation was entirely without basis, and it does seem that the reasonable conclusion here is to concede that there was smoke (maybe just the smell of smoke) but no fire, that some of Trump’s actions may have been unseemly but that there’s no law against unseemliness — and that treating criticism of an investigation as potential obstruction of justice comes queasily close to arguing that to defend one’s self from an accusation is a confession of guilt.
The report pointedly suggests that if Congress believes that there is more to be done in this matter, then Congress should do it. And that’s right: This is now a political fight, not a question of criminal justice, and it will be settled politically. The House can impeach. Or the House can move on. Your call, Madame Speaker.
My own belief is that this was never about removing Trump from office, though of course hamstringing him or humiliating him would have been very satisfying to Democrats. This seems to me to be more about Democrats continuing to tell themselves a comforting fairy tale about why they lost in 2016, and where they really stand politically. Getting cheated out of an election hurts a lot less, psychologically, than getting beat fair and square by Donald Trump — and it does not demand a lot in the way of reconfiguring priorities or rethinking stances. Which is to say, the Democrats’ current commitment to grasping at straws in this matter is, politically speaking, the best news the Trump campaign has had in weeks, the report itself notwithstanding.