Donald Trump Jr has a bad habit. Whenever a story comes out that seems to either prop up his unpopular father or debunk a report that lends credibility to the Mueller investigation, he retweets and celebrates the “victory” with his MAGA hordes. Latest evidence: The CBS poll that indicated 97% of Republicans said ‘yes’ when asked if they liked Trump’s latest nationally broadcast dribble.
To Junior, this is irrefutable proof that the liberals have been “owned.” Meanwhile, in reality, the investigations into Trump are gaining steam. There’s no speech or tweet that will have any impact on any Mueller subpoena or SDNY indictment.
A similar premature celebration happened when the Special Counsel’s office issued a statement weeks ago that, at first glance, appeared to call into question Buzzfeed’s story claiming Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen’s activity regarding Trump Tower Moscow. Though Mueller didn’t present specific evidence pertaining to what Buzzfeed was wrong about, it was enough for Junior and his followers to gloat, enabled by familiar bloviators like Gingrich and Hannity.
However, weeks later, the Buzzfeed story still stands with no retraction. Why? For one, court filings support the story. Despite the pervasive “lol Buzzfeed” blasts seen on MAGA Twitter, unnamed sources aren’t solely providing the key information. Also, it’s important to remember that the Buzzfeed story landed with such asteroid-like impact that House Dems seemed close to launching at least one investigation based on it.
That impact may be the key. Buzzfeed’s story may have contained imperfections that are unrelated to its substance, namely Trump’s directives to Cohen regarding Trump Tower Moscow, and all illegalities therein. Like life, news stories are almost never perfect. What exactly Mueller’s office was referring to may, in fact, seem relatively trivial when/if it eventually comes to light. So why would Don Jr bother celebrating?
Though we know little about the inner workings of the Mueller investigation, we have observed a disciplined, motivated, smart, and thorough team that by all appearances seems hellbent on exploring every angle of Trump and the broad range of probable (considering the voluminous evidence) crimes connected to his presidency and who exactly helped make it so.
It may be that the Mueller team saw the Buzzfeed story land hard, read the tea leaves, and released the statement to “pump the brakes” on any House notions of moving forward on a separate investigation, hearings, etc. That doesn’t mean that Mueller released an outwardly false statement, and indeed it would make no sense for the him to endanger his office’s credibility just to run interference on one story, no matter how impactful.
Much more likely is that Mueller’s disciplined and comprehensive approach required that he maintain the lead on the larger investigation. The House, Mueller, and SDNY are after the same goal. They have no reason to step on each other’s toes. So, when Don Jr and the MAGAs dance on the grave of the investigation, independent journalism, or simple decency, remember: they’re grasping at any scraps they can get their claws on. Mueller has all the meat and the patience to pick the bones clean.
Chuck is a former community reporter, columnist, and Army veteran