President says he’s “totally exonerated” even though Mueller expressly states “while the report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”
But in terms of the immediate impact, and long-term outcome, it’s Trump’s version that will probably prevail in most peoples’ minds.
And of course in multiple rallies, and speeches, and Tweets, you can be sure he won’t let us forget that, casting himself–as he’s already been doing–as a victim for the ages. (So much for Mueller not being able to treat him fairly because Trump stiffed him out of some golf club membership fees).
Democrats — as some realized even before the Attorney General’s summary came out, but others have not even since then — need to tread very gingerly on the Trump/Russia connection now, absent a real doozy of a new smoking gun. Instead they need to shift into overdrive on focusing on the President’s policies.
Taking the path Republicans did after Hillary Clinton was exonerated/not exonerated, and pressing on with their investigations anyway, just won’t play if it’s Democrats doing it. (Also, Hillary was not the President, so that was more of a flanking maneuver, not a frontal assault). They should, however, continue to insist on the release of the full report to the public, which Attorney General Barr made pretty clear in his summary he does not intend to do.
The President loves to portray himself as the “victim” because it’s one of the keys to his success: he’s the underdog, he’s the voice of the people vs. the establishment that wants to tear him down. And there’s a lot of political capital in there. When Trump appears the perpetrator: putting children in cages, trying to cut back on health care, is when he loses ground.
So is this the day Trump won reelection? Could be. Unless Democrats are firmly and fiercely able (and willing) to shift the focus now onto the President’s policy decisions, which are detrimental to the health of the country and the world socially, environmentally, and economically. Trump will work his hardest not to let this happen, and make everything about the Russia investigation between now and election day. Because even though the report itself from what we know about it doesn’t actually make the President look good, it does make his claims he’s been treated “unfairly” just a bit more credible. As we’ve suggested, this next election is going to be a referendum on “crazy”. The outcome of the Mueller report makes Trump seem a little less crazy. At least until you stop to think about it, and all the other things he’s trying to do. And without–or maybe even with–a forceful shift in focus by Democrats onto policy, policy, policy, Trump’s gonna turn his newfound “victimhood” into a political bonanza.