Special counsel Robert Mueller has concluded a two-year investigation, stopping short of accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of criminal wrongdoing. However, his report painted a deeply unflattering U.S. president, one that can be characterized as amoral and dishonest.
The full report, which was released Thursday with redactions, not only offers troubling details that underline Trump’s unfitness as a president and commander-in-chief, but also raises questions on whether Trump’s hand-picked attorney general, William Barr, has led a campaign to mislead the U.S. public, by releasing a summary last month that critics say does not fully and fairly reflect the general views of the report, and by openly defending his boss at a press conference convened one hour before the release of the report Thursday.
The Democrats have accused Barr of trying to color the findings in the report before the public is able to read it. Even from the view of a neutral outsider, what Barr has done is a spin job well done.
When Trump appointed Barr as attorney general to oversee the Mueller investigation in December, the U.S. media was buzzing with worries that Barr — who in 2017 told the New York Times that the Justice Department may have more cause to look at a uranium deal involving Hillary Clinton than suspected Trump collusion with Russia, and in 2018 sent an unsolicited memo to the White House criticizing Mueller’s probe before he was nominated — may torpedo the Mueller investigation or somehow improperly help his boss.
Despite the compromising details about Trump and his presidency, it has become clear that he has pulled off a successful power play. Barr has fully demonstrated his royalty to Trump and proved his worth.
Many U.S. media outlets are crying foul. The cunning spin tactics may have pre-emptively shaped the public opinion, but editors and analysts with U.S. media are not to be fooled around with.
With the peculiar exception of a few Trump-friendly outlets like Fox News, U.S. news media listed the differences between the Mueller report and Barr’s conclusions, and instances detailed in the report that may be prosecutable, or may become prosecutable after Trump leaves office.
Some commentators lambasted Barr’s “selective omission” in his four-page summary released March 24, after comparing it with the report.
U.S. media discovered that the report actually says Trump did try to sabotage the investigation, but his staff defied him. The report also details so many lies and changed stories by the president and his aides. Although Barr went out of his way to determine that Trump violated no criminal obstruction-of-justice laws, Mueller’s team wrote that Trump’s conduct in office “presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.”
Trump’s sustained attacks on “fake news” were also in fact a tactic to cover up his lies. “The president accused the ‘dishonest media’ of making up stories that turned out to be true,” the report says.
With the report clearly stopping short of clearing him of obstruction suspicions, Trump’s claim of total exoneration is another outright lie. But Americans, and the world all over, have become accustomed to hearing and seeing Trump telling one lie after another, making inaccurate statements and handing out misinformation.
Integrity is the basic foundation of a person, an organization and a nation. Starting at a very young age, children all over the world are educated to be honest, growing up with stories such as Pinocchio’s. It is stunning that the U.S. president, regarded by Americans as the most powerful man on earth, and probably in the universe, can be such a habitual liar. The governance of this superpower is in deep trouble.
Trump’s presidency has been notoriously divisive since his inauguration. The report has provided shocking revelations that are tearing the country further apart. While Trump remains safe from prosecution for the time being, a blockbuster of intense political fighting is unfolding before us.
(The author is head of the Shenzhen Daily News Desk.)