Relax. He’s not claiming any inside knowledge of what the report will say — although Team Trump might have gleaned a sense by now of what it’ll say from the questions that POTUS was asked to answer by Mueller. That sense may have been conveyed somehow to Dershowitz, a Trump-friendly analyst.
So maybe he does know, sort of.
It might also explain why Trump has seemed distracted and more irritable than usual lately, particularly as regards the Russia probe. It was on his mind this morning:
When Mueller does his final report, will he be covering all of his conflicts of interest in a preamble, will he be recommending action on all of the crimes of many kinds from those “on the other side”(whatever happened to Podesta?), and will he be putting in statements from…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018
….hundreds of people closely involved with my campaign who never met, saw or spoke to a Russian during this period? So many campaign workers, people inside from the beginning, ask me why they have not been called (they want to be). There was NO Collusion & Mueller knows it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018
Dershowitz clarified yesterday that he thought the report would be devastating politically, not legally. But … why? Absent a smoking gun showing that Trump himself coordinated with Russia on something campaign-related — be it the hacks of Democrats, the release of hacked materials, or the targeting of swing-state voters with Russian propaganda — this’ll end up as a souped-up version of every other Trump controversy. The report probably won’t charge Trump with anything collusion-related but rather accuse him of something like gross negligence in not policing his own aides and associates more closely to make sure they weren’t trying to leverage Russian assets for the campaign. Democrats will use that to accuse him of willful blindness and say that his presidency is forever tainted by his underlings’ behavior; Republicans will claim vindication for Trump and say that he can’t be blamed for what Roger Stone or Don Jr were up to.
So everyone’s priors will be confirmed. The cardinal rule of all things Trump-related is that no one’s opinion of him changes much, precisely because he’s so polarizing. All of his foibles are already priced in. His job approval will continue to thud along at 43-44 percent, possibly with a blip in the immediate aftermath of the report’s release.
I don’t think Mueller accusing him of obstruction would change the equation much either. There’s a better chance of that happening than a conspiracy charge, but you already know what the defense will be: Trump can’t be guilty of obstruction by exercising powers that the president is constitutionally empowered to exercise, like firing his FBI director. And so long as that’s the crux of the obstruction case, you’ll never get anywhere near 67 votes in the Senate for removal.
Which means that an obstruction accusation by Mueller might damage Democrats as well, not just Trump:
Nancy Pelosi does not want to impeach President Donald Trump. The House Democratic leader, and likely next speaker of the House, has good reasons for avoiding that fight.
First, Republicans discredited impeachment when they used it to try to destroy President Bill Clinton for his White House misdeeds. The word “impeachment” used to conjure a righteous end to a crooked presidency. Now it connotes a rusty hatchet in the hand of Newt Gingrich.
Second, it’s going to be hard to shock Americans into thinking radical action — and impeachment is radical — is justified. Most Americans long ago came to understand that their president is not a fine person. For every American who says Trump is “trustworthy,” almost two say he isn’t. (And let’s face it: Some of those claiming to believe that Trump is trustworthy were probably MAGA partisans having fun at a pollster’s expense.)
As Dershowitz noted yesterday, Trump’s own lawyers are preparing a report aimed at rebutting Mueller’s report, guaranteeing that Trump defenders will have ready-made arguments they can cite for why obstruction is much ado about nothing. The entire GOP messaging machine will be enlisted to promote those arguments. And thanks to the midterm results, any impeachment effort stemming from Mueller’s findings will take on a familiar “Democrats versus Trump” partisan framework. It’s silly to try to guesstimate how “devastating” the evidence will be given Mueller’s reticence, but Trump seems to endure one major controversy a week with no lasting effects on his approval, ever. Granted, Russiagate will be the biggest controversy yet and of a different nature than Trump shrugging at the Saudis murdering someone. But there’s really no reason right now to believe that it’ll hobble him — or, for that matter, that anyone but diehard Trump-haters (which includes much of the media, admittedly) care much about the Russiagate saga at this point at all. I can imagine Mueller’s report being politically devastating if it’s also legally devastating, but one without the other? C’mon.
Alan Dershowitz, a frequent Trump defender, says the Mueller report will be “devastating” for the president: “It’s going to paint a picture that’s going to be politically very devastating. I still don’t think it’s going to make a criminal case.” https://t.co/WBFOBLpjIg #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/ePNp0wYmaa
— ABC News (@ABC) November 26, 2018
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